A Better Understanding of the New Atheists

We have seen that New Atheists are motivated by more than the supposed lack of evidence for the existence of God.  In addition, they also perceive God as some type of Evil Monster. 

This additional motivation/perspective nicely illustrates that even if a New Atheist were to be convinced there was evidence for God (which would be hard given they will not count anything as such evidence), nothing in the basic New Atheist posture would change, except that the anti-God/anti-Christian essence of New Atheism would become more obvious.  Clearly then, the whole issue about whether or not there is “evidence for the existence of God” is not some central fulcrum in the debate.

Yet we need to take the next step and consider the likelihood that the two questions are not independent.  Given that the New Atheists view God as some Horrible Cosmic Monster, we must ask a simple question:

Would you want such a being to exist?

Given they perceive God to be so Evil, it would stand to reason that no New Atheist would want such a being to exist.  They would want there to be no such being.  This is standard human psychology.  When humans are faced with catastrophic news, their natural response is to deny the truth of the news. Think, for example, of Kübler-Ross’s study of people with terminal illness.

In other words, give the perspectives of such a Horrid Creator, is it really psychologically possible for the “existence” question to be handled independently from such background perceptions?  I propose the answer is no.  That is, once the New Atheist has bought into the Evil God perspective (as outlined by Dawkins and Barker), the atheist becomes psychologically invested in denying the existence of God and would thus kick their disconfirmation bias into hyper-drive.  Objectivity would become psychologically impossible.

So the Dan Barker book is remarkably useful for understanding the New Atheist movement.  Not only does it illustrate the whole “evidence of God’s existence” question is not the central fulcrum of the dispute, but it indicates the New Atheists cannot even address that question fairly and objectively.

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19 Responses to A Better Understanding of the New Atheists

  1. Allallt says:

    Or — alternatively — religious people are so desperate for a God to exist…
    My position is ‘I’m glad there’s no good evidence in defense of the Christian God and other specific gods I have heard of; I’m ambivalent about the absence of evidence for generic deities’.

  2. Michael says:

    Or — alternatively — religious people are so desperate for a God to exist…

    Sure. But that doesn’t negate my point about the New Atheists.

    My position is ‘I’m glad there’s no good evidence in defense of the Christian God and other specific gods I have heard of; I’m ambivalent about the absence of evidence for generic deities’.

    Being pyschologically invested in the nonexistence of the Christian god, your “debate” position is understandable.

  3. Allallt says:

    You seem to really have missed my point. There’s no evidence for Gods, not even Gods I could invent that are Gods I would want.
    The fact your particular God is described as a monster, yet has no evidence in Its favour, is so small a point to the general ‘Does a God exist?’ debate as to be entirely meaningless.
    There’s no evidence for Gods, not even agreeable ones.

  4. Kevin says:

    Allallt,

    Define evidence.

  5. Kevin says:

    Actually, don’t bother. I’ll do it for you.

    Evidence is the body of facts that supports a proposition. Thus to claim, hands down, that there is NO evidence for a deity – none, zip, nada – is objectively incorrect. We don’t even have to go to the writings of theologians or philosophers or Christians within the scientific community to figure this out. Any Christian who has ever read the Bible and paid any sort of attention could also give some evidence based entirely on that.

    Universe had a beginning? Check. Humans are different than every other animal? Check. God-belief being almost universal throughout human history? Check. Humans being selfish and flawed creatures, while still being able to visualize and desire perfect morality? Check. Humans having a yearning for eternal life? Check. Jesus physically existing? Check (unless you’re part of the fringe mythicist group). Christianity exploding after Jesus’ death and reported resurrection? Check.

    These are just some of of the beginner facts that are evidence for God. You can attempt to hand-wave each of these items away – which won’t work – or you can attempt to offer alternative explanations for them that you personally find more plausible – which also won’t work, since that’s your subjective opinion and the existence of alternative explanations does not invalidate all explanations.

    At any rate, there is a ton of evidence for God and tons of evidence supporting the existence of a creator deity, so telling us there is no evidence for God(s) is like telling people in the ocean that there is no water.

  6. Allallt says:

    “Universe had a beginning? Check. Humans are different than every other animal? Check. God-belief being almost universal throughout human history? Check. Humans being selfish and flawed creatures, while still being able to visualize and desire perfect morality? Check. Humans having a yearning for eternal life? Check. Jesus physically existing? Check (unless you’re part of the fringe mythicist group). Christianity exploding after Jesus’ death and reported resurrection? Check.”

    Not one of those supports the proposition that a God exists.

    “or you can attempt to offer alternative explanations for them that you personally find more plausible”
    Oh, I see… you can explain any phenomena with stuff you make up, and the rest of us would actually have to provide an argument.

    I might as well say “God doesn’t exist, because my face hurts” and then demand you offer an alternative explanation I agree with. If you fail (which apparently I can tell you in advance that you will) then I’m right: no God.

  7. Kevin says:

    Not one of those supports the proposition that God exists? Um. Okay I don’t even know where to begin in a response to that. Can you clarify exactly how those don’t support the proposition that God exists.

  8. Allallt says:

    @Kevin
    None of them follow. Not inductively. Not abductively. Not deductively.

    I point you to the ‘my face hurts’ argument, as an analogy for why your argument doesn’t work.

  9. Kevin says:

    Okay. Well since we can’t even agree that those basic things obviously support Christianity being true – and thus God existing – then there isn’t much left to say.

  10. SteveK says:

    The widespread human perception of moral order (good, lesser good) is evidence for actual morality, which is evidence for God. I realize it’s also evidence for a psychological disorder – but nonetheless it’s evidence for God.

  11. Kevin says:

    We seem to be dealing with the definition of evidence that only allows something to be evidence for God so long as it can’t possibly be used to support something else.

  12. SteveK says:

    I will add that the perception of a psychological disorder is itself evidence for God in the same way. We perceive varying degrees of “good” and “less good”. Nature has sustained order and there is a cause behind that. God.

  13. Michael says:

    You seem to really have missed my point.

    Don’t think so.

    There’s no evidence for Gods, not even Gods I could invent that are Gods I would want.

    Yes, we all know the official posture. But what you offer up here is just an opinion. Your opinion rooted in your perceptions and impressions. What is interesting is that your opinion is coupled to such an absolute sense of certainty, even to the point where you confuse your opinion with a knowledge claim about the world around us. From your perspective, there is NO evidence for Gods out there. None! Yet you think those who do not share your perspective are somehow obligated to agree with you. That you prop up your opinions with such explicit and implicit posturing is explained by by the hypothesis of psychological investment in the non-existence of the Christian God.

    The fact your particular God is described as a monster, yet has no evidence in Its favour, is so small a point to the general ‘Does a God exist?’ debate as to be entirely meaningless.

    But if God is the Horrid Monster that you perceive him to be, that position will dictate to the “existence” question (as explained in my blog entry). This is a matter of human psychology and you, allallt, are human. According to my hypothesis, you’ll need to believe “there is no evidence for God” because the alternative is so traumatic (on many levels). Now, you may have convinced yourself the Evil God question “is so small a point to the general ‘Does a God exist?’ debate as to be entirely meaningless,” but that’s could be your defense mechanisms kicking in. Y’see, according to my hypothesis, you not only need to disbelieve, you need to believe your disbelief is sound and legit. One way to do that is to convince yourself you are being objective and that the Evil God question “is so small a point to the general ‘Does a God exist?’ debate as to be entirely meaningless.”

  14. Andrew says:

    I find an series of exceptionally large human-shaped footprints. Is this evidence of a giant? If I think giants exist, then I will find it strong evidence. If I doubt they exist, I might consider it strong evidence that someone is playing a prank.

    What we consider “evidence” is limited by our preconceived filters. If we are strongly opposed to something being true, it will be very hard for us to find any evidence against our presuppositions.

  15. leslielee says:

    I will post this comment again on this post since it seems more relevant here:

    I think the new atheism movement is ridiculous. It reflects an ignorance on behalf of those atheists. They need to realize that people aren’t driven to believe religion by means of reason. Why would they think they could be torn down by reason? And why do they think they should? They are promoting intolerance from the other side. People shouldn’t be shamed out of believing or not believing in religion.

  16. Allallt says:

    @Leslie
    If you find having your ideas challenged brings you shame, there is a problem. And I’m not sure it’s the challenge.

  17. Kevin says:

    Given that no Christian on this site would agree that reason and religious belief are at odds, I’m sort of assuming leslielee is an atheist who disagrees with New Atheists or a fake religious person, but I’m sure more info from that poster will clear things up.

  18. Kevin says:

    Appears to be the former based on limited information from leslielee’s blog.

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