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New Atheists are not great, Christianity Today’s response

Posted by Skeptigator on March 13, 2008

I just stumbled across this article on Christianity Today, New Atheists Are Not Great, a rather poorly written “review” of Dinesh D’Souza’s book, What’s So Great About Christianity. I say “review” only because the whole thing comes off as a thinly veiled rebuttal to the popularity enjoyed by the Four Horseman (Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris and Dennett).

The first two paragraphs of the article uses words to describe Hitchens and Dawkins statements as “complaints”, “bitter”, and my favorite, “seeths”. After recounting that Hitchens/Dawkins’s works detail religious atrocities and actually have the nerve to call the God of the Bible immoral the author then says,

Such invective clings like chewing gum to atheist polemics and raises the question of why these people are so worked up about a creator they don’t believe exists.

Umm… I don’t want to put words in the Four Horseman’s mouths (and I’m not because they say this in their books) but their problem is not inherently with your God it’s with the actions of his followers. You know, the followers of that God who found it moral to commit genocide, misogyny, witch burnings, slavery and more recently fly airplanes into civilian buildings. If the reviewer of this book or Dinesh D’Souza whose book is ostensibly being reviewed had actually understood what is being said in the New Atheists’ books then truly ignorant statements like that could only be seen as intellectually dishonest but I’m giving the reviewer the benefit of the doubt by assuming they simply have a reading comprehension problem.

A mere two paragraphs later the reviewer continues…

D’Souza also refutes the common charge that Christianity has unleashed humankind’s most murderous impulses. The most-cited atrocities are either overblown or misrepresented: the Inquisition claimed 2,000 lives over three and a half centuries. The Salem witch trials produced fewer than 25 executions. Recent wars—the Israel-Palestine conflict, Iraq, and Northern Ireland—stem mostly from ethnic and political discord. While atrocities violate Christian doctrine, they’re of a piece with atheism—which largely bears responsibility for the bloodiest century in history.

First let me interpret what the author is implying and note how he doesn’t come right out and say it. He is, of course, going back to that very dry well that the Holocaust (or the millions Stalin killed) was an “atheist” genocide. Ok fine, I’ll concede the point for the sake of argument, but in the very sentence leading up to this statement he relegates the Troubles in Northern Ireland between the Protestants and Catholics or the Palestinian Conflict as “ethnic and political discord”. Come on, talk about an inconsistency.

Who is this Tony Snow guy who wrote this review, I sure hope it’s not “that” Tony Snow (by the way it is). He should be lambasting Dinesh D’Souza for the absolute ridiculous and tired claims, this is pure intellectual laziness on the D’Souza’s part and ideology on the part of the reviewer.

Oh and I stopped after only the first page of this article, there are a total of 3 pages of this junk.

Edit: Ok, I couldn’t resist. Only because I think this just underscores that the basis for criticism of the New Atheists is a straw man. Here’s the quote that best captures where these people go off track,

Atheism fails as a creed because it lacks humanity. It destroys the wall of sanctity that defends the weak from the strong. It spawned history’s most savage movements—from the French Terror to the Stalinist purges. None of the atheistic alternatives has survived because reason just doesn’t make a satisfying god.

It’s a straw man because no one is holding up Atheism as the new basis of moral values. Atheism by definition cannot do this. If their criticism is that three of the four horseman offer only vague “we need a New Enlightenment” statements then fine. I share those criticisms. What the New Atheists do attempt to say is that compassion, human experience and a scientific worldview are tools that mankind can use to inform rational thought to form basis of morality and that irrational, bronze-age deities are not the way forward.

Ok I swear I’m done now


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