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.

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 George on May 16, 2011 at 7:30pm
Stealing this from the Comments section:

Having just tried to work my way through all the arguments here, I cannot help but reflect how much faster I could have read them, if the snide remarks and rude comments had have been left out. - Michael

But if you removed all the snide remarks and rude comments from David Hart's essay, there wouldn't be much left, would there?
Comment by Фелч Гроган on April 28, 2010 at 12:09am
Ta. You can find more of us nonsense fetishists here.
Comment by Brian Dalton on April 27, 2010 at 10:31pm
I'm going to use IMBN (Inconsequential, myopic, binary nonsense) in my daily life now -- just make it my phrase of choice. That's how much I like that phrase.
Comment by Фелч Гроган on April 27, 2010 at 10:21pm
That was such a chore to read.

So it goes. In the end the book as a whole adds up to absolutely nothing —a s, frankly, do all the books in this new genre — and I have to say I find this all somewhat depressing. For one thing, it seems obvious to me that the peculiar vapidity of New Atheist literature is simply a reflection of the more general vapidity of all public religious discourse these days, believing and unbelieving alike... blah, blah, blah

This is a now familiar theme I first noticed when reviews for Michel Onfray's Atheist Manifesto came out - the abrupt shift in criticism from counter-argument to trite dismissal of these writings as inconsequential and irrelevant. In the absence of genuine riposte, something with a spine and with substance, the theo-critics are finding they really do have nothing to say in response (because there is nothing) and the only cards left in their deck are ridicule and trivialisation.

Of course, believers will lap this smugness up, but you should really see it for what it is - an admission of defeat and a furious back pedal to regroup after a rout.

And how long should we waste our time with the sheer banality of the New Atheists—with, that is, their childishly Manichean view of history

Hart is a dick. Manicheanism is gnostic dualism. This type of idiotic statement belongs with "atheists claim to know there is no god" and does not merit a refutal.

I am not—honestly, I am not—simply being dismissive here.

Look! A flying pig!

This is a paint-by-numbers apologist tract that could have been written by a machine. Inconsequential, myopic, binary nonsense.
Comment by Howard S. Dunn on April 27, 2010 at 2:34pm
Brian - I like your response. I was very 'spiritually Catholic' - but started questioning the dogma in the first grade. My total deconversion came as I stood close (enough) to potentially dying (bad disease - risky surgery) and realized that, not only did my lack of faith not leave me feeling lost in the face of my potential demise - it was astonishingly comforting. It would take too long to explain that - I'm writing a thin book right now on it called "The Book of the Undammed ~ Beyond Faith" that covers it.

Suffice it to say, the lack of "eternity" on either end of this brief "continuum of selfhood" makes this life more precious and death no more terrifying than "before birth" (a notion so both absurd and innocuous that we don't even really have a word for it.) Nothing I have experienced has been more liberating than the removal of the additional fear of death caused by the theistic notion of eternity - heaven or hell.
Comment by Фелч Гроган on April 27, 2010 at 10:46am
"god is dead" isn't so much a statement of atheism as of apatheism - man has progressed to the point that god is no longer relevant as a basis for anything. God is no longer required. There is no need for him. It is not denial of god existance - it is proclaiming god's redundancy. This is what is more terrifying to the theist - it fills them with gnawing fear to the point I think they don't want to understand what Freddy meant.
Comment by Brian Dalton on April 27, 2010 at 10:35am
Yeah, it's a laborious piece. But, it is impressive in its ability to say so little while at the same time taking up so much space. Dr. F., I'd love to hear your take on the "God is Dead" bit. Your comments intrigue me. If you have the time, I'd love to hear your thoughts. (BTW, Alan Bloom's take on Neitszche was very similar to Hart's -- if I remember his comments in "The Closing of the American Mind" correctly.)
Comment by Фелч Гроган on April 27, 2010 at 10:13am
Uurgh. I feel soiled now. Another moron who completely misses the point of the "god is dead" parable. That has got to be the most misunderstood piece of writing ever committed to paper. It is beyond annoying.
Comment by Rob van Senten on April 27, 2010 at 10:03am
Well said Brian,

I'm glad that you didn't take as long to make your point as mr. Hart did.... phew.... what a waste of my time.

original article of mr. Hart on First Things
Comment by Brian Dalton on April 27, 2010 at 9:32am
Yes, Dr., you are right. Here is the link:
In the article, he refers to the madman in the Gay Science. The person who bemoans the death of God, and what we'd be losing. You are right in what you say about Freddy, it's just not what Mr. Hart sees in him.

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