What Is Their Appeal? Their appeal is at least two-pronged: One is their self-professed appeal, and the other is the facts of the matter (which will be considered from a Christian perspective).
Their self-professed appeal is stated by Richard Dawkins as “intellectually fulfilled Atheist.”1 Atheism promises enlightenment-in the forms of scientific literacy, rationality, happiness, morality-and freedom from guilt, superstition and adherence to dogma.
Another aspect not generally identified as an appeal, but one that is milked for all it is worth, is the image of the Atheist as the “underdog.” Even in a time such as this-when being an Atheist is about the hippest thing to do, and there are quite a few shekels to be made from books, lectures, and even movies about Atheism-the New Atheist still will claim to be a second class citizen-she is the underdog who is not under God (this pun makes sense if you are dyslexic as I am).
Having mused and researched on this subject, I have found that being “an intellectually fulfilled Atheist” means that fulfillment is found in materialistic stories about how things may have or could have (or should have?) occurred: for example, how the universe came about and functions on purely materialistic grounds.
The New Atheist movement is particularly popular among the youth. Popular are Atheist activists such as The Golden Compass author Philip Pullman who stated that his children’s books are about “killing God,” and he is “trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.” He has also produced a pro-Atheism DVD for “children that are 11 years old and above” (details found here).
Richard Dawkins has launched the “Out Campaign” aimed at the college crowd. The youth are naturally rebellious and the New Atheists come along, wealthy, happy, vociferous, erudite, iconoclastic and urge them to commit the ultimate rebellion: rebellion against God. The youth are being told they basically can do as they please within certain vague notions of “right” and “wrong.” The youth confuse rebellion against religious authority with rebellion against God.
Atheism is an appealing, consoling delusion which includes the delusion of absolute autonomy, the delusion of lack of ultimate accountability, the consoling delusion of subjective meaning in an objectively meaningless existence, and the delusion of being more erudite than thou. (Atheists are the smartest, they are “right” and everyone else is “wrong.”)
What Is The New Atheist Movement?
The title of this parsed essay referred to the “New (Emergent) Atheist” movement in order to draw a correlation between the “Emergent Church” movement and the New Atheists. The Emergent Church movement is about popularization, broad appeal, and watering down orthodox doctrines until they are malleable enough to become harmless and friendly.
Likewise, the New Atheism is about broad appeal, but it is of a baser sort. It is pushing a septic skeptic outlook. This movement is very good at media campaigns, that is certain; they have erected a facade of scientific and intellectual respectability around poor arguments, faulty logic, bad philosophy and have also turned science into a play thing to be bent in the direction the Atheist wants it to go.2
For example, while Sam Harris will soon be a scientist, he will by no means represent the integrity of an unbiased researcher. When asked, “What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?” he stated:
Once the neurology of belief becomes clear…religious faith will be exposed for what it is: a humble species of terrestrial credulity.3
In other words, he already believes something and is becoming a scientist in order to build a facade of “science” around his Atheistic beliefs.In reality, the movement is about being vociferous, emotive, and disrespectful.At first consideration, I thought that these various scientists and professors were vociferous, emotive and disrespectful, because theists were beneath their contempt and they could not bother with those foolish mental children. Yet, I have come to find that they are vociferous, emotive, and disrespectful because they do not have much more with which to work.
Being vociferous draws attention to you, makes you look heroic, authoritative, and self-assured.
Being emotive (making emotionally charged statements) is a great tool, since you can cut right through any thought process and touch people’s feelings which builds a connection to the speaker. Emotiveness is a way to skirt around arguments. Also, who can argue against adrenalin-spiked feelings: feelings are tangible while ideas, thoughts, arguments are ethereal.
Being disrespectful is a very attractive quality, particularly for someone with a rebellious bent or someone who has a dislike for, and a feeling of impotence against, religious authority and the demands of dogma.
The Atheist Michael Shermer, while certainly not being diplomatic himself, has written an open letter to the top four celebrity Atheists asking that they curb their intolerant rants. However, he has gone unheeded.4Certainly, the New Atheism has its moments of clarity in that adherents do make attempts at argumentation or rightly criticize fallacious theology as well as religious oppression. Yet, they do tend to replace rational discourse-whereby we treat our opponent’s positions fairly-with taking jabs at straw-men (misrepresenting a position in order to make it look foolish and easy-to-tear-down). Why focus your attention on serious, dry, scholarly debates and lectures when you can elbow your buddy in the ribs and say, “Those religious people are so foolish!”The New Atheism is also peppered with immaturity. This is caused by at least three factors:
As alluded to previously, it is easier and more 1) amusing (another “a” word) to poke fun than it is to exercise the intellect.
Many Atheists 2) rejected God in particular and rejected whatever “Christianity” means to them at a very early age.
The result of 2) is that 3) they allowed their knowledge of the Bible, theology, Christianity, etc. to remain stagnant at a child’s level. This child-level understanding undergirds their claim to knowledge, thus we hear familiar rebuttals: “I was raised Christian,” “I went to Sunday School,” “I was an altar boy,” etc.Thus, I have found it all too common that Atheists argue not against the actual contents of the Bible, the actual character of God, the actual doctrines of Christianity but they argue against watered-down straw-men which are childish versions of the genuine. Thus, in the end, they actually succeed in arguing against their very own caricatures.It is also common to find the New Atheists correlating belief in the God of the Bible to belief in “a sky daddy,” “an imaginary friend,” “fairies,” “super friends,” “magic powers” and even “Invisible Pink Unicorns,” “Flying Spaghetti Monsters.” As Sam Harris puts it:
…beliefs about God…are the same as beliefs about numbers, penguins, tofu, or anything else.5
Yet, these are perfectly legitimate correlations in their minds not only because they are generally functioning on a child’s Sunday School level but also because they disregard natural theology.6
The New Atheists also attempt to rewrite history as a tale of Atheistic benevolence and religious malevolence. This is expressed by perpetuating the myths of warfare between “science and religion,” declaring that America’s founders were Deists (at best), claiming there is no relation between Atheism and Communism, etc. (Galileo, Copernicus, myth of a flat earth, Communism).Ultimately, the New Atheism is nothing new but a mere plagiarism of 19th century secular-anti-Judeo-Christian philosophies.
Let us note three further aspects of the New Atheists: 1) their desire to establish an atheist religion, 2) their promotion of atheism as being more holy and more moral than Christianity and 3) their condemnation of “child abuse” (as they redefine it) which subsequently will be discussed in part 3.
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