Here’s a video where Richard Dawkins asserts, “What matters is what’s true.”
Yet you have to wonder if Dawkins believes this simply because he was raised in a culture that values truth and that is largely because of its theistic history.
Consider a couple of questions.
If atheism is true, does truth cease to be important? Look at in another way – if atheism is true, why bother living as if atheism is true?
Now, from one perspective, it would seem foolhardy and nonsensical to deny the importance of truth. For example, it is true that if you consume rat poison, you will die. It is likewise true that if you jump off a skyscraper, without anything like a parachute, you will die. Ignore or deny these truths at your peril. But these truths can be labeled as survival truths. There are certain truths, typically linked to behavior, that must be acknowledged in order to survive. Objective reality has a way of imposing itself on our beliefs.
But is atheism itself a survival truth? Of course not. One can live a happy, healthy, long life without acknowledging that atheism is true. Millions and millions have done it.
So we have a problem. If atheism is true, only survival truths are important. Atheism is not a survival truth. Thus, atheism is not important.
At this point someone might argue that another form of truth is important – scientific truth. Why? Because scientific truth spawns technology and technology improves our quality of life. And this same scientific truth indicates that atheism is true. So one could say that while it is not important to embrace atheism, it is important to embrace science, and in doing so, you’ll end up embracing atheism.
But this line of reasoning suffers two fatal flaws. First, the jury is still out about science and the quality of life. While we cannot deny technology has improved our quality of life at the present, we can’t deny that it is also responsible for things like global warming, overpopulation, a growing population of antibiotic resistant bacteria, and weapons of mass destruction. It could very well turn out that in a century or so, technology will have driven human beings to the brink of extinction. Second, it is simply false that scientific truth indicates atheism is true. Atheists who typically make this argument rely on god-of-the-gaps reasoning, assuming that no gaps = no gods. Yet the same atheists acknowledge god-of-the-gaps reasoning is invalid.
So it would seem that atheism has a very slippery hold on the importance of truth. We can even see this in the way modern day atheists handle the truth. We have the postmodernist version of atheism that questions the existence of objective truth and equates feelings with truth. When truth is just a plaything or an activist’s talking point, it’s not treated as important in of itself. Then there are the determinists, who posture in such a way that truth is just a brain state brought into existence by the interaction of gene expression and the environment. What you believe to be true was something your genes and environment made you believe to be true.
We also see this slippery hold on the importance of truth with New Atheists like Dawkins. Such militant atheists think it is important that everyone recognize that religion is evil, and the source of most of society’s ills. In fact, they even stray into crackpot territory in trying to argue that is religious upbringing is child abuse. All of this is a desperate attempt to create something akin to a survival truth – if civilization is to survive, it must shed itself of religion. Yet, as I have shown over the years, there is no good evidence to think this version of a survival truth is true (recall that physicist Lawrence Krauss was incapable of supporting this belief). The New Atheists alone seem to buy into the “religion is evil” belief and support it only through extensive cherry picking and confirmation bias. In fact, the only thing having a problem surviving is the New Atheist movement itself.
“What matters is what’s true.”
But is that true if atheism is true?