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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.

 

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    • Joe Shaw on September 7, 2011 at 9:23 am

    “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.”

    I’d love to see you and Rob bell in a steel cage death match to see who is the most tolerant.

    • Anthony on September 7, 2011 at 9:45 am
      Author

    🙂

    • End Bringer on September 7, 2011 at 10:28 am

    I’m guessing the flood of comments from the PZ Meyer’s lemmings was a good source to pick up examples. And that was only ONE incident.

  1. Great article, Anthony! Much of what you said has been patently evident to me as well, though I’ve not been able to put them in such clear terms as you have here. Thanks!

    • Timaahy on September 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    I’m guessing the flood of comments from the PZ Meyer’s lemmings was a good source to pick up examples.

    And you still can’t get his name right.

    • Timaahy on September 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    You raise quite a number of issues, which I can’t address right now, but I just wanted to clarify something:

    For years, I’ve interacted with both sorts and I think I’ve put my finger on one of the main differences.

    I wasn’t quite sure (from my one and only read through, sans beer) what you think that difference is…? Is it that one camp thinks atheism is self-evident, while the other does not? Or that some new atheists are openly and unnecessarily hostile towards religion, while others take a more amicable approach? Or something else…?

    • End Bringer on September 7, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    “And you still can’t get his name right.”

    *shrug* Not like the guy’s worth the trouble of putting in the effort. Though how uptight you have to be to complain about a typo…

    • Timaahy on September 7, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Helping you with your English is kind of a hobby of mine.

    Though how uptight [do] you have to be to complain about a typo…

    See?

    • Timaahy on September 7, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Oh, and typos are fine. I make typps all the time. See? There’s one right there.

    But what you did wasn’t a typo.

    • End Bringer on September 7, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    “Helping you with your English is kind of a hobby of mine.”

    More like obsession. Which would be almost as petty as me making an issue of your mistake in the use of the quotation box in the very first post of this thread, but I chose to take the high-road.

    But I admit it – it IS a deep personal flaw of mine to treat an internet forum not like a college midterm paper or a quarterly report, but instead like a…(drumroll)…internet forum.

    Likely stems from the time I saw a man drown in a drinking fountain while cursing the sentence structure of pronouns, but there it is.

    • End Bringer on September 7, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    “But what you did wasn’t a typo.’

    Exactly what do you call an error in typing then?

    • Timaahy on September 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    More like obsession

    Perhaps… but only because I am called into action so often. 🙂

    the sentence structure of pronouns

    Umm… what?

    Exactly what do you call an error in typing then?

    A typo.

    But you said that “the guy’s [not] worth the trouble of putting in the effort” to get his name right, which suggests you spelled his surname exactly as you intended to.

    • End Bringer on September 7, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    “Perhaps… but only because I am called into action so often.”

    So voices in your head are telling you to do things, eh? 😉

    “But you said that “the guy’s [not] worth the trouble of putting in the effort” to get his name right, which suggests you spelled his surname exactly as you intended to.”

    Don’t see how my thinking that it’s not worth the effort to check if I got it right, makes it not a typo. That’s kind of how such errors occur in the final product – you don’t double check them.

    • Timaahy on September 7, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Anthony,

    Could you expand a bit on what you mean by “self-evident”? Self-evident in the light of what? Do you mean that we think it should be self-evident to someone raised by themselves on a desert island, or by a modern man equipped with the current level of human knowledge?

    Just trying to get a handle on where you’re coming from before a try and address some of your issues.

    Tim

    • Anthony on September 7, 2011 at 8:52 pm
      Author

    boy can you guys squabble. 😉

    Tim, I’ll get back to you with a reply, perhaps tomorrow.

    • End Bringer on September 7, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Yes. We’re past the honeymoon phase.

    • Timaahy on September 7, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Haha… yes, my fondness for EB is the main reason I’m a passionate advocate for same sex marriage (assuming he’s a he).

    • DMA on September 8, 2011 at 6:28 am

    Well. I think to be fair, if you’re an atheist in any demonstrable capacity (especially on the internet) you eventually run into a pure biblicist. You know, the kind that believe every little word and phrase that’s in the Bible.

    When you do you might be shocked to find out that they actually believe you are a damaged, broken, deficient person who is so vile that someday you will be (rightfully) turned over to eternal torture of the most horrendous kind.

    Moreover you will find that this belief of theirs rest on the premise that knowledge of God is self-evident, meaning it can be clearly seen to be true in the normal everyday evidences that everyone experiences and denying such truths is not only foolish, but indicative of an thoroughly evil self-deception design to enable the unbeliever to live as despicably as they please.

    I think when confronted with these kinds of people, the natural result is the new atheist that you’re talking about.

    • Anthony on September 8, 2011 at 7:46 am
      Author

    DMA, how is it exactly that you are ‘being fair’ in your analysis? Do I understand you to say that you find this contemptuous behavior justifiable?

    You have attempted to put the beliefs of the ‘Biblicist’ in parallel to the new atheist but I have never seen any of them stoop as low as the New Atheists stoop on a continual basis. So, though on your view both groups are exposed to both types of beliefs, only one group turns to contempt. If turning to contempt is the ‘natural result’ then Christians must be manifesting supernatural restraint. 😉

    Now, to ACTUALLY be fair, your assessment of the Christian ‘biblicist’ view is way off, though, I admit, a typical view by atheists, especially of the ‘new atheist’ kind. Indeed, in an email correspondence this week I had one put forth as ‘self evident’ the following assertion:

    Atheist to Christian: You deserve to be free and happy.

    Christian to Atheist: You deserve to go to hell for all eternity.

    You will surely recognize in this your own statement about what Christians believe, “you are a damaged, broken, deficient person who is so vile that someday you will be (rightfully) turned over to eternal torture of the most horrendous kind.”

    What both he and you UNFAIRLY fail to note is that by ‘you’ it is not meant atheists in particular, atheists especially, atheists only. If you know anything at all about Christianity, then you know that if such a sentiment is believed by a Christian, they do not apply it only to atheists. They believe they are reflecting some basic facts about the human situation; hence, they believe that THEY themselves are damaged, broken, deficient, and ‘deserving to go to hell for all eternity.’

    For you, and my email correspondent, to fail to note this important caveat and write as though atheists alone are targeted is simply wrong.

    Moreover, in the spirit of being ACTUALLY fair, we know that this isn’t the whole of the Christian view about that. Sure, the Christian believes that about the human condition, not just the atheist’s condition, but that is only one part of the belief. The other part, which both you and my email correspondent neglect to mention, is that we believe that there is a path out of that human condition, a way forward, and a possible reconciliation.

    As I told my email correspondent, an honestly phrased sentiment would have gone on to point out that Christians too include “freedom and happiness” in their belief system. But of course, he’s trying to make a comparison that he expects me to accept as a ‘self-evident’ blow against Christianity and point in favor of atheism. And perhaps if I had never actually read the Bible before and didn’t know the whole story, it would have had the effect he hoped for. But being a ‘biblicist’ entails actually reading the Bible, so, having actually read the Bible, it did not.

    Finally, in your attempt “to be fair” and paint a parallel, you failed again when you said, “Moreover you will find that this belief of theirs rest on the premise that knowledge of God is self-evident,”

    While I can picture Christians possibly saying something of this sort, I would bet that the context would be much different than you suggest. The passage that most explicitly speaks to that sentiment is Romans 1:19-20

    … since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    But note the italicized. Is that the same as “clearly seen to be true in the normal everyday evidences that everyone experiences” ?

    Not really. And the notion of ‘self-evident’ isn’t quite the same, either. You make it sound as though the ‘self-evidency’ is of an internal nature, but actually this passage does not point people to their internal experiences, or even their ‘normal everyday evidences’, but rather ‘from what has been made’, ie, to the evidence.

    This is a far cry from the assertion so often made that Christian faith is supposed to be blind faith. Even here in this pretty blunt passage Paul is directing people to look at evidence.

    Anyway, I am probably the ‘biblicist’ that you speak of and I have not nor ever will put forward the notion that theism or Christianity is ‘self-evidently’ true. It is much more nuanced than that.

    I recall Chesterton’s words,

    [Christianity] separated [two ideas] and then exaggerated them both. In one way Man was to be haughtier than he had ever been before; in another way he was to be humbler than he had ever been before. In so far as I am Man I am the chief of creatures. In so far as I am a man I am the chief of sinners. All humility that had meant pessimism, that had meant man taking a vague or mean view of his whole destiny–all that was to go. We were to hear no more the wail of Ecclesiastes that humanity had no pre-eminence over the brute, or the awful cry of Homer that man was only the saddest of all the beasts of the field. Man was a statue of God walking about the garden. Man had pre-eminence over all the brutes; man was only sad because he was not a beast, but a broken god. The Greek had spoken of men creeping on the earth, as if clinging to it. Now Man was to tread on the earth as if to subdue it. Christianity thus held a thought of the dignity of man that could only be expressed in crowns rayed like the sun and fans of peacock plumage. Yet at the same time it could hold a thought about the abject smallness of man that could only be expressed in fasting and fantastic submission, in the gray ashes of St. Dominic and the white snows of St. Bernard. When one came to think of one’s self, there was vista and void enough for any amount of bleak abnegation and bitter truth. There the realistic gentleman could let himself go–as long as he let himself go at himself. There was an open playground for the happy pessimist. Let him say anything against himself short of blaspheming the original aim of his being; let him call himself a fool and even a damned fool (though that is Calvinistic); but he must not say that fools are not worth saving. He must not say that a man, quâ man, can be valueless. Here, again in short, Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious. The Church was positive on both points. One can hardly think too little of one’s self. One can hardly think too much of one’s soul.

    • Stathei on September 8, 2011 at 9:47 am

    I believe the “murderous moron” comment was mine – I was specifically speaking about EB, not about all fundies. I stand by what I said, as it is based on the fact that he believes that women have a pregnancy terminated should be put to death, along with the doctor performing the procedure.

    Now, SJ is blocking my IP address and I am obviously no longer welcome, so I’ll leave it at that.

    • End Bringer on September 8, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Another prime example (as if you haven’t given more than enough already) of you not understanding what was said and misrepresenting them with what you think is “really” being said. The fact that you’re dead wrong, makes little difference to you. Also the fact that it doesn’t matter whether your comment was singular or general. It’s still an example of the contempt/attitude SJ is talking about, and you’ve been in enough debates to be the poster-boy in regards to the New Atheist’s approach.

    If SJ is blocking your IP, it’s because you had MORE than enough chances to behave, and squandered all of them. Even after you proclaimed yourself ‘through with this site’ multiple times, and predictably came back. 😉

    • DMA on September 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I’m pointing out what seems to be a natural progression. To me, extreme religious beliefs are the primary cause for extreme anti-religious beliefs.

    So before condemning new atheists I would first check and see what beliefs you have that might be polarizing and offensive to those that don’t believe as you do.

    • Anthony on September 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm
      Author

    Yea, sorry, I’m not buying it. The first reason I’m not buying it is that you imply that atheists lack self-control. In the face of ‘offensive’ beliefs, this somehow justifies crude, crass, and unfit-for-society behavior? I don’t think so. So what, we’ve got the gay gene (they can’t help being gay) and we’ve got the jerk gene (we can’t help ourselves when lashing out rudely to people that we perceive as rude) ? No way, man.

    Second of all, I just spent some time analyzing your perception of the ‘extreme religious beliefs’ and showed every single one of them to be wrong. So, maybe before you trying to justify God-awful behavior in the face of ‘polarizing and offensive beliefs’ I would check to make sure you actually understand those beliefs correctly.

    Basically, you’re employing the “He started it” defense. This does not stand up in our courts and it doesn’t stand up in our schools and it doesn’t stand up anywhere that mature people carry out their business. But even so, this defense rests on an important assumption- it requires that the other person really did start it.

    In the face of the “He started it” defense the reply here is “Uh, no he didn’t.”

    Whether or not it is right to punch the bully if the bully punches you is an interesting moral question, but surely it requires first of all that the bully does punch you.

    • DMA on September 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Self-control is one of the fruits of the spirit silly theists. Seriously though, you can’t seriously think that atheists wouldn’t find some of the more extreme Christian beliefs offensive.

    • End Bringer on September 8, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    “Whether or not it is right to punch the bully if the bully punches you is an interesting moral question, but surely it requires first of all that the bully does punch you.”

    Or bodyslam the bully.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izSbEwOUQr8&feature=related

    Maybe a half nelson, would be less of a “grey” issue.

    • Timaahy on September 8, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Come and read my blog, Stathei… I won’t ban you. 🙂

    Plus it’d be nice to have at least one visitor!

    • Anthony on September 8, 2011 at 4:11 pm
      Author

    I thought I was your one visitor. 🙂

    • Timaahy on September 8, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    You mean I’d have TWO…?! I’ll call the advertisers!

    • Timaahy on September 29, 2011 at 5:49 am

    Hi Anthony,

    I know you’re a busy man, but when you get a chance, would you mind answering my question above? Namely:

    Could you expand a bit on what you mean by “self-evident”? Self-evident in the light of what? Do you mean that we think it should be self-evident to someone raised by themselves on a desert island, or by a modern man equipped with the current level of human knowledge?

    Thanks mate

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