Every now and then, a Christian apologist will rant about how these “New Atheists” are the worst people ever. It’s nothing new, and I find some comfort in knowing they’re on the defensive. But it’s always fun to see what they’re so upset about.
The latest entry comes from David Robertson, writing at Desiring God. He wants to warn Christians about atheism and its proponents.
He starts by explaining why vocal atheists are so popular:
The first is fear. People are afraid of religion. After all, as is pointed out ad nauseum by all the atheist writers, atheists don’t fly planes into buildings. Granted, but then neither do they build hospitals or establish schools because of their atheism. Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and the others love to warn us that the religious are going to bomb us, take us back to the Dark Ages, and abuse our children.
Let’s be clear: We don’t fear what we don’t believe exists. We’re not afraid of God.
But we are increasingly afraid of what his followers will do. Devout Christians have been an obstacle in the way of women’s bodily autonomy, science education, LGBT rights, and comprehensive sex education. Muslim radicals will take the lives of innocent people in their quest for martyrdom. Even fervent followers of other faiths will refuse blood transfusions, cut off contact with family members who don’t believe as they do, and take unnecessary risks to prove their devotion. They hand over their money, they don’t ask questions, and they’re screwed over by their own leaders.
Religion isn’t something we’re afraid of. It’s something we want to protect you from.
And if the charge is that atheists aren’t building hospitals and schools, the answer is simple: Give us the money and tax exemptions that churches have and let’s see what happens. Religious groups have a multi-billion dollar head start — and their schools and hospitals are hardly a beacon of light. No one looks at, say, Liberty University and thinks, “There’s a place where students are challenged to ask tough questions.” They think, “That’s where you go to conform and obey.”
And when we build those schools and hospitals, you can bet they won’t require statements of faith that forbid students (and faculty members) from following the evidence where it leads or prevent doctors from performing scientifically sound procedures that help the patients who need them.
Robertson also says that the New Atheists have no interest in debate. That’s partially true. Richard Dawkins will say there’s no reason to debate, say, a Creationist on the merits of evolution. It’s a settled science. But debates about God’s existence? Those happen all the time. Dan Barker and Matt Dillahunty frequently spar with Christians on that question. Just because Dawkins doesn’t participate in them doesn’t mean they’re not happening. But Robertson makes the blanket claim that “the New Atheists generally do not debate.”
What do they do instead?
They shout and mock. They know that they are right and that their position is the reasonable and intelligent one.Therefore, everyone who disagrees with them is ipso facto not intelligent enough to debate with.
The New Atheist books make arguments. You accept them or you don’t. Robertson seems to think every atheist is the equivalent of a YouTube commenter. There can’t be any rational person making the argument because he’s taken them out of the mix.
But you know what? We are right and our position is more reasonable.
You know who else thinks that way? Every person who has an opinion about anything. That’s not inherently bad. But you do need to be able to back up what you’re saying, and the religious side ultimately has to point to faith in the unseen and unknown. We don’t have to bother with that nonsense because all the evidence points in our direction.
There are no contradictions between reality and our beliefs. Meanwhile, the authors of the Bible can’t even even tell the same story.
If Robertson’s biggest problem with atheism is that he finds it’s most vocal advocates arrogant and popular, it’s a sign that he can’t refute their arguments.
He offers a lot of reasons for why atheism is so compelling — and why it shouldn’t be — but he neglects the most obvious reason of all: It just makes the most sense.