Even though this blog has been around since 2009, I rarely updated it for most of its life. And when I did, I primarily expressed my annoyance with the misuse of science as some type of weapon against religion and explained how evolution, even the most rigorous non-teleological version one could imagine, posed no problem for Christianity. But things changed in March of 2012. Ever since then, I have updated this blog on a fairly regular basis, the readership has grown, and I have primarily focused on the New Atheists. So why the change?
Simple. Back in March, I became aware of the Reason Rally and Dawkins’ publicly advocating that religious believers be denigrated. It became clear there was an Atheist Movement. And that’s significant. For example, there are a bunch of web pages out there that advocate astrology. Who cares? But if there was some type of Astrology Movement that sought to denigrate non-astrologers, and this movement was being led by popular authors and web sites, along with various members within academia, I would take notice. And the same thing applies to the atheists. Atheists are entitled to their opinions, but when they form a movement that seeks to denigrate religious people in a culture that is becoming increasingly secularized, you get my attention. Since there does seem to be a real anti-religion movement out there, there is a decent chance someone I know and care about might come to me parroting one of Dawkins’ God delusion arguments, for example. How shall I respond?
I decided to plug into the debate and remain knowledgeable and up-to-date about the movement and its arguments. That way, if someone I care about does come to me spouting some New Atheist talking point, I will be better informed and prepared. As just one example, if someone comes to me making Dawkins “science shows that God’s existence is really, really unlikely” and “there is no evidence for God” arguments, I’m equipped to help that person understand the context of these arguments.
I think it important that people understand the New Atheists are not simply a bunch of scholars, scientists, and skeptics who dare to question religion. That’s the illusion the movement tries to sell. It’s important to see those arguments through the prism of the movement, as those who sell the talking points are activists and apologists with a hateful agenda.
So, before getting into any debate about whether this or that is evidence for God, there are questions to address.
- I would ask whether evidence has been defined, and if not, why not.
- I would point out the subjective aspect of evidence and how even the atheists cannot agree on what would count as evidence. Who gets to decide whether evidence exists?
- I would ask what Dawkins (or some other Gnu activist) count as evidence for the existence of God. Since they want miracles that defy scientific explanation, I would point out this is the god-of-the-gaps approach and thus acknowledges the validity of this approach.
- Then I would point out that if a religious believer brings up a gap as evidence, it will be dismissed as a god-of-the-gaps argument. Get the feeling someone is trying to play with your head?
- Finally, I would question whether the demand for evidence is rooted in principle or is just an activist tactic and point out multiple examples where New Atheists advocate beliefs without evidence or in spite of the evidence. Why the selective application for this “need for scientific evidence?”
Because of spending time on this blog, if I encounter the movement’s talking points coming from the mouths of friend or family, I think I am better able to help them see that atheism is a subjective opinion and New Atheism comes with a mean-spirited and intolerant agenda. If they want go down that road, I cannot stop them. But I can help make it clear than any decision to walk that road is not born from reason and some “commitment to evidence.”