A response to David Harts view of the New Atheism

Hey Gang!
I'm not sure if anyone here read it, but there was an essay over at First Things regarding the New Atheism. I posted the following in the comments. I thought you might like it.
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I'm hardly surprised that a theist would prefer the agonized Atheism of Nietszche to that of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, et al. But Nietszche had good reason to agonize over his Atheism, and be suspicious of science — inexperience.
Having been deeply religious, I too agonized when I left religion for Atheism. I understood that I would be losing the meaning, comfort, and moral direction which religion had given me. The thought of trading that in for Neitszche's abyss was quite terrifying.
Then I discovered the freedom and beauty of a life liberated from dogma. I discovered the peace of being able to simply and fully accept the findings of science without having to do the mental/emotional gymnastics necessary to twist and mangle all new data to fit my theology. I no longer had to compromise my integrity by saying that I believed things which I didn't believe. And I realized that whatever comfort I took from religion was more than offset by the disturbing incongruities of believing in a God who loved us but ordered genocide, the murder of homosexuals, non-virgins, Sabbath-breakers, disobedient children, those who believed in another God, or (worst of all) would punish people who simply could not believe, with an eternity of torment.
Nietszche's concerns were understandable. He lived at a time when it was believed that people could not be good without God, and that the tenuous fabric of civilization was held together only by the fear of Almighty God. But in the 120 years since Nietszche, the secular ideals enshrined in the American constitution, suppressing the religious dogma which inevitably lead to inquisition and witch hunts (reaffirmed today throughout the Islamic world), succeeded in ways Nietszche couldn't have imagined. And the scientism which Nietzsche feared gave way to a vital, productive science which
put the notion of "revealed knowledge" to shame with its demonstrative and explanatory power — curing disease, replacing our mythical origins with the unifying principle of evolutionary biology, and launching mankind into worlds beyond our own.
The New Atheists would be fools to wallow in the 120 year-old, fear-based pessimism of Nietszche. The empirical case is closed. People CAN be good without God. The fabric of society does not rip apart as we free ourselves from superstition. The sky does not fall. The emperor is in fact naked, and paying attention to that man behind the curtain has been the best thing we've ever done.
As is typical of theistic conservatism, Mr. Hart romanticizes the past (how strange tough to romanticize Nietszche's pessimism). This fear of the new, and clutching at gloom render him entirely clueless regarding the optimism of the New Atheism — as his essay demonstrates. In his feeble attempt to understand, he confabulate trues science and scientism, and misinterprets exuberance as a lack of depth. But no one should be surprised by the futility of a theist's attempt to comprehend the joy of the New Atheism. The provincial mind of the monotheist cannot comprehend the embrace of any other way — especially one diametrically opposed to its own. Nor can the monotheist understand how such an incompatible view can be anyone's "good news."
Perhaps Mr. Hart is right about Dawkins, Harris, et al. not understanding the "significance" of the loss, having never been fully committed to a religion. But it is equally apparent that Mr. Hart is likewise hamstrung by his theism. Having never embraced the New Atheism, he is incapable of understanding the significance of what is gained by people like me who know exactly what we've elected to turn away from.

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Tags: Atheism, David, First, Hart, New, Things

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Comment by Фелч Гроган on April 27, 2010 at 9:08am
It's hard to comment on the essay if you don't provide the link, and I have to wonder what your basing your ideas on NietZsche on. To call him a pessimist is somewhat misguided. It sounds almost as though you're confusing him with Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche expended quite a bit of effort in challenging Schopenhauer's pessimism, even labeling it as an extreme expression of nihilism. Nihilism itself he expressed is at it's fullest in religion, especially xtianity - philosophies that are life denying and life negating. His concept of the ubermensch was the antithesis of all this - will as life affirming. I don't know what you've been reading on the subject, but it's misleading to say the least.

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