The 4 Horsemen of the New Atheism 11

Atheism was once a practical mindset: living as though God did not exist.

The New Atheism has become very attractive because it appears to be more scientific, speculative, and intellectual, and because it is endorsed by compelling bestselling authors, such as the ones depicted in the picture above, who enjoy rockstar popularity and give conferences around the world.

The problem with the New Atheism, as I see it, is that it preaches that religion by its very nature is intolerant, and should therefore be eradicated from our society. In other words, the one thing they cannot tollerate is religious intolerance.

So why can’t that same logic be leveled against the New Atheists? Why can we not also say that we cannot tolerate atheistic intolerance?

Which intolerance ought to be preferred over the other, if that is your criterion?

You will often hear atheists say, “Religion is the cause of all wars” (Google it and see what you come up with). This has become one of the great mantras of the New Atheism.

Why do they ignore the counterexamples? Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan were not religious leaders. Hitler was not a religious man, and his aim seems similar to what the New Atheists propose; he sought to exterminate a religious people. If they argue that his genocide was aimed at exterminating the Jewish race, not the religion per se, then there goes your argument that the war was about religion (which it wasn’t).

Their proposal is thoroughly unscientific. At least, I don’t see how they can possibly answer the following questions scientifically.

How are we to know for certain that the proposed onslaught of atheism against religion will not also spark wars? Or supposing (hypothetically) that they achieved their aim of ridding the world of religion, why should simply suppose that there will be no more wars? To say that it is because religion is the cause of war begs the question.

Intolerance vs intolerance ought to raise red flags in our minds, a strong point Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) makes in his book Truth and Tolerance. I’d challenge the critical thinking atheist to read this work thoroughly and then try to pick it apart.

[photo source]

11 comments

  1. “How are we to know for certain that the proposed onslaught of atheism against religion will not also spark wars?”

    You can look at what any new atheists are saying. Unless or until any of them advocate war or violence, you have no reason to think they will spark wars.

    “Or supposing (hypothetically) that they achieved their aim of ridding the world of religion, why should simply suppose that there will be no more wars?”

    I don’t believe any have claimed that no wars would be the result if religion disappeared.

    Religions have been, and continue to be, the cause of many wars. Not all, but many.

    • I don’t believe any have claimed that no wars would be the result if religion disappeared.

      But many have said that all wars were the result of religion. I remember hearing Dawkins saying precisely that on a BBC debate (and other several examples could be given). I’ll try to dig up the debate and post it.

      So one needs to take the weaker stance and say what you said, namely, that many wars have been waged in the name of religion, which is true, unfortunately.

      And who was the greatest preacher against hypocrisy? That man also said, there will be wars.

      What about all the good done by religious people and institutions? What about Mother Theresa? What about Gandhi? What about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King? Why is the good so often overlooked all to often by those who point to religion as the cause of war?

      • “I’ll try to dig up the debate and post it. ”

        Please do.

        If he said it, he’s either just plain wrong or guilty of hyperbole.

        “Why is the good so often overlooked all to often by those who point to religion as the cause of war?”

        Because there are specific parts of many different religions that call for war and killing.

        Any good that religious people have done did not require religion to be good or to be done.

        And it’s not so much that it’s overlooked…it’s just not an issue. Religious people have done good things…wonderful! But that doesn’t change the fact that they have done horrible things specifically inspired by their religions.

      • I see it differently. Religious people have done good things inspired by their religion. Many people have converted, become good people, and gone on to do good, even great things.

        As for causing war, I attribute that to wicked and wrong headed people. These people make a travesty of religion. There are fanatics who drive the masses to euphoria and influence them to do horrific things. Think of Lenin and Stalin, for example.

        I’ll start looking for that interview.

      • Okay, the interview I am looking for is no longer on the internet. I was referring to a BBC interview between Dawkins and Father Jonathan Morris in 2007. Here’s a link to an open letter from Fr Morris to Dawkins prior to that debate: http://richarddawkins.net/articles/1990-an-open-letter-to-richard-dawkins

        The evidence of the debate is still on the internet, but not the debate itself.

        Now if you google “Dawkins” and “religion cause of all wars” you get some interesting things. If you substitute the word “wars” with “evil” you get very interesting things.

        He seems to waffle on this point. The problem is that when he says these things emphatically it’s on the public record and people swallow it whole.

        The fact that he may clarify what he says in other places is, in my opinion, just to save face, because such sweeping generalizations are obviously not taken seriously many reasonable people.

        The problem is that his claims are very often too rash and they cause more harm than good. And it’s a shame. I love biology and I find his theories fascinating and compelling.

        Free speech is a great thing. He is entitled to voice his views and to do so exactly how he does it. He also needs to be called on it when he makes ridiculous sweeping claims.

  2. @NotAScientist “Because there are specific parts of many different religions that call for war and killing.”

    I’ll like to see some examples of this. Actual stuff, not just “they say so” quotes or old quotes, I’ll rather prefer current quotes. Maybe some of the Dalai Lama, some from the Head Counsil of the Rabbinim, from Pope Benedict or any of the leaders of the great religions of the world.

    Most religions do not preach war, some so called “religious” people preach war, that is different. Like politicians, politicians are not evil by definition, even if in many countries most politicians are corrupt “politicians”, those are called thieves. I guess we should judge the same way our case. Religions are not evil by definition, rather, some “religious” people use religion as a pretext for war.

  3. The claim that “religion is the cause of all wars”. Biltrix, you make good points about Stalin, Hitler, etc. I would like to also submit that “the lust for power is the cause of all wars”. For many complex reasons, people are swayed by and led by strong charismatic leaders, even to doing things they would not ordinarily choose to do. Ambitious men seem to find it easy to manipulate the faith of people and incite strong feelings, in order to serve their own goals. Religion might be dragged into many a war, but it is not the cause, not the root.
    Jesus did not teach war. He taught love, loving others as you love yourself. He taught forgiveness–endless mercy and forgiveness. He taught turning the other cheek. His words and very life taught these things. When Peter tried to defend Him with a sword, He made him put it down and healed the damage he had caused.
    Jesus never taught war or violence. He did predict it, simply acknowledging that when His followers spread His teachings that it would ruffle feathers, challenge the status quo, and sadly lead to strife and division. To acknowledge that this happens when societies are challenged to change is not the same as advocating and teaching it.

    • Great points, Reinkat! Christ’s followers are weak (all of us) and do not always get the point or follow his teaching and example. Sometimes these errors can be well intentioned, other times they are not.

  4. I think that it is fair to say religion has caused many wars because it is a claim about the state of the world. It is a stronger claim because it gives very detailed explanations of the world which the skeptical approach does not. However, the ‘skeptical’ approach, though it doesn’t give specific explanations, can and often times is equally dogmatic. One can force people to not make a claim about the state of affairs in the world just as violently as one can force a person to accept Christ. Either situation must recognize the nature of true liberty in allowing freedom to take place…as explained by Leo XIII in Libertas Praestantissimum. But perhaps that is too dogmatic…

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