Atheism and Intellectual Bullying: What Gives?
by Paul Gould
It has been said that there is nothing new about new atheism except for the rhetoric. In this post 9/11 world, we are told that belief in God is dangerous, destructive, and delusional. It is dangerous because people do evil things in the name of God; it is destructive because it forces itself on unsuspecting children under the influence of simple-minded parents; and it is delusional because it bids us to believe contrary to the evidence.
Those, like myself, who are stubborn enough to continue to believe in God in the face of such rhetoric may rightly wonder what is going on here. It is as if the volume in the God debate as been turned up in the last decade—in no small part because of the few (and vocal) new atheists such as Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett.
We (us recalcitrant theists) are told (by Dawkins and other “new” atheists) that belief in God is akin to belief in fairies, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. (for Dawkins’ latest claims see here)
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We (recalcitrant theists) are told that Darwinian (unguided) evolution is a fact and those who hesitate are inexcusably ignorant. Says Dennett:
To put it bluntly but fairly, anyone who doubts that the variety of life on this planet was produced by a process of evolution is simply ignorant—inexcusably ignorant.
Notice, it is not that you disagree with Darwinian evolution, but that you merely doubt Darwinian evolution—as if the epistemic certainty of Darwinian evolution has been established to the level of a mathematical proof! Surely, this claim is too strong. But, I’m not concerned in this post with the issue of evolution. Alvin Plantinga’s recent book Where the Conflict Really Lies has done a nice job in showing that if evolution is the sober truth, there is no necessary incompatibility between belief in God and belief in evolution (shorn of its naturalistic baggage of course).
What I want to consider is the heightened rhetoric of claims like this—the utter arrogance, to be blunt, of atheists who make such claims…
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