The New Atheists' War on Religion

Here is a very interesting article from Wired News entitled The Crusade Against Religion by an atheist about the movement being led by such luminaries as Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris that advocates not merely disagreeing with religion, but even respect for religion.

The New Atheists will not let us off the hook simply because we are not doctrinaire believers. They condemn not just belief in God but respect for belief in God. Religion is not only wrong; it's evil. Now that the battle has been joined, there's no excuse for shirking.

Three writers have sounded this call to arms. They are Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett. A few months ago, I set out to talk with them. I wanted to find out what it would mean to enlist in the war against faith.

Respect for belief should be condemned? Read on . . .

[According to Dennett:] Science, after all, is an empirical endeavor that traffics in probabilities. The probability of God, Dawkins says, while not zero, is vanishingly small. He is confident that no Flying Spaghetti Monster exists. Why should the notion of some deity that we inherited from the Bronze Age get more respectful treatment?

And, of course, the elitism comes to the fore:

Dawkins looks forward to the day when the first U.S. politician is honest about being an atheist. "Highly intelligent people are mostly atheists," he says. "Not a single member of either house of Congress admits to being an atheist. It just doesn't add up. Either they're stupid, or they're lying. And have they got a motive for lying? Of course they've got a motive! Everybody knows that an atheist can't get elected."

Perhaps they aren't atheists because they are more highly intelligent than Dawkins? But there's more:

[Sa Harris] is not. "Look at slavery," he says. We are at a beautiful restaurant in Santa Monica, near the public lots from which Americans -- nearly 80 percent of whom believe the Bible is the true word of God, if polls are correct -- walk happily down to the beach in various states of undress. "People used to think," Harris says, "that slavery was morally acceptable. The most intelligent, sophisticated people used to accept that you could kidnap whole families, force them to work for you, and sell their children. That looks ridiculous to us today. We're going to look back and be amazed that we approached this asymptote of destructive capacity while allowing ourselves to be balkanized by fantasy. What seems quixotic is quixotic -- on this side of a radical change. From the other side, you can't believe it didn't happen earlier. At some point, there is going to be enough pressure that it is just going to be too embarrassing to believe in God."

Well, I personally think that Dennett, Harris and his ilk are the ones who history will show to be the intellectual equivalent of those who used the Bible to justify their racism in the form of slavery. But time will tell on that one. In the meantime, I find it very troubling that these people have decided to forego what is common to all civil discussion in the world -- respect for the other's beliefs and opinions. That is not to say that they need to agree with religion, but they have to show respect just as Christians need to (and mostly do) show respect for atheists.

But then, given the level of hostility I see from many skeptics on the Internet, I am not surprised that someone is advocating a lack of civility -- that is the mode of operation by many skeptics on religious discussion boards.


John W. Loftus said…
Showing respect for another persons views, eh? That's the question, isn't it. When we each argue from different sides of the question of who goes to hell, it can get a little, shall we say, disrespectful on both sides, can't it?

As I've said before, I think you guys are fairly respectful. But what do you do with someone who believes what you consider bizzare things? That's the problem.

How do I argue against something that is absolutely barbaric and still show respect for that person or belief? I don't know if I can always do this. Once in a while I just let it all out.
BK said…
Yes, it's difficult. I am guilty also of showing a lack of respect from time to time. But I want to show respect and these people don't. That's a huge problem, in my view.
Michael said…
""People used to think," Harris says, "that slavery was morally acceptable. The most intelligent, sophisticated people used to accept that you could kidnap whole families, force them to work for you, and sell their children."

Does he know who these people were? The enlightened freethinkers. The Jeffersons, Humes, and Franklins.

It took a thoroughly religious movement in Britain and America to get slavery abolished.

Oh well, I give up, where do I sign up to join the N.I.C.E.
slaveofone said…
Hmm... well, if one is an athiest, those who believe in a god are rationally delusional...and delustions of rationality in the evolutionary viewpoint are a weakness in terms of development and survival. Therefore there is no reason people who believe in a god deserve to be treated well, let alone their beliefs accepted. In evolution, there is no such thing as respect for other paths of development. If I were an atheist, I wouldn't have any qualms proclaiming and enacting my superiority over religious folks--it would be the logical and constistant conclusion of my world-view.
Frank Walton said…
Harris and Dawkins disturb me sometimes. I'm not surprised they would go so far as be disrespectful. Maybe this New Atheism stuff is catchy.

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