Posted by: the warrioress | June 10, 2012

Militant Atheism II – Atheist Critique

ze New Atheism

ze New Atheism (Photo credit: ~C4Chaos)

In Militant Atheism, I introduced this topic by sharing that moderate atheists don’t particularly care for the more militant version of themselves. There are a host of reasons why this is, and the reasons are genuinely valid.

If we have a look at views of renowned and well-respected atheist peers of the militant atheists we’re discussing, we may be a little surprised. I’ve selected only a few to share with you, the reader, but I think after you finish reading what these atheists think about atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and others like them, you’ll probably feel as I do. 

Militant atheism is over the top. It has overshot its mark and become a raging, rude, ignorant way of looking at those who are different from ourselves. It’s as intolerant as one can get.  The atheist writers below are being very down to earth and in their honesty they offer lots of insight for the more militant among them to consider.  After all, when one’s own kind reject their approach and arguments, how can one not take notice and give the matter reasonable consideration?

Cover of "I Don't Believe in Atheists"

Cover of I Don’t Believe in Atheists

We begin with Chris Hedges, a broad secular humanist who wrote the book,  “I Don’t Believe in Atheists.”

Hedges argues that Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, and Dennett have a lot in common with the religious fundamentalists whom they mock and attack. He actually calls their thought a form of fundamentalism and accuses them of holding an arrogant certitude, of being anti-intellectual in the sense of not really being interested in other ways of thinking, of holding that their own worldview is true and the only one that matters and therefore being dismissive of other worldviews, and of being utopian thinkers.

While (Chris) Hedges does not tip his own hand regarding his religious identity, in the book he comes across as a broad humanist, or even a humanist in the classical sense of the term.

In May of 2007, Chris Hedges debated Sam Harris in Los Angeles and Christopher Hitchens in San Francisco. I Don’t Believe in Atheists, which has also been released under the title When Atheism Becomes Religion, is his fierce refutation of the projects of Harris, Dawkins, et al.

http://revthom.blogspot.com/2010/03/book-review-i-dont-believe-in-atheists.html

Next is atheist, Dan Neil, who wrote an LA Times article about the books of the new militant atheists:

“I do appreciate the company, and the ammunition in these books, and the occasional exchanged glance of solidarity in the bookstore. But I’m just slightly alarmed. The new atheism is pretty hard-core, militantly insisting we challenge religiosity wherever we meet it, or else enable its darker extremist tendencies. In other words, the new atheism is on a quest for conversion. Having insisted on tolerance of our non-faith, Dawkins and Harris’ take-no-prisoners orthodoxy would have us be intolerant of others’ faith. Oh boy, just when I was beginning to enjoy being an atheist.”

http://articles.latimes.com/2006/dec/17/magazine/tm-neil51

Alistair McGrath, a former atheist now turned Christian, has a lot to say that is worthwhile:

Dr. Alister McGrath poses for a picture while ...

Dr. Alister McGrath poses for a picture while autographing his book after a lecture at the University of Iceland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The dogmatism of the work has attracted wide criticism from the secularist community. Many who might be expected to support Dawkins are trying to distance themselves from what they see as an embarrassment. Aware of the moral obligation of a critic of religion to deal with this phenomenon at its best and most persuasive, many atheists have been disturbed by Dawkins’s crude stereotypes and seemingly pathological hostility towards religion. In fact, The God Delusion might turn out to be a monumental own goal – persuading people that atheism is just as intolerant as the worst that religion can offer.”

Alister McGrath is professor of theology at Oxford University. His new book The Dawkins Delusion?, co-authored by Joanna Collicutt McGrath, is published by SPCK at £7.99.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-433628/Do-stop-behaving-God-Professor-Dawkins.html

What follows here is an intriguing introduction to Paul C. Vitz, a former atheist and now a prof of psychology at New York University. He has some interesting opinions on militant new atheism which may shed some light for us on this newest arm of fundamentalism:

The former atheist, Paul C. Vitz, a professor of psychology at New York University, advances the position that militant atheists need to look closely at themselves. Vitz asserts: “In short the theory that God is a projection of our own needs is a familiar modern position and is, for example, presented in countless university courses. But the psychological concepts used so effectively to interpret religion by those who reject God are double edged swords that can also, indeed easily, be used to explain their unbelief.” For years, militant atheists thought they had the monopoly on truth and therefore virtue. As such, they persisted in mocking monotheists by portraying them as neurotics. This point can’t be stressed enough.

Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of AtheismYet, Vitz looks behind the accusations and convincingly argues that a good many (not all) secular fundamentalists hate God because of their own troubled upbringings. In fact, the psychological source of their militancy stems from the absence of a loving father in the home. When one looks at famous atheists and their families, a grim picture emerges. Vitz looks at what he calls the “dead father” syndrome. Friedrich “God is Dead” Nietzsche, for example, lost his father at a very young age. Sadly, so too did many evangelical atheists. David Hume, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Arthur Schopenhaeur could be added to that list. The biographical evidence is frightening. Is this just a mere coincidence?

Obviously, there were prominent atheist thinkers who didn’t loose their fathers at an early age. Thomas Hobbs, Jean Meslier, Voltaire, Jean d’Alembert, Baron d’Holbach, Ludwig Feuerbach, Samuel Butler, Sigmund Freud and H.G. Wells all spring to the author’s mind. Still, when one takes a closer look at the biographical evidence, as Vitz does, we find more disturbing patterns.

All of these renowned secularists came from homes with weak or abusive fathers. Again, is this just purely coincidental? As the reader ploughs through the defective father hypothesis, one wonders how famous Jewish and Christian intellectuals were raised. Do they have any family secrets? Surprise, surprise: we find that 21 of the prominent theistic thinkers came from relatively healthy backgrounds!

History tells us that political atheism tends to be extremely dangerous. Both Hitler and Stalin hated Judeo-Christian values with a vengeance. And it should come as no surprise that both leaders were severely beaten by their fathers. Curiously, a good many of their fawning disciples came from fatherless backgrounds too. Consider for one moment the many ways in which pathetic German men worshipped Hitler. How many of them saw him as a substitute role model after having lost their own fathers in WWI?

Rabbi Daniel Lapin states that: “In only the twentieth-century, atheism in both its forms of facism and communism, has been responsible for killing far more humans than all the religious wars of the first nineteen centuries.” Alas, an intellectual arrogance surrounds militant atheists. Books like Faith of the Fatherless – The Psychology of Atheism, however, serve as an important counterweight to the many pro-atheist arguments preached by some evangelical secularists on campuses across the West.

http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=3419

Atheist author, Frank Schaeffer, and his take on New Atheism.

“The New Atheists have been so shrill in their attempts to put what they regard as religious Dims in their place that even some other atheists find them abrasive. These critics of the New Atheists might be called New New Atheists. They too have come forward to proclaim atheism, yet to denounce the New Atheists in a way that to me is reminiscent of the church splits that my evangelical/Calvinist missionary parents (Francis and Edith Schaeffer who founded the ministry of L’Abri in Switzerland) went through.

We became members of ever “purer” churches through one “separation” after[FS_1.jpg] another, until the “True Church” more or less boiled down to just our family! In The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality, French philosopher André Comte-Sponville tries to present a “humanitarian foundation” for the life of unbelief. Comte-Sponville says that his “way of being an atheist,” was influenced by the Catholicism of his youth. He acknowledges the positive aspects of faith.

And then there is Ronald Aronson, a philosopher teaching at Wayne State University and contributor to Religion Dispatches, who first laid out a critique of the New Atheists in a review of their books in the Nation published in June 2007.

“Where does the work of the New Atheists leave us?” he asked. “Living without God means turning toward something.” Then in his book Living Without God, Aronson fleshed out his critique. He writes, “Religion is not really the issue, but rather the incompleteness or tentativeness, the thinness or emptiness, of today’s atheism, agnosticism, and secularism. Living without God means turning toward something.” It might also mean that we should look for a less drastic alternative to fundamentalist faith in God than a fundamentalist faith in no God.

The New Atheists and the religious fundamentalists have been looking through the wrong end of the same worn-out telescope. It strikes me that the idea–dare I say the fundamental truth — of paradox has been left out of the current atheist vs. religion debate.

At its best faith in God is about thanksgiving, shared suffering, loss, pain, generosity, and love. The best religious people and the best secular people learn to ignore our chosen (or inherited) religions’ nastier teachings (be those found in the Bible or in the “science” of eugenics and white racial superiority) in order to preserve the spirit of our faiths, be it a faith in secular humanism, science, God or in all of the above.

It’s the tediously consistent fundamentalists, religious or atheist, who become monsters. They are so sure that they have the truth that they dare claim that only those members of “my” religion will be saved. This is the path to madness and, if history is any guide, to violence. Certainty kills.

This essay first appeared on Religion Dispatches. Frank Schaeffer is the author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back and the forthcoming Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don’t Like Religion (Or Atheism)

When asked about new atheists, atheist author, Julian Baggini, shared some of the following snippets: 

“In any case, my opinions are not so much about these books as the general tone and direction the new atheism they represent has adopted. This is not a function of what exactly these books say, but of how they are perceived, and the kind of comments the four horsemen make in newspaper articles and interviews. All this, I think, has been unhelpful in many ways. In short, the new atheism gets atheism wrong, gets religion wrong, and is counterproductive.”

“The new atheism, however, is characterised by its attacks on religion. In any case, my opinions are not so much about these books as the general tone and direction the new atheism they represent has adopted.”

“This anti-theism is for me a backwards step. It reinforces what I believe is a myth, that an atheist without a bishop to bash is like a fish without water. Worse, it raises the possibility that as a matter of fact, for many atheists, they do indeed need an enemy to give them their identity.”

“For these reasons, I am not happy about the public rhetoric of the new atheism, which has the most powerful effect on how people perceive people like me. Anyone committed to the proper use of reason and evidence should use both to see that this rhetoric matters, whether they like it or not, and modify their approach accordingly.”

http://fritanke.no/index.php?page=vis_nyhet&NyhetID=8484

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Responses

  1. ok I am not too savy on this particular matter if you could give me more to study i will. How ever militant atheism , radical islamofashism ( sorry for the bad spelling i just got off work) both of these combined with the nazi islamic movement if these two collided and started creating an alliance together would be a dangerous mix , all be it they are dangerous on their own terms together we would see a lot more bad things going on. I think we as christians need to do as Jesus commanded, love our neighbor as ourselves, put away self and live by faith that God has his hand on everything going on in society today, and remember that nothing goes unnoticed by God so he doesn’t need reminded, however we need to educate and prepare unbelievers for up coming events that are prophicied in the bible and make as many disciples as we can so satan won’t win, but there is good news, it has already been written that satan is a defeated foe and he has no powers to conquer what God has created that goes for you me my wife all mankind because we are all made in his image, yes the devil roams the earth as a roaring lion seeking to devour all that is good but as long as we know it, know what to look for and know how to use the spiritual weapons given to us by God we can defeat all that is going on and fight the good fight with our heads held high singing praises unto the king and thus exaulting him and in return we are exaulted. these are just my thoughts, carryon lol and God bless you

  2. There are some more people who are currently atheists who critique the “militant” brand. This might be better than quoting people who are now Christians.

    For instance, look at Chris Mooney at the Center for Inquiry. Chris Stedman is another.

    Also, if you want to provide a properly balanced picture, you might also refer to some of the numerous atheist blogs that discuss the tension between “militant” and “accommodationist” atheism. For example:

    http://nonprophetstatus.com/2010/08/23/a-call-to-open-arms/

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2010/08/24/the-angry-atheists-vs-the-accommodationists/

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/05/04/a-multiplicity-of-strategy-is/

  3. […] https://lifeofafemalebiblewarrior.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/militant-atheism-ii-offends-moderates/ […]

  4. Can’t argue with any of this, Robbie. (hugs) 🙂

  5. Thanks, Keith. I will certainly check out the other links you’ve offered.

    I selected these particular guys because I could relate to what they were saying and they feel as I do.

    Basically, these atheists and former atheists don’t care for anything that is exclusionary, that is rude, intolerant, and offers a message of hate versus one of inclusion.

    Most Christians believe there is only one way to the Father, and that is through Jesus Christ our Lord, but Jesus is available to all, regardless of one’s sins, past, etc. He wants to save every single human being on this planet. No one need be left out; this includes homosexuals, ex-convicts, murderers, child molesters, etc. Jesus loves every single one of us and He died so that we could live holy before God.

    The friendly atheist and some others offered some various thoughts on the militant atheists but also insulted even moderate believers in Jesus Christ — so I left them out of this post.

    I’ll give your links a look-see though, and let you know what I think of them as a follow up to this comment of yours. What did you think of Paul Vitz’ theory of the faith of the fatherless?

  6. thanks Cath!! God bless..

  7. Wow… interesting, Keith.

    It would seem that atheism is in flux in terms of finding a happy medium. I think the majority of moderate atheists are probably wincing when they hear the new militant atheists going off, just as I do when I hear various Christians doing the same. There are some very angry Christians out here that hate better than anything else; they are certainly not an example of Jesus Christ and the way He handled everyone, and especially those who disagreed with Him.

    Personally, I think your angry atheists need to tone it down because they act disturbed and a little wacked out. They are pretty scary people. It’s pointless to even attempt discussion with them. They are so angry and raging that they curse every other word.

    Try discussing something with a Westboro Baptist Church member. You’ll see what I’m saying. No one who cannot have a rational, reasonable conversation should call themselves “rational.” I always laugh when I see these kinds of atheists calling themselves “rational” when they are acting like anything but.

  8. As per usual, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  9. Okay…. well, thank you; that was certainly thorough and well thought out. (chuckle)

  10. I would suggest that you use more punctuation, as run on sentences make it sound like you’re on meth.

  11. Here’s the thing: the last 2 centuries, atheists have tried the polite method. Courtesy just leads the other side to think they have a valid point.

    They are so angry and raging that they curse every other word.

    That’s literally decades of frustration trying to (politely) educate people who are either ignorant or willfully ignorant.
    I don’t accept the bible as an authority on anything – it’s an utter load of nonsense. & while you can go about doing whatever you please, by no means on earth are you people going to legislate based on something I consider to be fairy tales. This is the crux of the ‘militant-ism’ you’re going on about. If folks like yourself would keep to your own business, & not tell the rest of us what to do, or how to live, there’d be no ‘militant-ism’.

  12. Your hostility sounds ignorant, frankly. You don’t have to accept the bible; who said you did? Think what you like… we’re engaged in political warfare with one another, obviously, and you would like us to stop — to cease and desist. I don’t see you folks keeping to your own business and not telling the rest of us what to do and how to live. I see atheist signs by the manger scene and on our buses and bill boards in most cities now. You are now a pot calling a kettle black, aka HYPOCRITE.

  13. Lovely…just lovely. How ad hom of you. Got nothing else, I guess, hmm? Well, thanks so much for stopping by. (eye roll). Toodlooo..

  14. Your hostility sounds ignorant, frankly.

    You’re letting your emotions run your responses.

    You don’t have to accept the bible; who said you did?

    Every time someone makes a law based on some biblical nonsense, YES I DO.

    Think what you like… we’re engaged in political warfare with one another, obviously, and you would like us to stop — to cease and desist.

    No, I ‘d rather you’d LISTEN.

    I don’t see you folks keeping to your own business and not telling the rest of us what to do and how to live.

    Swing & a miss!

    I see atheist signs by the manger scene and on our buses and bill boards in most cities now.

    Oh, but nobody supposed to say a peep if there’s a bunch of religious adverts now?

    You are now a pot calling a kettle black, aka HYPOCRITE.

    I beg your pardon: you drive-by posted @ the Atheist Oasis. Your entire ‘issue’ w/’militant atheists’ is that we shut our collective mouths & not criticize your ‘belief system’, meanwhile the lot of you blurt out illogical & silly nonsense (& I ain’t talking about the stuff in your book). Meanwhile, people like yourself decide that you’re declaring ‘war’ on something or other (probably because your lives are so sparse & dull), & imagining conspiracy & some little red weirdo w/horns cackling while wringing his hands.
    So in short: no I won’t shut up. Religion is detrimental to humanity, & I’ll keep saying so till my last breath. If you don’t like it, have me arrested.
    Oh, but you can’t, can you? Curse that freedom of speech!

  15. satan be gone from here

  16. You would rather that I listen. I did listen. I “drove-by” your blog evidently. You had your moment, your freedom of speech. Unfortunately though, if you only want to engage in personal slurs and insults, what’s the point? There isn’t one, and that ends that, doesn’t it?

    I think militant atheism is detrimental to humanity; it’s been proven to be the case by your distant brethren, the communist atheists. At any rate, you keep saying whatever you want to on your blog until your last breath. I think you’ve proven my point on this blog and proven it very well, on this blog and your own.

    So thanks! It’s always good to get confirmation on what I was saying.

  17. satan doesn’t exist.

  18. You would rather that I listen. I did listen. I “drove-by” your blog evidently.

    No, you didn’t listen. You didn’t want to.

    You had your moment, your freedom of speech.

    Wait, there’s a time limit on freedom of speech? Do I need to get an egg timer?

    Unfortunately though, if you only want to engage in personal slurs and insults, what’s the point?

    Actually pointing out someone’s opinion is stupid, is not a personal slur, insult, or ad hominem.

    I think militant atheism is detrimental to humanity; it’s been proven to the case by your distant brethren, the communist atheists.

    OMD, you’re joking, no?
    A. being an atheist does NOT make you a communist, socialist, or whatever,
    B. those crimes, like the genocides committed by the religious over the centuries, were committed by PEOPLE, not ideologies.
    I mean really: I’ve heard ALL these arguments several HUNDRED times – you are severely lacking in originality. I’d point out other flaws, but I try to stay on point & go after arguments not people. But that’s hard to do: people always want the easy answers, & not work for it.

    At any rate, you keep saying whatever you want to on your blog until your last breath.

    Gee, thanks for your go-ahead.

    I think you’ve proven my point on this blog and proven it very well, on this blog and your own.

    When you set out to prove your point, & are convinced your point is correct, then you will never ever see that your point is wrong.

    So thanks! It’s always good to get confirmation on what I was saying.

    You folks always seem to love the self-fulfilling prophecy.
    at 4:37

  19. for your sake and the sake of others who believe the way you do i ope you are right, it’s not a chance i am willing to take because I know better. I will pray for you and those who believe te way you do because i am made in the image of God and God is love. mercy and grace. God loves you as much as he loves you.

  20. KA, you said:

    “Actually pointing out someone’s opinion is stupid, is not a personal slur, insult, or ad hominem.”

    Yes, it is insulting and rude to tell someone that their opinion does not count and that it is stupid. It’s very rude. Most people are brought up to understand this and are open minded enough to at least hear the other side out. You are lectured to by your own kind in this very blog for a reason! Get a grip and read what your own kind are saying about you.

  21. Oh, I do know better.

  22. Yes, it is insulting and rude to tell someone that their opinion does not count and that it is stupid. It’s very rude.

    No, it IS rude. An opinion is just that: an opinion. It can be changed. It’s also a test of self-awareness if the person can see past the rude as to whether or not their opinion is wrong or not.

    Most people are brought up to understand this

    So was I: but I also was brought up to be honest.

    and are open minded enough to at least hear the other side out.

    Even if we’ve heard all of the same ignorant nonsense several thousand times? Do some actual research – that would be nice.

    You are lectured to by your own kind in this very blog for a reason!

    My…own…kind? Are you joking? Most of those guys are accomodationist idiots. Vitz is an idiot, McGrath’s a moron (yeah, former atheist, riiiiggghhtt – take a good look @ when he started studying theology, you do the math), & anyone who uses the term ‘new atheists’ is not to be trusted, because there are NO ‘new atheists’.

    Get a grip and read what your own kind are saying about you.

    I frankly don’t really concern myself w/those clowns.

  23. if you say so but my gut says that you are wrong sir

  24. I’m guessing you have intestinal flu or indigestion, then. 😉

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