We are now witnessing the rise of a new religion. No, it’s not Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Wicca. This religion is relatively recent in its founding, and until present, content to remain calm in its demeanor. Up until this present time they remained on the fringes, adhering to other people’s standards, and willing to live and let live, until now.
I’m sure you’ve seen it– atheist blogs that have sprouted up all over the place, willing to take on the high banner of belief in nothing but themselves and willing to not only preach the high calling of their religion, but to degrade anyone who would consider another.
The Wall Street Journal points out that the fact that atheists believed in nothing was once a cause for derision. You could not trust them to follow through with an oath because what would bind them to it. Now, the atheists are fighting back. It’s not enough for them to live in peace with those that have faith in another religion– they must attack them. Take away their symbols. Accost them where they find them. And now, ridicule their beliefs.
What is new about the new atheists? It’s not their arguments. Spend as much time as you like with a pile of the recent anti-religion books, but you won’t encounter a single point you didn’t hear in your freshman dormitory. It’s their tone that is novel. Belief, in their eyes, is not just misguided but contemptible, the product of provincial minds, the mark of people who need to be told how to think and how to vote–both of which, the new atheists assure us, they do in lockstep with the pope and Jerry Falwell.
For them, belief in God is beyond childish, it is unsuitable for children. Today’s atheists are particularly disgusted by the religious training of young people–which Dr. Dawkins calls “a form of child abuse.” He even floats the idea that the state should intervene to protect children from their parents’ religious beliefs.
For the new atheists, believing in God is a form of stupidity, which sets off their own intelligence. They write as if they were the first to discover that biblical miracles are improbable, that Parson Weems was a fabulist, that religion is full of superstition. They write as if great minds had never before wrestled with the big questions of creation, moral law and the contending versions of revealed truth. They argue as if these questions are easily answered by their own blunt materialism. Most of all, they assume that no intelligent, reflective person could ever defend religion rather than dismiss it. The reviewer of Dr. Dawkins’s volume in a recent New York Review of Books noted his unwillingness to take theology seriously, a starting point for any considered debate over religion.
The faith that the new atheists describe is a simple-minded parody. It is impossible to see within it what might have preoccupied great artists and thinkers like Homer, Milton, Michelangelo, Newton and Spinoza–let alone Aquinas, Dr. Johnson, Kierkegaard, Goya, Cardinal Newman, Reinhold Niebuhr or, for that matter, Albert Einstein. But to pass over this deeper faith–the kind that engaged the great minds of Western history–is to diminish the loss of faith too. The new atheists are separated from the old by their shallowness.
These new atheists have set themselves as superior, as someone that is evolutionarily ahead. You cannot use reason, for the mere fact that you are a believer means that they don’t have to accept your arguments. They claim to see through you, they see your “tactics”, they know the way that you operate. These atheists are nothing more than the bullies of the modern world, and yet this fact escapes them, for they claim they’re on a mission to show you the truth!
The atheists say that they are addressing believers. Rationalists all, can they believe that believers would be swayed by such contumely and condescension? They seem instead to be preaching to people exactly like themselves–a remarkably incurious elite.
Indeed, they are. And this, my friends, is the battle that we face.