Reasonable Faith UTD:Responding to the New AtheistsJan 24, 2013Allen Hainlinewww.OriginsDiscussion.info
Outline • Who are the new atheists? • Not so much new arguments as a new, more aggressive approach • What are their claims and arguments? • We’ll focus mostly on this area and responding to these • How do we best discuss things with those influenced by this movement?
Claims of New Atheists • Mischaracterize faith as being opposed to reason • “Believing in the absence or in the teeth of evidence” Dawkins • “Like believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy” • NT authors could have chosen a word with this meaning but instead chose πίστις (pistis) • To be persuaded, to trust • No implication that trust not based on evidence • Christians commanded to give reasons for their beliefs (I Peter 3:15) • Example of Christian leaders throughout history • Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, …
Claims of New Atheists • Religion not just wrong but evil • Some religious persons do evil but this is an obvious over-generalization • New Atheists like to point out evil acts in the name of God or by supposed Christians • Inquisition, Crusades, etc. • Ignore how these acts go against teachings of Jesus • Ignore Christians contribution to end slavery& infanticide, start hospitals&universities, and organizations to feed poor • Ignore atheist rulers like Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot • By same argument could dismiss politics, romantic relationships or science because of evil they cause!
Claims of New Atheists • Science and Religion are at war • Rejected by modern historians • Cases of conflicts isolated anomalies • Involve particular subset of Christians, not core doctrines • Christianity contributed to the birth of modern science • Christianity is mother of science because of "medieval insistence on the rationality of God“ Whitehead • “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver.” —C.S. Lewis • Needham explained how Chinese worldview kept them disinterested in science despite technological gains • Greeks failed to connect observations with theories • Unlike Greek myths, Bible demystified physical entities as just being created objects not themselves divine
Claims of New Atheists • Claim a monopoly on reason • Held a “Reason Rally” in DC • Call themselves “brights” • Leaders encourage ridicule over debate • “Mock them! Ridicule them! In public!” Dawkins • Is Dawkins highly influential book really reasonable? “The God Delusion makes me ashamed to be an atheist” “Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course. Proudly he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing.” Atheist Philosopher Michael Ruse
Claims of New Atheists • Claim science only way of knowing things • Self-defeating since this cannot be proven scientifically • “I will not believe in God because there is no empirical evidence” • They believe without empirical evidence • E.g.: Multiverse, String Theory, creation of universe out of nothing • "The reality of consciousness and cognition cannot be plausibly reconciled with scientific naturalism.“ Thomas Nagel • “It is prima facie highly implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection. We are expected to abandon this naïve response, not in favor of an alternative that is really a schema for explanation, supported by example. What is lacking, to my knowledge, is a credible argument that the story has a nonnegligible probability of being true.” Nagel
New Atheist Beliefs Undermine Their Complaints • Complain religious are obligated to follow reason • Most New Atheists don’t believe in objective morality • There is “no evil … Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows or case. DNA just is.” Dawkins • Offer only an evolutionary explanation for morality • Morals could have evolved differently • No objective grounding • Results in their being no obligations
Other Inconsistencies in New Atheist Beliefs • Reasoning undermined by new atheist beliefs • Don’t believe in free will • Undermines morality and reason • Beliefs result from blind unguided processes not reason • "But doesn't a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused's physiology, heredity and environment.” Dawkins
Questions to Ask Atheists? What are some suggested ways of interacting with atheists? Don’t just start arguing - try to understand your atheist friend’s perspectives • “Have you studied the evidence and arguments for the existence of God?” • Realize your friend may be being rational based on their limited knowledge • Bad experiences in religion may have soured them • If you get in discussions over the evidence be open-minded and polite • They may have some legitimate points that should force us to alter our arguments • We just need one argument for the existence of God to go through
Questions to Ask Atheists? “Why do you believe there is no god?” • Many avoid defending belief that no god exists by saying they simply have no belief in God • This is agnosticism not atheism as traditionally defined • If they believe that “no gods exist” they should offer some evidence • Illogical to argue for atheism based on problem of evil • Arguing evolution disproves God requires theological assumptions
Questions to Ask Atheists? If they complain about God, what kind of a god do you disbelieve in? • I don’t believe in that god either! • If you don’t believe in any gods how can you make so many assumptions about what God would be like were He to exist? • Need to be answered to preserve coherence of Christian theism • Unwarranted assumptions commonly made • How God would have created things • If the universe is finely-tuned for life then life should • How God would have left evidence
Next Week A skeptical look at skepticism (Beau Bishop) • Is it irrational to be overly skeptical? • Beau is the co-director of the overall Reasonable Faith ministry Kyler Kelly will briefly present about modern-day slavery just to help spread awareness and let you know about the International Justice Mission group she helps to lead on campus