What is it about the New Atheists?

you_dont_exist2351What 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 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. (Sam Schulman)


6 comments on “What is it about the New Atheists?

  1. “or, for that matter, Albert Einstein”


    “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.” -Albert Einstein

    • your right Einstein didn’t believe in a personal God, but he was a pantheist in that he believed there was a god of some sort involved in te structure of the universe….within the very elements of life itself

      “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.” (Albert Einstein)

      The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.
      ( Albert Einstein – The Merging of Spirit and Science)

      Einstein believed all is one and all is God………he thus did not outright deny a higher being or spiritual dimension to existence.

      I must apologise for not stating that the statement I made was actually a direct quote by a guy whose name I now cant remember, but he was a Jewish dude.

  2. I have to say, I’ve rarely ever come across this ‘deeper faith’ that so many theists talk about. Although I’m probably even less a fan of most ‘new atheist’ writers than you, I also haven’t come across any brand of faith in the worlds of philosophy or academia that are terribly different from what you find on the average WordPress blog. Instead, I see very intelligent, rational people making intellectual compromises to avoid questioning their religious beliefs – not abandoning them, mind you (I’m not of the opinion that only ‘sheeple’ are religious), but even truly questioning them.

  3. It isn’t seen as a form of stupidity. Truly. I’m surrounded by Christians (trust me, I live in Texas. I’m vastly outnumbered), most of them intelligent. For me, it’s a refusal to be categorized, which appears to be your objection as well. Ignorance really isn’t such a horrible generalization or categorization compared to some of the categories into which atheists are thrust. Untrustworthy, immoral, child molesters, satanists (which is silly; if we don’t believe in god, we’re not going to believe in an anti-god either), even Terrorists. With a capital T. Dangerous people out to ruin the American way of life. All because we don’t believe in god. It gets a bit old. I’ve raised four children to teenager-hood be honest, moral people who want to contribute to society. I have a husband. I hold a job as a nurse and care for my patients. I live a normal life. But because I don’t believe in god, I’m a threat?

    Here’s what I think. People are people. Categorizing them and then applying our own personal moral standards to their beliefs is simply one more way of feeling superior to them. I mean, really. Do you honestly believe that being an atheist or a Christian is what defines a person? Then of course you’re going to see that person as shallow. Allow that we are as multi-faceted as you. That some of us extend beyond our religious belief, the same as you. Generalizing is so easy. And almost always wrong.

  4. No, but in a recently discovered letter he did have some choice things to say about Abrahamic religions:

    “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”

    “For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.”

  5. In relation to the new atheists and this quote Einstein says something similar;

    “I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being. (Albert Einstein)”

    Amazingly Einstein is spot on….Richard Dawkins is a classic example and I would love to hear what Einstein would have to say about him if he were alive today. Going by what he says here I suspect he would not speak favourably.

    Einstein evidently misunderstood the concept of Israel being ‘chosen’…..they weren’t chosen as he sates because they were deemed to be superior, more moral or worthy….it was out of God’s grace that He chose the Abrahamic line to bring salvation to the whole world.

    Einstein also said,

    “If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.” (Albert Einstein)

    Many people attribute this mindset to Christians. However, this view is not accurate. Yes, some professing Christians do have this misinformed mindset but no learned Christian with a grasp of the overall picture of the Biblical story of redemption (Biblical Theology- the linked Historical tracings within the Bible from Creation to New Creation) would say that this is so. As a Christian I do not desire to do good works to earn favour with God. Good works are a fruit of salvation in a believers life. I cannot earn favour with God by my works. Its only because of and through Jesus I can receive forgiveness.

    The sad thing about today, due to the media etc, is that A LOT of Christians don’t know their Bibles and thus they do not share their faith and cannot defend arguments against Christianity adequately. This is one area where informed atheists and Christians can agree….that t.v etc are resulting in a dumbing down of society (Neil Postmans “Amusing Ourselves to Death” covers this classically)

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