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1.06.2007

What's New Among the Godless?

Nothing, really:

What is new about the new atheists? It's not their arguments. Spend as much time as you like with a pile of the recent anti-religion books, but you won't encounter a single point you didn't hear in your freshman dormitory. It's their tone that is novel. Belief, in their eyes, is not just misguided but contemptible, the product of provincial minds, the mark of people who need to be told how to think and how to vote--both of which, the new atheists assure us, they do in lockstep with the pope and Jerry Falwell.

For them, belief in God is beyond childish, it is unsuitable for children. Today's atheists are particularly disgusted by the religious training of young people--which Dr. Dawkins calls "a form of child abuse." He even floats the idea that the state should intervene to protect children from their parents' religious beliefs.

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.


That so many of these atheists have replaced blind faith in a just but unseen God with blind faith in a corrupt and unseemly bunch of Democrats is just one of the richer ironies of this.

If one subscribed completely to the Hobbesian notion of man's essential nature unleavened by God, the only proper response would be to get as far away from your fellow narcissistic lunatics as possible and amass as big an arsenal as one could to protect yourself and your possessions. After all, that's all materialists can care about anyway.

Why Richard Dawkins doesn't simply take himself away to a secluded fortress somewhere is beyond me. Perhaps he lacks the courage of his convictions or the mental capacity to follow them to their logical conclusions.

I'm reminded of Whittaker Chambers' summary of Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy (still quite popular on the Right, by the way)---"To a gas chamber----go!"

I much prefer to be amongst people who believe life is precious and caring for one's neighbors as oneself the paramount of humanity to being surrounded by cold sociopaths of the Dawkins/Rand stripe.

But they do amuse with their infantile posturing, don't they?

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