Quotes from New Atheism Lecture

In the spring of 2022 I was able to speak at Faith.edu‘s chapel on the topic of Atheism. I mentioned that I would post the quotes and a few resources for further study. Enjoy!

Quotes on New Atheism

James Spiegel on what is “new” about the New Atheists:

“There is really nothing new about the new atheism, except the degree of bombast in their claims. Their prose seethes with outrage. Their anger and resentment toward all things religious is palpable.”
(The Making of an Atheist)

Richard Dawkins on the M.O. of New Atheism:

Richard Dawkins has suggested that his fellow New Atheists should ‘…go beyond humorous ridicule, sharpen our barbs to a point where they really hurt…I think we should probably abandon the irremediably religious precisely because that is what they are—irremediable. I am more interested in the fence-sitters who haven’t really considered the question very long or very carefully. And I think that they are likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt. Nobody likes to be laughed at. Nobody wants to be the butt of contempt.’ 

James Fodor on the difference between Old and New Atheism:

“In contrast to Old Atheism, by which I mean atheism as it existed roughly prior to the turn of the Millennium, New Atheism has tended to be much more assertive in the public discourse, much more eager and willing to make its views heard, and much less concerned about respecting the religious beliefs or faith of others. New Atheism also has tended to focus, to an even greater degree than did Old Atheism, on the social and political harms of religion, especially fundamentalist religion. New Atheism has also placed a much greater emphasis on creating a sustained mass movement, and of developing a socially and politically engaged atheism.”

Freeman Dyson in 2006 commenting on Dan Dennett’s book Breaking the Spell:

After Dennett’s harsh depiction of the moral evils associated with religion, his last chapter, “Now What Do We Do?,” is bland and conciliatory. “So, in the end,” he says, “my central policy recommendation is that we gently, firmly educate the people of the world, so that they can make truly informed choices about their lives.” This recommendation sounds harmless enough. Why can we not all agree with it? Unfortunately, it conceals fundamental disagreements. To give the recommendation a concrete meaning, the meaning of the little word “we” must be specified. Who are the “we” who are to educate the people of the world? At stake is the political control of religious education, the most contentious of all the issues that religion poses to modern societies. “We” might be the parents of the children to be educated, or a local school board, or a national ministry of education, or a legally established ecclesiastical authority, or an international group of philosophers sharing Dennett’s views. Of all these possibilities, the last is the least likely to be implemented. Dennett’s recommendation leaves the practical problems of regulating religious education unsolved. Until we can agree about the meaning of “we,” the recommendation to “gently, firmly educate the people of the world” will only cause further dissension between religious believers and well-meaning philosophers.”
(Emphasis mine)

Spiegel’s understanding of Atheists via the scriptures:

“Atheism is not at all a consequence of intellectual doubts. Such doubts are mere symptoms of the root cause—moral rebellion. For the atheist, the missing ingredient is not evidence but obedience.”

Spiegel on the role of evidence in Atheism:

“Atheism is not the result of objective assessment of evidence, but of stubborn disobedience; it does not arise from the careful application of reason but from willful rebellion. Atheism is the suppression of truth by wickedness, the cognitive consequence of immorality. In short, it is sin that is the mother of unbelief.”

Veale on “Soundbite Skepticism”:

“Yet few consumers are interested in mature thought and calm reflection. Media savvy atheists have learned to target their message at a younger, more cynical, market. Their aim is to sell consumers a sense of intellectual superiority for a low intellectual price. The New Atheists have proven that such skepticism sells. Their books require no knowledge of, or interest in, history or philosophy, or even science. Anecdotal evidence and quips replace sound arguments.”
(New Atheism; A Survival Guide)

Norm Geisler on straw-man arguments:

“If you are arguing that it is immoral of God to do such and such, then you must not caricature the Christian system to make it easier to knock down. If you want to argue against Christianity, let it be the real thing. It is important to prevent this illicit caricaturing early in the game because of a tempting tactic that might arise throughout. The atheist who argues that God does not do enough to fix the problem of moral evil often claims that the kind of morality God foists on humankind is actually immoral and thus makes the problem of moral evil worse. We are told that this immoral morality includes nasty prescriptions to faith, worship, and so on to which no dignified human should stoop. Yet if God exists, are not such prescriptions perfectly understandable, even inevitable? You cannot ask God for a godless morality.”
(The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw)

Fodor — an Atheist himself — critiquing the M.O. of the New Atheists:

“as freethinkers we have an obligation to the pursuit of truth through examination of the best available evidence, careful argumentation, and critical analysis of reasons given for different beliefs. It reflects very poorly upon our position if we continue to repeat the slogan ‘there is no evidence for the existence of God’, whilst turning a blind eye to the many rigorous, carefully-development arguments that have been and continue to be advanced by Christian apologists and theistic philosophers.” (James Fodor)

Resources for further study:

Book: The Making of an Atheist by James Spiegel.
Podcast: The Thinklings Podcast, Ep. 35


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