IVP - Strangely Dim - Atheists Are from Mars, Theists Are from Venus

October 31, 2006

Atheists Are from Mars, Theists Are from Venus

Wired Magazine has run a feature article on the New Atheists. The new breed are more zealous, more militant, than your friendly neighborhood atheist. Here's the lowdown:

The New Atheists will not let us off the hook simply because we are not doctrinaire believers. They condemn not just belief in God but respect for belief in God. Religion is not only wrong; it's evil. Now that the battle has been joined, there's no excuse for shirking.

The New Atheists argue, for all practical purposes, that there is no real meeting between belief and unbelief. There are blue states of consciousness, and there are red states of consciousness; there can be no purple. The author of the article strikes a militant tone with the "atheist's prayer":

that our reason will subjugate our superstition, that our intelligence will check our illusions, that we will be able to hold at bay the evil temptation of faith.

The chief hurdle in the New Atheist agenda--taking over the world, or something like that--is the fact that they sound so smug about it. Atheist activist Clark Adams claims that they are "predominant among the upper 5 percent" of the population--they're the best of the best. They're the navy seals of the cosmos, the philospher-kings of the new republic; why don't the rest of us get our heads out of the clouds and bow down to them?

Not all atheists are so self-assured, of course. An episode in the most recent season of Thirty Days required an avowed atheist to live among devoutly evangelistic evangelicals for a month, and exposed the sociological complications of life as a 5 percent minority. In a democracy, strength is found in numbers, which makes a democracy perhaps inherently uncomfortable: the majority must respect the rights, but not necessarily anything else, of those who believe otherwise.

But to be honest, it's difficult to respect the beliefs of the New Atheism if you're among the lower 95 percent. Chief among their contentions is that religion is not just not good for you, it's actually bad for you--and for them, and for everybody else. Mere semantics and social controls separate your friendly neighborhood evangelical, for instance, from Osama bin Laden: adherence to an extrasensory, unprovable and illogical system of beliefs is dangerous; indoctrinating children into such a system of beliefs is immoral.

The very first book in the Likewise line involves a conversation between a friendly neighborhood evangelical and the lead singer of the New Atheists: Greg Graffin. He's profiled in the Wired article as an evolutionary biologist and lead singer of Bad Religion. History professor Preston Jones takes up an extended e-mailed conversation with him in Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant? It's a nice venture into purple territory, where New Atheists and evangelicals alike show themselves to be fundamentally human. I guess we're just wired that way.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at October 31, 2006 11:04 AM Bookmark and Share


The only newness in the New Atheism is the cool factor: the New Atheists take on a rebel attitude by including Muslims in their attacks, while much of North America, and just about the entire European intelligentsia have wilted under the heat of Muslim complaints.

Sam Harris et al. put on hipster airs, whereas the old atheists were forever stuck in the musty world of the academy.

Comment by: Paul Grant at November 1, 2006 1:50 PM

I have to admit the first time I'd heard of Richard Dawkins was last week on South Park, then it was in Wired, and now there's a video of him interviewing, of all people, Ted Haggard; you can imagine the field day some folk are having with that :\.

Anyway, I watched the video and was amazed and how hypocritical he was. In his own words, adults see a world of amazing complexity and different shades of grey and children often resort to black and white views of things. Yet, strangely enough, he uses absolutes in describing evangelicals (we are a disease on mankind) and spoke to Rev. Haggard with a deep disregard and lack of respect for his views.

Even when Ted turned the argument around and said that there would be things that his (dawkins) grandchildren would laugh at him believing he wouldn't believe it.

At one point in the video he compared services as new life to Nuremburg rallies and somehow found the courage to use deeply troubling words like Religion being a scourge on mankind. It's a bit troubling when you've got a man who uses words like that and believes what he believes.

Atheists are nothing new, but with Dawkins - he's got his own god he believes in and from the sound of it believes in that god as much as Haggard does his.

Comment by: Pete at November 5, 2006 5:00 PM

It has always amazed me how many atheists seem to be so quick to try to establish for others what is right and what is wrong knowing that their own belief system gives significance to nothing, including their own beliefs. Do they truly understand all that comes along with this life of pursuing "good" and bypassing God? With an atheistic world view no true standard can exist for the treatment of others, some seem to label "good" as respecting others, eliminating violence, and freedom of thought, but how can they know that this is the true expression of "good"? For some, such as Nazi Germany, good came in the form of eliminating those deemed as undesirable. This worldview is now largley disliked and disregarded but only because it was defeated, for those who rely on themselves and/or culture to determine what is "good" and what is "right" you believe what you believe only because it is the belief or worldview that ultimately "won" (or of course because you oppose theists). A person guided by atheistic principles is subject to the "truth" established by the influential and powerful, their "good" is what the times determine so if ever in the future a belief system such as the eugenicist beliefs held by Francis Galton, Margaret Sanger, H.G. Wells and Nazi Germany gain a dominant foothold their "good" will shift to the glory of eliminating the unfit, caring for none but the strong which appears to be the complete opposite of what many of them believe "good" to be now. To put it bluntly their "good" is absolutely nothing, it means nothing and leads to no outcome, so statements such as those from Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris that strongly condemn theists, especially us Christians, are truly baffling coming from people who hold to the view that God does not exist, and therefore absolutes do not exist, and therefore there is no meaning or significance to a belief in God. Can they not see that according to their own beliefs their words and this movement they are pushing have no meaning or purpose?

Comment by: Adrian Fisher II at November 7, 2006 6:57 PM

I cannot help but think that people are so caught up in looking at one particular piece of the pie that they entirely forget every other piece that needs examination. New Atheists are simply another version of people attempting to elevate reason and science above all other facets of human living (otherwise known as idolatry). Through this elevation they have created in themselves a new god named humanity while sacrificing from themselves the equality that needs to be held for things considered mundane (the physical) or complexly human (justice and law for example).

"Thou shalt not have any gods before me."

Humans have been worshiping themselves or figures of themselves for many ages. Those same religions have had a history of lashing out at God's kingdom (Old or New Testament is makes little difference). This is no different. The funny part is that in the end God used both His own people and those who would destroy His people for His own purposes.

We know who will win in the end. Pay these idolaters no mind.

Comment by: Matthew at November 8, 2006 3:13 PM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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