Saturday, June 7, 2008

New Atheism...What's Up With That?

Is it just me, or are there an obscene number of people, recently, coming out of the closet, so to speak, as being militantly anti-Christian? And many of these people claim to have been ministers of one sort or another. Dan Barker, John Loftus, Gary Lenaire just to name a few. Reading through their arguments for loosing their faith it becomes apparent that their faith must not have been very strong. Obviously, I am unable to peer into their heart and determine their true motivation. Nevertheless, their arguments are so bad that one cannot help but suspect either an ulterior motive or, at the very least, an extremely shallow faith to begin with.

Be that as it may, whether or not the so-called new atheist is a deconvert or not, why, even old new atheism was once new agnosticism. I mean to say, new atheism is nothing more nor less than agnosticism, albeit a militantly anti-Christian agnosticism. You see, in the good ol' days of yesteryear, an atheist was a person who said, "I know God does not exist," and, an agnostic said, "I do not know if God exists or not."

Then the atheists were defeated again and again in debate so they retreated into agnosticism. But (to save face?) they started calling themselves atheists again only with "atheism" redefined to mean "without theism" or "lacking belief in God." While it may be true that "atheism" literally means "without theism," one must not go on literal meaning necessarily. Indeed, does not "inflammable" literally mean "flame retardant?" And nobody would use an inflammable substance to put out a fire. People immediately saw through this ruse and, thus, new atheism was born. If this analysis is false, and it may be, it is certainly at least the impression that I personally have of the situation.

But new atheism is not mere suspension of judgment as I said before. Instead it includes a militant opposition to Christian doctrine and practice. Why would somebody speak out against Christian truth? Do they see it as a threat? Do they know it to be true but really really really want it to be false? Perhaps we cannot say what their true motives are. What we can do, however, is examine their arguments and see how manifestly awful they are. Now, I do not mean to suggest that I dislike the conclusions of their arguments and so I reject them on that count. Rather I mean to say that the arguments themselves are just plain bad when viewed objectively.

Take the poster child as an illustrative example. I am speaking of Richard Dawkins. In a chapter of his book "The God Delusion" he gives a critique of the classical theistic proofs. This is not arguing against Christianity per se but is a pre-requisite, perhaps, for giving a positive case for atheism. As I remember, he a. misrepresented Aquinas' cosmological arguments then argued against a straw man, b. said he did not like the ontological argument then proclaimed we should reject its soundness on the basis of his personal feelings, and c. ridiculed a modern argument which he apparently got from Swinburne (but it was a new argument and so not as distinguished as the classical proofs and, therefor, perhaps not as good as the older, more established proofs). QED? I think not.

Now, if one is temporarily suspending judgment because they have yet to examine the evidence for Christianity that is one thing. But I think the new atheists have already made up their minds in spite of the evidence. When reminded of the overwhelming case for Christianity, many of them blow of the arguments with a wave of the hands-waving at the meager supply of straws before them as they try in vain to grasp them. They refuse to see the truth it seems.

If you are a new atheist then I really don't see where you have a leg to stand on. Do you disagree? You no doubt will. Please post a comment or two explaining your own point of view.

Shalom out.


John W. Loftus said...

My arguments are poor? That's very interesting since so many others disagree.


evangelical said...

Hello John. Evangelical here. A person may find certain arguments that are rationaly insufficient to be psychologically persuasive. Perhaps that is what the quotes on your link are alluding to. In any case different people are free to differ in their opinions. That being said, I think it is only fair for me to spell out why I think your arguments are bad. I am in the process of setting up a website (it is not online yet) in which I shall, among other things, critique the summary of your book on the Debunking Christianity blog. Below I give a summary of the first several items.

1. Sociological Reasons-This argument clearly commits the genetic fallacy.
2. Philosophical Reasons-I claim the philosophical arguments are conclusive and persuasive. But even if they aren't, a bad argument is not proof of the negation.
3. Philosophical Reasons (2)-For every event (even every natural event) it must be shown that it happened and the cause of it. Every event requires a "double-burden of proof." The miraculous is not a violation of natural law. That is Systematic Theology 101.
4. Scientific Reasons-Methodological naturalism is definitely different from actual naturalism. You oughtn't conflate the two.
5. Scientific Reasons (2)-You give several reasons here. They are either irrelevant or straw men. For example, I don't think the Bible says the cosmos is not billions of years old.

John W. Loftus said...

Wait just a minute there. You want to critique a summary? How do you know I don't deal with any objection you might offer in my book itself? Isn't that premature?

John W. Loftus said...

FYI Everything you just suggested has been dealt with in my book, and you never said anything about historical reasons or empirical reasons.

You wouldn't think that with the endorsements I have for my book that I could be knocked down that easily, do you? Think again. Wait till you read the book, okay? Don't put your foot in your mouth.

evangelical said...

Hi again John Loftus. As you know, John, your book is not yet on the market. So I cannot critique it yet. All I can critique is what you've actually said that, in addition, I have access to. Let me know when it comes out and perhaps I'll get ahold of a copy to critique. Fair enough?

John W. Loftus said...

Just look for it after July.

I'm unsubscribing here.