Atheists don’t own reason
By Tom Gilson
The new atheists–participants in the contemporary anti-religion movement led by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, the late Christopher Hitchens, among others–are working overtime to tell the world that reason favors atheism, and atheism alone. Richard Dawkins leads his Foundation for Reason and Science. Sam Harris is founder and chair of Project Reason. The upcoming March 24 Reason Rally in Washington, D.C. is the new atheists’ latest and most visible attempt to send the message that reason belongs to the atheists.
For years, though, knowledgeable critics have been calling attention to new atheist’ rational fallacies, emotionally loaded rhetoric, and illegitimate, selective use of evidence. It’s time now to add that up together and recognize what it means: the new atheists have no business proclaiming themselves the defenders of reason, simply because they don’t practice it competently.
“Far from being the defenders of reason, atheists are among the chief offenders against it,” writes Tom Gilson. (Nikki Kahn – THE WASHINGTON POST) Of course that’s not what the new atheists want us to believe. It is religion, they say, that is the antithesis of reason. Sam Harris assures us in “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason” (p. 55) that “faith is what reason becomes when it finally achieves escape velocity from the constraints of terrestrial discourse-constraints like reasonableness, internal coherence, civility, and candor.”
What happens, though, when we examine the new atheists’ own “reasonableness” and “internal coherence”?
Sam Harris debated William Lane Craig last April on whether atheism or theism (roughly defined as the belief in one God) provides a better explanation for the existence of moral truths (transcript here). Opinions may differ as to which of them held the more defensible position. What can hardly be disputed, though, is that Craig showed up with logical arguments, at least one of which, if sound, would completely destroy Harris’s atheistic explanation for morality. Harris conspicuously ignored this…
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