Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fighting words

I am reading a new book that was sent to me by a concerned party. It is Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins' Case Against God, by Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker. It is pretty short, but it is the first actual anti-atheist (does that even make sense?) book I have read since officially losing my faith. So, in atheist fashion, I am approaching this book with an open mind. But that does not mean that I am giving the premise of the book equal weight as its antithesis. I am not 'on the fence' and it will take quite a lot to pull me back to the side of religion. So an open mind simply means that I will consider each argument the book makes carefully.

So far, I have only read the introduction - I received the book yesterday - but have already made a few notes. The only one I wish to mention here is a common fallacy that has been used on the very first page - that myth of the 'militant atheist.'

Come on! Militant atheist? Really? When you picture an atheist in your head, what is he or she doing? Blowing up buildings or drinking coffee at Starbucks? Atheists don't live for the cause of atheism. Maybe they are excited to live without the burden or religion and the guilt and shame that come with it, but they are mostly just living for the sake of living. The second paragraph bemoans the bygone days of 'polite atheism.' As in, atheists who kept their shameful secret to themselves. Unlike Christians who, contrary to the advice of their namesake, make their faith public.

I'll let the rest of the introduction by with a pass, and I will read the book fairly, but I want to point out that I am not ashamed to be an atheist, and I find it amusing that the Christians think Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Dan Dennett (I'll grant them the argument against Hitchens) are 'militant' atheists simply because they wrote books expressing their opinions. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, since religious culture views everything in military terms: from Jihad to Onward Christian Soldiers, everything is a culture war with the religious. So from their perspective, if the atheists are talking, that must mean war.

1 comment:

ddjango said...

Given the ubiquitous ennui, rancor, and threats of violence permeating the atmosphere these days (onaccounta duh "election" and deconomy). I find myself reluctant to post a rebuttal, lest you decide to reduce my number of blog-followers by a third. But I'll take the risk . . .

First, I won't read the book, because all the arguments for g*d and religion are in already and they are worth no consideration.

As you know, however, I am not real happy with many of my fellow infidels these days, either.

I sense that a segment of our ilk is victim of the same "either/or" stance as taken by religious "opponents", to wit: if I am not ranting, flailing, and ridiculing every manifestation of religion, I am some sort of coward. "Christians and, even, Christ!!", I must howl. "Off with their heads!!" Short of embracing science - the new religion, I maintain - as "The Solution" and eschewing the decidedly "christian" values of tolerance, kindness, and patience, I am guilty of infidelity to infidelity. Too many "new atheists", I fear, only use their non-belief as self-justification of bad manners.

I'm tired of merely "upping the anti-". How humanist is it to be not only anti-g*d, but anti-any-human-who-believes-in-g*d?

I must concentrate on what I'm "for": total separation of church and state; religious and non-religious freedom for all; defense of all persons' sexual and reproductive autonomy; self-government by consensus; and much more.

Much behavior on the part of both rabid religionists and rancorous anti-theists is just stupid. Engaging stupidity in battle is stupid, and stupid usually wins. I don't engage. I walk away. The dialectic works - within every system is the seed of its self-destruction.

I am patient.

Be at peace.