Two articles in the past week, both on the Telegraph website, highlight the growing embarrassment that so many atheists find with the posturing of Richard Dawkins.
Brendon O’Neill confesses that ‘things are now so bad that I tend to keep my atheism to myself’ in his article How atheists became the most colossally smug and annoying people on the planet.
Matthew Norman writes in his piece Come in Agent Dawkins, your job is done, ’as one who became a devout atheist at the age of nine’ but also asks ’is there any stronger argument against the existence of a benign deity today than the existence of Richard Dawkins?’
It seems to me there are many lessons for Christians to learn from these articles. Let’s fill our apologetic with love and compassion as well as contending for truth. Let’s also watch out for the pride and posturing in our words that do nothing to commend our cause.
Two quite superb articles in American Spectator.
The first is on Margaret Thatcher’s Christian faith and its impact on her leadership.
The second is entitled ‘what the new atheists ignore‘ and is a reflection by a non-believer on the massiveimpact for good Christianity has had in our communities, contra the absence of any evidence that atheism has had any social impact to the good.
Skimming through a friends copy of John Lennox’s Gunning for God: Why the new atheists are missing the taget I came across this striking quote from Professor Andrew Sims former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists taken from an article in The Times (£) newspaper:
The advantageous effect of religious belief and spirituality on mental and physical health is one of the best-kept secrets in psychiatry and medicine generally. If the findings of the huge volume of research on this topic had gone in the opposite direction and it had been found that religion damages your mental health, it would have been front-page news in every newspaper in the land.
In the majority of studies, religious involvement is correlated with well-being, happiness and life satisfaction; hope and optimism;purpose and meaning in life; higher self-esteem; better adaptation to bereavement; greater social support and less loneliness; lower rates of depression and faster recovery from depression; lower rates of suicide and fewer positive attitudes towards suicide; less anxiety; less psychosis and fewer psychotic tendencies; lower rates of alcohol and drug use and abuse; less delinquency and criminal activity; greater marital stability and satisfaction… We concluded that for the vast majority of people the apparent benefits of devout belief and practice probably outweigh the risks.
Originally a post on this blog Evangelicals Now have edited and published it for a wider audience
This section of a documentary entitled The trouble with atheism presented by Rod Liddle also highlights the extreme violence conducted by atheist states in the past century.
Peter Hitchens is a journalist and author. He is also the brother of new atheist Christopher Hitchens. But whilst Christopher continues to attack God at any and every opportunity, Peter has experienced a remarkable conversion to Christianity.
He describes how atheism led him to faith and to the discovery that what as a boy he had rejected, marked by the burning of his bible, was in fact right all along. He joins a number of prominent atheists who have abandoned their atheism in recent years in favour of belief in God, including AN Wilson, Julie Birchill and Fay Weldon.
What was it about new atheism that particularly grated? Not least, he says, that it is ‘self-satisfied, arrogant, intolerant, completely resistant to any kind of outside argument and contemptuous of it.’
Hitchens has now written on the subject in a book entitled The rage against God.
Does Dawkins understand atheism?
Having read and re-read the God delusion I now think the biggest surprise in the book is not that Richard Dawkins has problems understanding Christianity (you might expect me to say that) but that he doesn’t seem to understand atheism either!
In a chapter entitled ‘The God Hypothesis’ Dawkins sets out what he calls a ‘spectrum of probabilities’ on the question of God’s existence. Each individual holds a position somewhere on the scale of 1 to 7.
1) Represents the Strong Theist whom he describes as ‘100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung, ‘I do not believe, I know.’
2) Very high probability but short of 100 percent. De facto theist. ‘I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.’
There are a range of middle-ground positions and then at the other end of the spectrum are
6) Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. ‘I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.
7) Strong atheist. ‘I know there is no God. With the same conviction as Jung “knows” there is one.’
But here is Dawkins controversial and crucial conclusion;
‘I’d be surprised to meet many people in category 7, but I include it for symmetry with category 1, which is well populated.’
Why would he say that? Because Dawkins wants to represent atheism as a moderate view based on evidence. Theists may be crazy and arrogant enough to believe with certainty but ‘Atheists do not have faith; and reason alone could not propel one to total conviction that anything definitely does not exist.’
Dawkins wants to limit the definition of atheism to all intents and purposes to position 6 an altogether more reasonable position. We might call it a kind of moderate or liberal atheism.
How Dawkins misrepresents atheism
It’s as you look a little bit more into atheism that you begin realise that Dawkin’s is not exactly being far to atheism. For in reducing atheism to 6) Dawkins is skewing the definition(s) of atheism and he manages to obscure (even dare I say cover up) the debate between atheists over centuries.
Better books on atheism, to which I shall come in due course, set out the range of views and positions held by atheists that Dawkins prefers to ignore. The simple fact of the matter is that many atheists would and do argue for position 7 on his scale.
Michael Martins and Atheism properly understood
The best introduction to atheism written by an atheist philosopher in print today, is Michael Martins’ Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Martins is a philosopher of the first order and emeritus professor at Boston University. He is a distinguished author and edited The Cambridge Companion to Atheism published by Cambridge University Press. He gained his PhD from Harvard University.
Martins points out that the central debate amongst atheists is between those who hold position 6 on Dawkins scale and those who Continue reading »
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