Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The New Atheism?

Albert Mohler's website is a very good guide to the issues at the interface of the Christian faith and secular society. He reads and he interviews those about whom he offers commentary. Today he reviews the cover article from the November issue of WIRED magazine about the "New Atheists."

The new atheism doesn't have anything to say that is different from age-old atheism but it is much more assertive: Christians are benighted, probably stupid, and what they believe is evil; allowing them to teach it to their children amounts to child abuse. The review is very good and the original article is also available online and worth reading. Excerpts from Mohler's commentary on the article:
2006 has been a big year for atheism. The release of several major books - all widely touted in the media - has put atheism on the front lines of current cultural conversation. Books such as Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, and Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation are selling by the thousands and prompting hours of conversation on college campuses and in the media.

....WIRED contributing editor Gary Wolf explains that this newly assertive form of atheism declares a very simple message: "No heaven. No hell. Just science....

At the beginning of his article, he gets right to the point: "The New Atheists will not let us off the hook simply because we are not doctrinaire believers. They condemn not just belief in God but respect for belief in God. Religion is not only wrong; it's evil. Now that the battle has been joined, there's no excuse for shirking." ....

For a man who is supposedly an exemplar of the humble discipline of science, Dawkins is capable of breathtaking condescension. Consider these words: "Highly intelligent people are mostly atheists .... Not a single member of either house of Congress admits to being an atheist. It just doesn't add up. Either they're stupid, or they're lying. And have they got a motive for lying? Of course they've got a motive! Everyone knows that an atheist can't get elected."

Note his argument carefully - highly intelligent people are most likely to be atheists.

The political dimensions of Dawkins' thought become immediately apparent when he speaks of how children should be protected from parents who believe in God. "How much do we regard children as being the property of their parents?," Dawkins asks. "It's one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Is there something to be said for society to be stepping in? What about bringing up children to believe manifest falsehoods?" ....

Sam Harris is even more apocalyptic than Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett. He argues that, unless belief in God is eradicated, civilization is likely to end in a murderous sea of religious warfare. As an alternative, Harris proposes a "religion of reason."....

In his wide-ranging article, Wolf considers the emergence of the New Atheism from multiple perspectives. He deals not only with Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett, but with a host of others, including some who believe in God. He understands that the New Atheists stand in contrast with the older atheism more in terms of mood and mode of public engagement. He also understands that those who attempt to rebut the New Atheism on scientific grounds can find themselves facing considerable complexity. As Wolf explains, when defenders of faith accept science as the arbiter of reality, atheists are left "with the upper hand." .... [the whole review]

Source: AlbertMohler.com: The New Atheism?

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