Friday, January 5, 2007

The new atheists

In the Wall Street Journal, Sam Schulman points to the deficiencies of the "new atheists" compared to the 19th century variety [e.g. H.G. Wells, on the right]:

For the new atheists, believing in God is a form of stupidity, which sets off their own intelligence. They write as if they were the first to discover that biblical miracles are improbable, that Parson Weems was a fabulist, that religion is full of superstition. They write as if great minds had never before wrestled with the big questions of creation, moral law and the contending versions of revealed truth. They argue as if these questions are easily answered by their own blunt materialism. Most of all, they assume that no intelligent, reflective person could ever defend religion rather than dismiss it. The reviewer of Dr. Dawkins's volume in a recent New York Review of Books noted his unwillingness to take theology seriously, a starting point for any considered debate over religion.

The faith that the new atheists describe is a simple-minded parody. It is impossible to see within it what might have preoccupied great artists and thinkers like Homer, Milton, Michelangelo, Newton and Spinoza - let alone Aquinas, Dr. Johnson, Kierkegaard, Goya, Cardinal Newman, Reinhold Niebuhr or, for that matter, Albert Einstein. But to pass over this deeper faith - the kind that engaged the great minds of Western history - is to diminish the loss of faith too. The new atheists are separated from the old by their shallowness.

Source: OpinionJournal - Taste


  1. Amen on "the new atheists"! Thank you for posting that. You might also find interesting a review of Dennett by Freeman Dyson in the N.Y. Review of Books, June 22, 2006. OK, now here's a shameless plea. Let's keep like-minded folks together. Please consider also linking to and

  2. I've read the Dyson review and it is very good. I wish you the very best in your blogging.


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