Do you have a reason for reason?

by Travis Dickinson

Unfortunately Christians sometimes distance themselves from reason. At the same time, it is very common for atheists to consider reason to be the exclusive domain of atheism. This is especially true in a somewhat recent phenomenon known as the New Atheist movement, led by the likes of Richard Dawkins, (the late) Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. There is literally nothing that is actually “new” about their atheistic beliefs. The only thing that is somewhat novel is their tone and activism.[1] To the New Atheist, faith is, by definition, a suspension of critical thinking and that’s what religious folk trade in—the atheist, however, has no place for faith. They only rely upon reason, or so they allege.

This emphasis on reason has, for them, become a defining theme. In 2012, the “Reason Rally” was held in Washington D.C. The event featured everyone from Richard Dawkins to Bill Maher to Michael Shermer. It was a who’s who of popular level atheism united around the common theme of reason. This theme shows up routinely with atheist groups. Richard Dawkins has the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. At one point, if you contributed a significant amount of money to his foundation, you actually got to join the “Reason Circle.” There is the United Coalition of Reason and many other atheist groups that lay claim to this theme of reason. There is the National Day of Reason that just so happens (wink, wink) to be observed on the same day as the National Day of Prayer and even a move to have “In Reason We Trust” replace “In God We Trust.” Not long ago, there was a law suit against the city of Warren, MI due to the fact that the city had denied a petition to put up what was to be called the “Reason Station” by an atheist group. The Reason Station was to be a contrast to a long standing tradition of having a “Prayer Station” in the atrium of City Hall operated by religious folks. The suit was successful and the city was forced to allow the atheists to put up the Reason Station alongside the Prayer Station. My point with bringing this is up is that all of these suggest that this group values reason.

The incredible irony here is that many of these groups and their sites trade primarily in invectives and vitriolic slams rather than any kind of reasoned defense. The dialogue surrounding the installment of the Reason Station, for example, was anything but thoughtful. You can go to their sites and see for yourself. If one dares to make a positive claim about God or Christianity (or any religion for that matter), one will find oneself mocked and ridiculed in real time, often with no critical reasoning in sight. Even with formal debates involving the so-called experts, it can be difficult to disentangle mocking complaints about religion from actual arguments on the atheist side.

I’m not saying this to match the ridicule. Rather I mention this to point out a radical inconsistency in the current scene…

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Do you have a reason for reason? – The Benefit of the Doubt