The New Argument of the New Atheists
I don’t hate atheists. I don’t like arguing for the sake of arguing and don’t have a ‘thing’ about winning a debate. I discourse with atheists because I love them, and because I believe that I am right in my belief that God is going to call this world to account and if we do not have Christ as our advocate, we’re toast (And Christ stands ready to be our advocate the moment we’ll let him).
But I admit, the ‘new atheists’ get under my skin. Fortunately, not every atheist I interact with fits that characterization. Indeed, even some who would describe themselves as ‘new atheists’ lack some of the defining characteristics of the ‘new atheists.’ They are better than their worldview. Some times you just get lucky, I guess.
For years, I’ve interacted with both sorts and I think I’ve put my finger on one of the main differences.
Let’s put it this way. Important new developments in human history (Darwinism, the Holocaust, etc) only serve as new illustrations to old arguments. The skirmish line between atheism and everything else was established thousands of years ago and hasn’t really changed much. That’s why you can have someone like Francis Collins, who in the face of such faith-killing notions such as unguided naturalistic macroevolutionary theory, can nonetheless become a Christian. Strictly speaking, neither real and pseudoscience can obliterate the important and unavoidable facts of human existence which are arranged on the ‘religious’ side of the skirmish line. What argument(s) do the New Atheists present?
They have none. What they actually have is a little different. It is the belief that the truth of atheism is self-evidently true to any and all reasonable people. Not an atheist? Then the New Atheist knows what sort of person he’s talking to- an unreasonable, irrational person. The New Atheist thinks the skirmish line is an illusion, the squishy line of demarcation for those cowards afraid to embrace the hard-nosed truth that we are alone in the universe. The really brave, sane, and reasonable person knows this on first glance, and need not trouble himself with any of the old and enduring arguments- or the people who make them, or even the people who consider them who remain unconvinced!
The Japanese during the second world war believed that surrender was an unconscionable, cowardly act. No real man could possibly choose living in captivity over against dying in honor. It was self-evident. If the Japanese could have applied this belief only to themselves, the war would have played out differently. Of course, the Japanese thought they were right in their beliefs, and consistency is a mark of coherence, so it was only natural that when confronted with the tens of thousands of allied soldiers finding themselves outgunned and outmanned who quickly surrendered, that they would treat these the same as they would treat themselves: as not even deserving to be regarded as humans at all, vile vermin that could be exterminated without a pang of conscience. Real men do not surrender; ipso facto, someone who surrenders is not a real man. Do with him as you please.
Likewise, if the New Atheists could apply their belief that their position is self-evidently correct to all rational individuals to themselves, perhaps there would be no harm. But consistency is a mark of coherence, and the notion of something being ‘self-evident’ clearly entails applying that to the rest of humanity. The rest of humanity is by and large religious in diverse and numerous ways; ipso facto, the rest of humanity is irrational, insane, defective, or- and these are real quotes from ‘new atheists’- “retards”, “murderous morons”, “haters”, “bigots”, “asshats”, “total idiots”, “dipshits”, “homophobes”, “assholes”, “obvious ignoramus”, “hypocrites”, “christfag shit”, etc, etc.
Every one of these examples come from direct interactions from atheists on this blog. Some of the comments were so vile even I, probably the most open and tolerant Christian apologist on the net, could not let them go. They are ‘unapproved’ and archived. By necessity- some of them contain violent threats against my person, and if anything ever happens to me I think the police could get some good leads. And some of what has been said about me and religionists in general is simply unprintable.
Do not believe that these exhaust the examples I could give. I have a discussion forum and my personal email correspondence I could tap. And if I decided to go outside of my own little domain, the Internet is chock full of examples.
Ironically, the New Atheists are always the first to cry foul and declare hypocrisy if a Christian even raises their ‘voice’ ever so slightly. Atheists can do as they please… but that is a side point, except that that behavior is a manifestation of the truth of my claim in this post.
To the main point: on the New Atheist view, the abuse that I just described is not only justified, it was relatively kind! Religionists deserve even worse!
Irrational and evil people (which is what religionists must be, since they are not atheists, and according to the New Atheists, atheism is self-evidently true) do not warrant polite treatment. Nor is there any need to work through any arguments or evidence that the religionists might present; it is self-evident to any reasonable, rational, sane and decent person, that all those arguments fail and no evidence could possibly demonstrate a religionist world view.
If you are a religionist of any kind, then, the New Atheists don’t really care about your arguments or evidence. The New Atheists do not have any new arguments. They do not even have any old arguments. Argument is not necessary with sane people on such an obvious matter as whether or not atheism is true. Oh sure, a New Atheist may trot out an argument or two, especially when they are in evangelism mode. But when they are interacting with someone they deem to be ‘lost’ the New Atheist cannot repress that new thing that the New Atheists really bring to the table: a new contempt for their fellow man.
Their attitude is that their belief is self-evidently true.
The New Atheist attitude is succinctly stated by Richard Dawkins:
It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).
[The fact that this statement references evolution is irrelevant, especially since Dawkins; own atheism rests so heavily on evolution. The point is that this is what Dawkins thinks about people who dissent.]
While a person remains merely ignorant, the New Atheist remains cordial as they layout their arguments, but the moment someone rejects them as unsatisfactory, only three options remain- stupid, insane, or wicked.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how such a position would drive certain behaviors. After all, how do you treat people you believe are stupid, insane, or wicked? The stupid ones you will not engage, only deride (although, if you are polite, you will keep your sentiments to yourself). The insane ones you will put into institutions and the wicked ones into prison.
Now, if any of my readers are atheists and find this attitude as deplorable as I do, then of course we move on to the next step- what is your basis for declaring something ‘deplorable’? Is that just your opinion, or is there some sort of objective standard that drives you to believe that? Many of my readers will be New Atheists who basically agree with my analysis, especially the part that says we religionists are already being treated too kindly. But what about my fellow religionists? What shall we conclude?
If my analysis is correct, then I think it will really shape our strategies and approaches in our society.