Thursday, September 23, 2010

Excuse me, I have an interest here in logic and atheism. I want to talk to you about it.

Caption: Anyone who studies the "black and white" atheists on the top (Nietzsche, Freud, Marx from left to right)  and the New Atheists (Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins from left to right), will know the point about them being the same as the old atheists is absurd. Hint: Old Atheists, tend to understand that a godless world infers chaos at least in it being permissible. The New Atheists argue for a Moral law inspite of a godless universe.

There are a couple points I enjoy reading up on that I have to caution myself on posting too much of a subject that enthralls me but may be dull to you. I personally think the issues which interest me have very large ramifications for our children and grandchildren (but that could just be my ego trying to say "I HAVE A PROBLEM AND IT'S IMPORTANT!). The issues: Cognitive science (brain), Evolution/Creation, and the New Atheists.

I just posted about a book against the new atheists from Tomas Halik earlier this week, and I will post about Christopher Hitchens next week (an all too relevant article I found). So with great hesitation, I post the following link, but I think it's quite an interesting, fast article. It's ten propositions of the New Atheists. It's a website for theologians so it may at time go above your heads (there were a couple points that were blurry to me), and it's because the author is somewhat assuming you are familiar with the people mentioned and the issues discussed. That said, I don't think you can get a better summary of the illogical fallacies of new atheism in a shorter time frame than this article. I would be delighted if, after reading the article you left a comment here of disagreement or question of confusion about a point made.


Ishta said...

I actually shared your "Patience with God" quote with a friend the other day. He describes himself as an atheist, and I'm always having the same age-old debates with him. He disagreed (naturally), claiming faith is anything but patience, because it jumps to conclusions so eagerly, it foregoes proof ("belief without evidence").

From my experiences talking to him, and others like him, I'd like to submit that maybe the writer of this article is being unfair to atheists? I loved her last point though (no.10) because I found it to be the only "proposition" that didn't hold any unfair expectations of atheism.

Isn't it a bit unfair to analyze atheists while using Christian (not just theist) criteria? Not only do we argue against it, but when we hear them say "We think this and that." We go, "What?! How can you think that!? Do you have any idea what that means?"

Of course they don't have any idea, they don't see the same implications to their beliefs that we see, the same way they totally miss all the implications of our beliefs. For example, our "preoccupation with sin" wouldn't be so outrightly ridiculous to them if they knew what salvation was. I believe they think all of life is a purely physical (or human) pursuit, so it's like they only see/experience half of it (in a sense). It's like expecting people who are living underground to discuss the feel of a fresh breeze. It's just not fair, they don't get it like we get it.

So while you see this article as a list of "fallacies," I see it more like someone who only speaks Chinese trying to write a Chinese-English dictionary. So how do we have fruitful Christian/atheist dialogue? Well, picking at each other's theories on a purely scholastic level can be futile when, like I've just argued, we don't even speak the same language. So when it comes to our differing approaches to solving all the world's problems, it's not enough to point out how lacking the solutions they have to offer are. We need to be able to explain to them, in ways that they understand, why we think their suggestions suck so much.

Basically, in order to question what they believe (with the aim of getting them to do the same), we must focus on the same implications of their theory as they do. So we can leave out intelligent design, just for now, and agree to stick our heads under the ground along with them, look at only the human side of life. Instead of the creation/evolution issue, how about we explore social problems and human behavior from our differing points of view? Because if there's one thing that atheists seem to be pretty set on, it's that there's nothing in human nature that longs to connect with the supernatural, so religion is merely a factor of human behavior (like language, or culture).

For example, Freud argued that societies thrive by curbing the hungers of individual egos, hence everyone is angry and miserable deep-down but the system (society) as a whole is happy and flourishing. Well what do the new-atheists have to say about websites, free to the public, where people log on to search for fellow suicidal people with whom to make suicide pacts, or to receive encouragement to off themselves? Or even of the goth and emo sub-sets of pop-culture that are all about showing the world your pain? It seems individuals aren't struggling with feelings of guilt over their private misery anymore, give us some psychoanalysis on that, Hitchens.

The way I see it, the key to exposing fallacies is getting atheists to see how their theory links (or fails to link) human nature with human behavior.

Joel Riley said...


I don't think the article was against atheism though and I think this makes a huge difference (only about the "new atheists.").

I really think she is taking to task Dawkins, Harris, etc specifically. Her concern is not atheists but the claims that are in print of this new atheism that argues that morality can be found without believing in a God/judge.

The expectations were not of your atheist friend, but rather just a few prominent authors, who do have a tendency to have an overwhelming influence over countless readers, most of whom (now i am the one stereotyping), are accepting their arguments without suspicion.

I also don't think the article aims to be in conversation with atheists (although it could be inferred), but rather serves to inform the Christian. Thus while telling an atheist or Richard Dawkins that his biblical interpretation is bad is fruitless, telling a Christian that though kind of takes away the threat that Dawkins seems to present to religion in the eyes of culture. (E.G. I had this image that Dawkins was this man whose arguments are so fine, that any Christian who would read his book may end up converted. And thus sat in fear of the man and his book. When I finally left, I was frustrated. Like, I can't take much more of this frustrated. Because of his logic being so poor. (His interpretation was quite poor too). Hitchens seems much more of a challenge to me. but Dawkins, when I finally read him, became a nagging rodent instead of the monster I had assumed he was in my head. I would suggest that this is part of the reason the author has written the article, to kind of show briefly that any fear of the new atheists need not be present. There is nothing to fear in them.

While using the points against atheists will not do anything. It would bring comfort to a Christian audience (who the blog is written for).

As to your suggestion about agreeing to dig your face in the sand with them and discussing the matter if their beliefs are true....I completely agree. Wholeheartedly. Either side tries claiming they are the authority because their logic is correct. And yet neither side takes the opposing side seriously. Discussing implications of the worldview is a great start. Atheists love this kind of thing when they try saying If Christianity is true, millions die. Look at Christian history...

However my one reservation about such a style of argument is while it probably wouldn't change much. If you told me, "you can be an
"Eurp" in your identity or a human. Eurps live forever and laugh a lot. Humans die and suffer." Which one would I want to be? Of course I would say a Eurp. But the reality, no matter how sad it can be, is that I am a human who will die and suffer along the way. So me believing that I am a Eurp who will live forever, will not in actuality persuade me to become one if I see that I am suffering and see everyone else around me dying.

Do you catch what I am getting at? If atheism is true, no matter how negative the results may be in our understanding of human behavior, the fact is, atheism is still true. Even if it's results are bad.

And as for psychoanalyis and Freud, unless you know something I don't (which is quite possible), I have not seen any new atheists use his theories or ideas as a principle behind their views. Actually I think if pressed they would say Freud and his theories are basically dead. It is cognitive psychology where the new atheists are establishing their feet within psychology but that is just conjecture.

Lastly, your friend's counter argument to the quote...Brilliant. I wish I had Hajik's book, because it seems so obvious that he would have addressed it. But I think he really does have a good point there. It just depends on how much you trust human reality it seems, on what you determine is being "impatient."

Ishta said...

After reading the article, I did go and quiz my friend on human morality, and how he perceives it to exist in a world void of God. So yeah, understanding who the article is targeted at makes all the difference. It wasn't meant to challenge him, it was meant for me to read for some ammo to use when I challenge him

And on second thought, this article is actually a good example of Christianity being obsessed with reconciling our world-view with "the other," kinda like this whole blog. But that's a good thing because since human nature is rooted in the divine image, it's imperative to relate to "the other" when one seeks to relate to the divine. (Just my take on your "either God is rational and man irrational or vice-versa" theory)

I must also admit that I only discovered last night that Marxism is different from communism. I learned from a solidarity-movement-supporting Polish girl that the two are very different, but I'm yet to discover how. My point being, I don't know much about new atheists, or old atheists for that matter, so I'm probably coming at this issue from a tangent.

But humor me. You claim that how we argue "doesn't matter" since if atheism is true, then it's true even if the results are bad. And that's the thing, it's not true, so I am not threatened (wrong word?) by the prospect of dissecting my belief in my own "Eurp-ness" (if you will). I guess that's why knowing what atheists, new or old, believe is important. It forces you to put your own logic under a magnifying glass, and that can't be bad for Christianity. Dare I say it's even as necessary as people in ministry learning classic Greek and Hebrew? So yeah, articles like this serve a good purpose.

But I think I'd have to seriously study "new" atheism alongside cognitive psychology in order to adequately illustrate the human nature vs. human behaviour divide I see in atheist thought. And focusing on human morality is a very good start. How weird is it that "new" atheists are doing the same thing, huh, inspecting human nature through focusing on cognitive psych? Maybe they agree with me that how they argue is pretty important?

Maybe finding flaw after flaw in their logic (like you demonstrated by saying they threw out Freud's hard work) has not only pushed them to continuously find new ways to say the same old thing, but it's also corroding their entire belief system, inadequacies swallowing it up as it crumbles before our very eyes?

Have you ever thought how there can't be any atheism during the millennial reign? So all the science and study of this day and age is culminating towards a complete eradication of atheist thought in the future? Because I have, and maybe I'm being unfair to atheists too by taking the "easy" Christian road in saying "I'm right cause I think I know what the future holds whereas you have no clue!" But ultimately, that confidence is why I'm so comfortable confronting their theories.