Krauss, Craig, Dawkins and a Difficult Week for McAtheism
by Graham Veale
By this stage, the dogs in the street should know that New Atheism has no particular intellectual force; it can only impress those who share its naïve secularism. Over the last week, however, even secularists have noticed that the New Atheism might be a threat to civil discourse. Matthew Norman complained:
I write as one who became a devout atheist at the age of nine…whenever I hear Dawkins on the car radio, spluttering lividly at the stupidity of those who cannot see the truth as clearly as he does, the instinct is to do a handbrake turn and drive like a maniac to the nearest church, synagogue, temple or mosque. He preaches so conceitedly, and with such poisonously illiberal scorn for those who follow the great faiths, that I want to worship alongside every one of them.”
Tom Chivers also expressed reservations over Dawkins’ “critique” of Islam:
Is he being racist? Maybe not, depending on how narrowly you define it. But whatever he’s being, it’s not nice, and it certainly isn’t advancing the various causes of secularism, atheism or everyone just … getting along.”
And, in an interesting and penetrating critique of populist atheism (or what we like to call “McAtheism”) Brendan O’Neill worries that:
Atheists in the public sphere spend their every tragic waking hour doing little more than mocking the faithful. In the words of Robin Wright, they seem determined “to make it not just uncool to believe, but cool to ridicule believers”… Today’s atheism-as-identity is really about absolving oneself of the tough task of explaining what one is for, what one loves, what one has faith in, in favour of the far easier and fun pastime of saying what one is against and what one hates.”
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All three writers are atheists; all three seem to take the truth of atheism for granted. Yet they seem to be united by a deeper concern: McAtheism’s apparent desire to silence all dissent. If so, Lawrence Krauss might just have confirmed their suspicions. A brilliant physicist, Krauss seems puzzled and upset that William Lane Craig had the temerity defeat him in a debate at North Carolina State University; perhaps he is also a little annoyed that the secular world was underwhelmed by his book A Universe from Nothing. Whatever his reasons, Krauss agreed to share a platform with Craig once more, defending his views to audiences in Brisbane.
According to many accounts, rational discourse made a polite excuse and left the room when Krauss made his opening argument. Krauss was asked to answer the question “Has Science Buried God?” But it seems that he was rather more interested in impugning Craig’s character and criticising Craig’s views on the slaughter of the Canaanites. To be fair, even many conservative evangelicals are not convinced by Craig’s arguments on this point. However, he is aware that his analysis is controversial and he is open to other points of view. Critically, his opinions about Old Testament ethics are not even remotely relevant to the intellectual coherence of Christian theism…
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