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5/22/09

Atheism - The New (Emergent) Atheists, part 2 of 4

We now continue Atheism is Dead’s consideration of the New Atheist movement headed by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens.

Part 1: Who Are The New Atheists? and What Are Their Claims?
Part 2: What Is Their Appeal? and What Is The New Atheist Movement?
Part 3: An Atheist New World Order – A One World Atheist Religion
Part 4: Is The New Atheist Movement Dead? and Let Us Heed Their Words


What Is Their Appeal?
Their appeal is at least two-pronged: One is their self-pro­fessed appeal, and the other is the facts of the matter (which will be considered from a Christian perspective).

Their self-professed appeal is stated by Richard Dawkins as “intellec­tually fulfilled Atheist.”[1] Atheism promises enlightenment—in the forms of scientific literacy, rationality, happiness, morality—and freedom from guilt, superstition and adherence to dogma.
Another aspect not generally identified as an appeal, but one that is milked for all it is worth, is the image of the Atheist as the “underdog.” Even in a time such as this—when being an Atheist is about the hippest thing to do, and there are quite a few shekels to be made from books, lectures, and even movies about Atheism—the New Atheist still will claim to be a second class citizen—she is the underdog who is not under God (this pun makes sense if you are dyslexic as I am).

Having mused and researched on this subject, I have found that being “an intellectually fulfilled Atheist” means that fulfill­ment is found in materialistic stories about how things may have or could have (or should have?) occurred: for example, how the uni­verse came about and functions on purely materialistic grounds.

The New Atheist movement is particularly popular among the youth. Popular are Atheist activists such as The Golden Com­pass author Philip Pullman who stated that his children’s books are about “killing God,” and he is “trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.” He has also produced a pro-Atheism DVD for “children that are 11 years old and above” (details found here).
Richard Dawkins has launched the “Out Campaign” aimed at the college crowd. The youth are naturally rebellious and the New Atheists come along, wealthy, happy, vociferous, erudite, iconoclastic and urge them to commit the ultimate rebellion: rebellion against God. The youth are being told they basically can do as they please within certain vague notions of “right” and “wrong.” The youth confuse rebellion against religious authority with rebellion against God.











Atheism is an appealing, consoling delusion which includes the delusion of absolute autonomy, the delusion of lack of ulti­mate accountability, the consoling delusion of subjective mean­ing in an objectively meaningless existence, and the delusion of being more erudite than thou. (Atheists are the smartest, they are “right” and everyone else is “wrong.”)

What Is The New Atheist Movement?
The title of this parsed essay referred to the “New (Emergent) Atheist” move­ment in order to draw a correlation between the “Emergent Church” movement and the New Atheists. The Emer­gent Church movement is about popularization, broad appeal, and watering down orthodox doctrines until they are malleable enough to become harmless and friendly.

Likewise, the New Atheism is about broad appeal, but it is of a bas­er sort. It is pushing a septic skeptic outlook. This movement is very good at media campaigns, that is certain; they have erected a façade of scientific and intellectual respectability around poor arguments, faulty logic, bad philosophy and have also turned sci­ence into a play thing to be bent in the direction the Atheist wants it to go.[2]

For example, while Sam Harris will soon be a scientist, he will by no means represent the integrity of an unbiased researcher. When asked, “What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?” he stated:
Once the neurology of belief becomes clear…re­ligious faith will be exposed for what it is: a humble species of terrestrial credulity.[3]

In other words, he already believes something and is becom­ing a scientist in order to build a façade of “science” around his Atheistic beliefs.

In reality, the movement is about being vociferous, emotive, and disrespectful.
At first consideration, I thought that these various scientists and professors were vociferous, emotive and disrespectful, be­cause theists were beneath their contempt and they could not bother with those foolish mental children. Yet, I have come to find that they are vociferous, emotive, and disrespectful because they do not have much more with which to work.

Being vociferous draws attention to you, makes you look heroic, authoritative, and self-assured.
Being emotive (making emotionally charged statements) is a great tool, since you can cut right through any thought process and touch people’s feelings which builds a connection to the speaker. Emotiveness is a way to skirt around arguments. Also, who can argue against adrena­lin-spiked feelings: feelings are tangible while ideas, thoughts, arguments are ethereal.
Being disrespectful is a very attractive quality, particularly for someone with a rebellious bent or some­one who has a dislike for, and a feeling of impotence against, religious authority and the demands of dogma.

The Atheist Michael Shermer, while certainly not being dip­lomatic himself, has written an open letter to the top four celebri­ty Atheists asking that they curb their intolerant rants. However, he has gone unheeded.[4]

Certainly, the New Atheism has its moments of clarity in that ad­herents do make attempts at argumentation or rightly criticize fallacious theology as well as religious oppression. Yet, they do tend to replace rational discourse—whereby we treat our oppo­nent’s positions fairly—with taking jabs at straw-men (misrep­resenting a position in order to make it look foolish and easy-to-tear-down). Why focus your attention on serious, dry, scholarly debates and lectures when you can elbow your buddy in the ribs and say, “Those religious people are so foolish!”

The New Atheism is also peppered with immaturity. This is caused by at least three factors:
As alluded to previously, it is easier and more 1) amusing (another “a” word) to poke fun than it is to exercise the intellect.
Many Atheists 2) rejected God in particular and rejected whatever “Christianity” means to them at a very early age.
The result of 2) is that 3) they allowed their knowledge of the Bible, theology, Christianity, etc. to remain stagnant at a child’s level. This child-level understanding undergirds their claim to knowl­edge, thus we hear familiar rebuttals: “I was raised Christian,” “I went to Sunday School,” “I was an altar boy,” etc.

Thus, I have found it all too common that Atheists argue not against the actual contents of the Bible, the actual char­acter of God, the actual doctrines of Christianity but they argue against watered-down straw-men which are childish versions of the genuine. Thus, in the end, they actually succeed in arguing against their very own caricatures.
It is also common to find the New Atheists correlating belief in the God of the Bible to belief in “a sky daddy,” “an imaginary friend,” “fairies,” “super friends,” “magic powers” and even “Invisible Pink Unicorns,” “Flying Spaghetti Monsters.” As Sam Harris puts it:
…beliefs about God … are the same as beliefs about numbers, penguins, tofu, or anything else.[5]


Yet, these are perfectly legitimate correlations in their minds not only because they are generally functioning on a child’s Sunday School level but also because they disregard natural theology.[6]

The New Atheists also attempt to rewrite history as a tale of Atheistic be­nevolence and religious malevolence. This is expressed by per­petuating the myths of warfare between “science and religion,” declaring that America’s founders were Deists (at best), claim­ing there is no relation between Atheism and Communism, etc. (Galileo, Copernicus, myth of a flat earth, Communism).

Ultimately, the New Atheism is nothing new but a mere plagiarism of 19th century secular-anti-Judeo-Christian philosophies.

Let us note three further aspects of the New Atheists: 1) their desire to establish an atheist religion, 2) their promotion of atheism as being more holy and more moral than Christianity and 3) their condemnation of “child abuse” (as they redefine it) which subsequently will be dis¬cussed in part 3.


[1] Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (New York: Norton, WW & Co., Inc., 1986), p. 6
[2] Read Prof. Richard Lewontin’s fas­cinating comments about materialism and science, “Billions and Billions of Demons”
[3] Edge The World Question Center
[4] Michael Shermer, “Rational Atheism - An open letter to Messrs. Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens
[5] Edge The World Question Center
[6] Inferring a creator and even some of the creator’s characteristics from scientific observation of nature / the universe and through reasoning.

21 comments:

  1. How can New Atheists be emerging when Atheism is Dead?

    ReplyDelete
  2. MaskedMarauder,
    Please read the post above for an elucidation of that "emergent" is in reference to and keep an eye out for part 4 that will answer your other question.

    aDios,
    Mariano

    ReplyDelete
  3. most of the above is simply not true or misleading in a dangerous way.

    Exhibit A)

    "Thus, I have found it all too common that Atheists argue not against the actual contents of the Bible, the actual char­acter of God, the actual doctrines of Christianity but they argue against watered-down straw-men which are childish versions of the genuine. Thus, in the end, they actually succeed in arguing against their very own caricatures."

    ~~if you read, for example, Richard Dawkin's book - The God Delusion - he takes on actual scripture (Leviticus, Deuteronomy) and juxtaposes it against modern religious beliefs. Noting, finally, that today's world does not accept things like the death penalty for adultery or working on sundays.


    Exhibit B:

    "As alluded to previously, it is easier and more 1) amusing (another “a” word) to poke fun than it is to exercise the intellect.
    Many Atheists 2) rejected God in particular and rejected whatever “Christianity” means to them at a very early age.
    The result of 2) is that 3) they allowed their knowledge of the Bible, theology, Christianity, etc. to remain stagnant at a child’s level"

    ~~why do you think it is so easy? given the subjective nature of biblical/religious interpretation, how strong is your argument about 'whatever christianity means to them at a very early age'? here it seems, the blogger is just ranting and not actually arguing logically (but a good effort using the 1, 2, 3 format).

    Exhibit C:

    "Certainly, the New Atheism has its moments of clarity in that ad­herents do make attempts at argumentation or rightly criticize fallacious theology as well as religious oppression. Yet, they do tend to replace rational discourse—whereby we treat our oppo­nent’s positions fairly—with taking jabs at straw-men (misrep­resenting a position in order to make it look foolish and easy-to-tear-down). Why focus your attention on serious, dry, scholarly debates and lectures when you can elbow your buddy in the ribs and say, “Those religious people are so foolish!”"

    ~~2 things here. First, of the authors I have read - Dawkins and Harris - they often use both statistics from credible sources to back up their claims. Second, they quote "straw-men" such as Ted Haggard (the former leader of conservative christians as shown by his following) and other religious leaders (over time) and actual religious text. Presumably these leaders came into power because their beliefs attracted a significant amount of the population with which they all agree. Thus, who you call "straw-men" may (and probably are) actually be more sturdy than you claim.

    In short, I recommend reading their works before passing judgment.




    ~~I'd go on, but the character limit is probably already met. I would find it productive to engage in an honest discussion with the author about their claims. Especially given the supposed misunderstanding of the underpinnings of atheist/agnostic beliefs being emitted by the blogger.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Attacks on atheism come from religious folk who are frightened that the principles they have dedicated their lives and resources to is a con. I am an atheists because there's no credible proof of Christianity besides what other people say it is. The Bible is a frightening cruel and contradictory document. I don't belong to any atheist "movement," I just want churches to pay taxes and religious fools to leave me aloneto I'm not anonymous, I'm Peter T. Guinta. St. Augustine, Florida.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Totally biased (misleaded) interpretation of the sources you are quoting.
    very crappy.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've been reading your blog and I must say I have never heard pot screaming so loudly at a kettle.
    You can yammer about straw men all day long, but until you give one solid example of a "New Atheist" making a straw man argument (including a rebuttal as to why it is an inaccurate characterization) then you are just whining.
    Theist and Creationist blogs are getting desperate lately, and yours is no exception.
    Tired of being called ignorant? Instead of crying about it, why don't you wake up and see reality.
    I WANT JUST ONE OF YOU PEOPLE TO COME UP WITH ONE COHERENT, LOGICAL ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF GOD.
    DON'T JUST PRETEND; ACTUALLY DO IT. WE'RE LISTENING!
    Then, and only then will rational, logical people respect your position. Until then, you will remain, delusional and yes, ignorant.
    God bless.

    ReplyDelete
  7. On second though, forget it. I am an agnostic atheist because it is obvious to me that there is no good reason to believe in god.
    If I wanted to argue about it, I could talk it over with the stapler on my desk. Or perhaps my calculator. Either one would likely produce more solvent viewpoints than I am likely to expect from this blog's author. Oh...I'm sorry, was that arrogant?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Separatethread, LOL I like the concept of getting your information from your stapler. It is similar to my standards statement that th arguments for God's existence are so weak that my cat clearly sees through them and is thus an Atheist.

    ReplyDelete
  9. They don't "declare" the founding fathers of the US to be deists (at best), they SHOW them to be so by quoting from their own writings! This is not declaration, this is evidence. A concept which the writers of stuff like this would do well to familiarize themselves with. Saying it doesn't make it so.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow - all that ranting and raging without substance - just empty claims from the Atheists.

    The author is right and the Atheists just jump right in and prove it. It's child's play.

    No fair! It's like stealing candy from a baby!

    Works every time!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think it's fair to say that Atheists haven't evolved enough to use rationally consistent arguments, so they have to resort to myths, just so stories, half truths and little gods made in their own image.

    Is it really fair for the author to poke fun at the atheist religion? Afterall, there's no evidence to support it whatsoever and the fairy tale seems to move from one planet to the next when they realise their story is Kaput... erh, maybe I shouldn't compare it to Hitler like that - I think the Nazis might claim plagarism and ask for the rights to all the money the New Atheists are making from their subjective moral outrage.

    I think the atheists should take the subjective moral high ground and push their vaccuous thoughts on all the unsuspecting and spend their money on the message of despair and hatred of other people - who knows, maybe it'll catch on - at the very least they make money out of lies and deception.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Does NAZI stand for New Atheist Zabernist Impotent ?!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am glad that the author doesn't let the facts get in the way of a good argument!

    ReplyDelete
  14. This blog post doesn't even seem to address the simplest and most effective argument against religion, which is this: religion is a human invention. Every bit of it is transparently manufactured by humans, and we can all be quite happy that there isn't a shred of evidence for any of it. This is particularly important to you, the theists, because if any of it were true, it would give you, the theists, some measure of power over us (the nonreligious), which is what it all really boils down to: invented, nonexistent authority.

    And what's with the talk of straw men? I don't know about the "new atheists," but I don't need a straw man; I take issue with the foundational texts of religion. I don't need to poke fun at the fringe creationist nutjobs who think Adam and Eve rode around on dinosaurs like in the Flintstones, or Islamic suicide bombers; rather, the true evil, man-made character of religion can be found in the so-called "holy books." Just take Christianity, for example, and its doctrines of vicarious atonement (scapegoating) and blood sacrifice. Without believing in those evil, sadistic and absurd doctrines, which are so obviously barbaric, primitive ideas from the intellectual infancy of our species, you can't call yourself a Christian. No straw man required.

    And as for the rest of the comments, this one in particular struck me:

    //"I think the atheists should take the subjective moral high ground and push their vaccuous thoughts on all the unsuspecting and spend their money on the message of despair and hatred of other people"//

    During the November elections of 2008, well-funded Christian organizations spent $74 million to get Amendment 2 on the ballot here in Florida, which of course was to officially outlaw same sex marriages (I heard they raised even more for Prop. 8 in California). Christians spent $74 million to prevent an entire segment of the population from enjoying the same rights the rest of us take for granted. Now, who is spending money out of hatred for other people?

    I suppose one could make the argument for the inherently evil nature of religion on a number of grounds, including the manner in which it fosters tribalism and homophobia, but its sheer falsity will suffice for me. It misrepresents the origins of the universe and the origins humans. Some of these questions we may never answer, but you (the theists) don't know their answers either, and that's the point. You're mammals, just like us; you have no real authority to tell us you know something we don't.

    "Mystical ideas are often thought to be deep, but in reality they are not even shallow."
    -Neitzsche

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  15. ... seriously?

    "Atheists are the smartest, they are “right” and everyone else is “wrong.”"

    Why the quotation marks?

    "When asked, “What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?” ... In other words, he already believes something and is becom­ing a scientist in order to build a façade of “science” around his Atheistic beliefs."

    What could he have said in response to that question that wouldn't have given that impression? And how does a religious person criticise beliefs-before-evidence - as competition?

    "It is also common to find the New Atheists correlating belief in the God of the Bible to belief in “a sky daddy,” “an imaginary friend,” “fairies,” “super friends,” “magic powers” and even “Invisible Pink Unicorns,” “Flying Spaghetti Monsters.” As Sam Harris puts it:…beliefs about God … are the same as beliefs about numbers, penguins, tofu, or anything else."

    Sorry - are you saying penguins and numbers don't exist?

    I'll offer you the compliment of thinking you're just a spambot or a writer-for-hire, because logic-blindness on this scale would qualify as insanity.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Atheism is not dead! Is more alive than jesus anyway jaja.
    No, seriously, think people, think!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Any time that I see a qoute containing ellipses (...) I have to wonder what the one posting it is omitting. It has prompted me to search the web for the whole quote. What I have found so far is that by omitting part of the statement the original meaning is completely distorted. I found the Sam Harris quote mentioned in the post from 09/19 on http://www.edge.org/q2005/q05_7.html
    I invite you to read Mr. Harris' post in its entirety there. Here's part of it (in whole sentences, in order) "What does it mean, at the level of the brain, to believe that a proposition is true? The difference between believing and disbelieving a statement—Your spouse is cheating on you; you've just won ten million dollars—is one of the most potent regulators of human behavior and emotion. The instant we accept a given representation of the world as true, it becomes the basis for further thought and action; rejected as false, it remains a string of words.

    What I believe, though cannot yet prove, is that belief is a content-independent process. Which is to say that beliefs about God—to the degree that they are really believed—are the same as beliefs about numbers, penguins, tofu, or anything else.".

    Why do people have to twist other's words to support their views?

    Isn't there anyone else who actually shares your view whom you could quote honestly? Then why don't you do that?

    Sorry - penguins and numbers may exist, but your way of proving it would never convince me of it.

    ReplyDelete
  18. @last Anon:
    Could you explain what is your understanding of Mariano's quote that is "completely distorted" in comparison to full quotation?

    ReplyDelete
  19. tremor:
    For clarity my name is Alex
    My point is that when someone uses a truncated quote to support their position I start to question the validity of their argument.
    Why twist someone else's words?
    Why not quote (in its entirety) someone with a compatible opinion?
    A qoute stating, "All cats - at least that I have seen - are black" is not the same as the truncated quote, "All cats ... are black".
    Mr. Harris in the full qoutation, is speaking about the personal acceptance or rejection of a belief whether that belief is about God or about penguins. The truncated quote is directly equating the belief in God with the belief in penguins.
    Just look at what Anon on 09/19 said, "Sorry - are you saying penguins and numbers don't exist?"
    that's what prompted my post.

    btw I'd be happy to post a photo of a white cat or maybe calico :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. @Alex
    The truncated quote is directly equating the belief in God with the belief in penguins.
    IMO that's exactly what Harris said: it doesn't matter in what you believe but that you believe, it is the mechanism itself that is so important. Particulary it doesn't matter that the subject of beliefs objectively exists (assuming that such existence is possible).
    Question: <<"Sorry - are you saying penguins and numbers don't exist?">> is a result of miunderstanding.


    BTW, I recommend Emir Kusturica's Black Cat, White Cat.

    ReplyDelete