Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Two Notes on the New Atheists.

I have a couple of thoughts about the new atheists. I had these thoughts when I was talking about them on the way to a wedding on Sunday with my wife. There's a local company called "Modernist Design." And the commercial on the radio goes like this: "What was your modernistic moment?" And then someone chimes in and says "well, when they designed blah, blah for me." I turned to my wife and said "well, it was when I began to believe in a mechanistic view of nature and the instrumentality of reason." And we laughed and both got the joke, and again realized that there's no conceivable way that we could ever be married to anyone else. But I digress.

Anyways, we started talking about modernism and then atheism, and voila!

1. The new atheism is essentially a post-modern atheism. It's weird, because atheism is pretty modernistic. In fact, people like Christopher Hitchens remind me an old fashion 19th century Catholic, trying to hold onto the old faith in the face of a new philosophical situation. He wants modernism to be true, but it's on its last legs. That's why he's obsessed with people like Thomas Paine. What's post-modern about the new atheists is that they secretly know that the modernist doctrine of progress is bunk. Since that's the case, materialism as a worldview is not going to inevitably win. Look at Islam, look at Eastern Europe after the fall of Communism. Theistic belief is on the rise. Worldviews determine the plausibility of God, not inevitable historical forces towards secularity. So, that's why they're evangelistic in their atheism. They realize that modernism is one worldview among many, and its supremacy is not inevitable. Past atheists weren't evangelistic because they figured they would win out eventually because science would just de-mystify everything. But that didn't happen- so they've got to educate people.

2. The new atheism doesn't work without Rob Bell style theism to attack. In other words, Christianity in the west has attempted to make God into this wonderful, groovy, love-machine. He's good because he's the sort of God we want him to be. He fulfills our desires. Almost everyone in the modern west believes in this God. Because this is the case, the only God that could exist would be a God like me. After all, he's a bundle of things that fulfill my desires- so why won't he desire the same things as I desire? If that's the case, and the world then doesn't match up to my desires, then God must not exist. If you think about it, that's their main argument. Like Hume, they focus on the problem of evil as the main argument against God's existence. But, if you're an atheist, there's no objective good, so there's no objective evil. There's just stuff I don't like in the world- those things are evil becasue of my subjective opinion about them. So, at it's heart, God can't exist because he does and allows stuff I don't like. Put another way, God can't exist because he's not me! This argument (though illogical- I don't like Chinese food, so it must not exist!) works for people in the modern west, who are, to say the least, massively egocentric.


  1. I agree with Pastor Praetorius. Excellent post! I came to a similar conclusion myself after watching a BBC program The Atheist Tapes. The New Atheism attacks the god of Moral Therapeutic Deism, which I think is essentially what Rob Bell teaches. That god is nice but allows not nice stuff to happen. Therefore he can't exist. I agree with them that god doesn't exist.

  2. A few years ago, I was having lunch with a long time friend, an avowed atheist, who teaches at a community college in GR. I nearly lost my beer when he conceeded the existence of evil in this world. After inquiring of his definition of evil, I pressed further on the issue for his definition of good. His responses could not go beyond himself; all qualities and measure of good centered upon himself. This definition failed to extend to his neighbor leaving him terribly isolated. I do not know if my assurance of a good outside of ourselves (as in only God is good) took root; I do know he could not find a solution by himself which had application outside himself. Thank God for intercessory prayer.