Thank God for ‘new atheists’

by John-Stackhouse

Christians like me are supposed to fear/loathe/mock/hate the so-called New Atheists, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the like. But I thank God for them instead.

To be sure, there are elements in what the New Atheists say that a Christian might be tempted to fear: they ask some hard questions that can knock easy belief off its stride.  And I’m not saying that there aren’t elements to loathe: These guys seem often to be bad-tempered, off-target, even wildly wrong. They can also be mocked for pretty basic mistakes in logic, epistemology, history, politics, rhetoric, and more. (Being an expert in one field certainly doesn’t qualify you as an expert in another, and the New Atheists prove that time and again.)

But Christians are not allowed to hate anyone. We’re supposed to love even our enemies. And I’ll do better than that: I’ll be grateful for them. Why? Here are my top four reasons why:

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1. They raise good questions. The New Atheists are not particularly new. Most of their questions and objections regarding the Christian faith have been on the table for quite some time. But many of us haven’t read David Hume or Charles Darwin or Friedrich Nietzsche or Sigmund Freud, so we haven’t come across these arguments before. Some of these arguments remain good ones, even as good answers have also been offered to them, so they are still worth our while to consider.

2. They aren’t polite. Courtesy is a lovely thing, sure, but too many of us tread so lightly around issues of religion that we never confront serious matters directly. The New Atheists barge into our nice, little tea parties and make us think about life, death, religion, morality, science, philosophy—Big Stuff worth thinking about…


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