As I alluded to here, I’m moving on from writing posts that deal directly with the particular arguments and assumptions of the militant anti-theists. I started my inquiry into their anti-Christian polemics about two years ago. My goal was to understand their arguments and give an answer to them or adjust my own thinking.
What I found was both instructive and altogether unexpected. Sadly, many are self-identified “deconverts” who seem to have traded one form of belligerent fundamentalism for another. Of course, it’s my observation and opinion, but I don’t think either one of these extremes will win the day in our current cultural climate. I will talk more about that another time.
A great article by David Bentley Hart on the so-dubbed “New Atheists” like Richard Dawkins and his ilk, can be found here. Any believer who feels bullied by their anti-Christian attacks should read this article. It’s an excerpt from his book, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. I would strongly suggest you get the book if you want to understand his arguments in more depth.
Here’s Hart’s general assessment of the New Atheist movement, which he came to after reading all their books:
“I think I am very close to concluding that this whole “New Atheism” movement is only a passing fad not the cultural watershed its purveyors imagine it to be, but simply one of those occasional and inexplicable marketing vogues that inevitably go the way of pet rocks, disco, prime-time soaps, and “The Bridges of Madison County.” This is not because I necessarily think the current “marketplace of ideas” particularly good at sorting out wise arguments from foolish. But the latest trend in la mode godlessness, it seems to me, has by now proved itself to be so intellectually and morally trivial that it has to be classified as just a form of light entertainment, and popular culture always tires of its diversions sooner or later and moves on to other, equally ephemeral toys.” (Continue article here…)
Hart is not implying that atheism itself will go the way of pet rocks, but that this particular aggressive strain of atheism propagated by the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett (know as the “four horsemen” of the New Atheism) will soon fade into such history. He actually laments the poor quality of atheism we find today compared to that of earlier times. Again, he makes his case for this in the article so you would need to go there to see why he believes this to be so.
Hart summarizes his experience as follows:
“What I did take away from the experience was a fairly good sense of the real scope and ambition of the New Atheist project. I came to realize that the whole enterprise, when purged of its hugely preponderant alloy of sanctimonious bombast, is reducible to only a handful of arguments, most of which consist in simple category mistakes or the kind of historical oversimplifications that are either demonstrably false or irrelevantly true. And arguments of that sort are easily dismissed, if one is hardy enough to go on pointing out the obvious with sufficient indefatigability.” (emphasis added)
But this type of vitriolic diatribe is not just with the New Atheists. I believe this reactionary dumbing-down of meaningful public dialogue is a symptom of the greater cultural maelstrom we find ourselves in with popular media. The shrill demagogues and ideologues have sucked all the oxygen out of the room and “us against them” polarization has taken the day. We’ve become relationally dysfunctional, unable to disagree and maintain open and honest communication. It’s all about hunkering down in our echo-chamber bunkers, trying to figure out how to refute the other side’s argument instead of actually understanding their argument.
So I’ve come to the same conclusion about this whole thing as Hart. But he puts it much more eloquently.
“And how long should we waste our time with the sheer banality of the New Atheists”with, that is, their childishly Manichean view of history, their lack of any tragic sense, their indifference to the cultural contingency of moral “truths,” their wanton incuriosity, their vague babblings about “religion” in the abstract, and their absurd optimism regarding the future they long for?”
To be fair, I would add that, as Hart puts it, “the sort of God believed in by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Deists (or the “god of the gaps”) that these atheists are actually railing against should also give way in the mindset of contemporary evangelical Christians to the more cogent classical understanding of theism. I talked about this here. I will continue to talk more about that.
So, I will be moving on to more interesting questions like, what is this Christian faith that turned the world upside down? Or, how we might better engage in today’s pluralistic marketplace of ideas.
Beloved of God, don’t buy into the circular arguments of the anti-theist’s philosophical naturalism or give in to their condescending browbeating as they try to shame you and make you look stupid with their pretentious certitudes. Question everything they tell you. Because, oftentimes, it’s nothing more than a straw man caricature of Christianity or scientism dressed up to look like science.