Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Smackdown of Pop Atheism Rolls On

Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett et al made a big noise and undoubtedly affected a lot of people with their brash, combative and "in your face" style writing and speaking.  They garnered a lot of attention. Unfortunately for them they also attracted the attention of some people who had a lot more training and experience with philosophy and theology (what they attempted to engage in in the first place) and who proceeded to unmask their ignorance on the topic.  My favorites are David Berlinski, Edward Feser and Moshe Averick who are all linked on the home page.

Today I came across something from Slate's Book review entitled "Know Nothing: the True History of Atheism" by Michael Robbins.  In reviewing a new book by Nick Spencer called "Atheists: the Origin of the Species" he makes several good points.  The first is that Pop Atheism generally busies itself attacking straw men - defeating arguments and concepts they invented themselves and that the other side isn't putting forward.  For instance, someone like Richard Dawkins believes that there is no way to evidence something's existence without reference to a material characteristic - we need to be able to measure it, test it, hypothesize about it, etc - and if this cannot be done then the thing does not exist.  Ironically, Dawkins's supposition is itself immaterial (impossible to measure, etc) and this subject to the same non-existence he claims for metaphysics. As Robbins comments on this point "Richard Dawkins claims that religion is a 'scientific' theory, 'a competing explanation for facts about the universe and life.'  This is - if you'll forgive my theological jargon - Bulls***."

Another popular straw man is God Himself.  Outside of being wantonly offensive to millions of people, descriptions of the Deity of classical monotheism like Dawkins's are simply not describing the one that is easily found (if you've bothered to read a bit) in classical theology.  So as he generously offered "The God of the Old Testament is a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, insecticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."  Uh huh.  One wonders about his relationship with his father.  In any event this is all simply absurd, inaccurate and illogical.  Robbins again - "if your idea of God is not one that most theistic traditions would recognize, you're not talking about God...but even more damning is that  such atheists appear ignorant of atheism as well."

"Atheists used to take the idea of God Seriously.  That's why they mattered."


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