The New Athiesm

There seems to be a huge clash that is about to happen. Recently Rowan Williams (the head of the Anglican church) gave a lecture focused on the area of law. It was really about how a better pluralistic society could work to satisfy everyone in it. The lecture was entirely misunderstood by the media, and because he talks about sharia law, the coverage and reactions were completely over the top. NT Wright even had a recent lecture on the same topic in light of the massive misunderstanding.

The fact that people of faith want a platform to discuss real issues that impact their lives is notable. The Enlightenment, as a movement in history, was about opening discussion for other alternatives. For people who did not want to live under the authority of a faith-based institution. It is notable that many philosophers of tolerance, Hume for one, were actually Christians. However, now we have swung to the opposite. We, as people of faith, do not want to live under the authority of a secular state. This is something that Wright’s lecture addresses primarily.

The clash that I think is about to happen is between a faith that is refusing to be silenced in the public sphere, and a secularism that has forgotten that faith deserves a place in the public sphere. And this article brings up exactly these points in the context of the “new athiesm” movement that is generating a lot of hot air recently. Aikman in the article points out four chief authors that seem to be the heralds for this movement: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. And these are their basic claims:

  1. Religion is bad because it makes people do bad things;
  2. Religion cannot be true because science has explanations,
  3. or sooner or later will have explanations, of all the issues upon which religions claim authority;

  4. Complaints about the wickedness of atheistic leaders or regimes in the twentieth century are invalid; there is no evidence that atheism influences people to do bad things (Dawkins), or else the apparent wickedness of the atheists is all the fault of the religious people whom the atheists replaced when they took over (Hitchens);

I find it incredible that any rational person could not see through these three points for the incredible faulty logic contained there. Athiests can claim as their own every communist dictator there has been, Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, are just a few. And these leaders have killed more people in their wars and genocides than all the other wars and conflicts between peoples of faith combined.

On the other hand at least some Athiests get it:

In a column in, of all places, Britain’s The Guardian newspaper in 2005, Hattersley admitted what to many people is rather obvious. “We atheists have to accept that most believers are better human beings,” the subhed to the column said. Hattersley’s column was written after visiting the flood-ravaged city of New Orleans in 2005. “Almost all” the aid groups that stayed on in the devastated city after the first wave of relief workers had left, he said, had “a religious origin and character.” He said that notable by their absence were “teams from rationalist societies, free thinkers’ clubs, and atheists’ associations – the sort of people who not only scoff at religions’ intellectual absurdity but also regard it as a positive force of evil.” Hattersley said he had observed the Salvation Army and other Christian groups at work in New Orleans as well as in his own English constituency. “The only possible conclusion,” he wrote, “is that faith comes with a packet of moral imperatives that, while they do not condition the attitude of all believers, influence enough of them to make them morally superior to atheists like me. The truth may make us free. But it has not made us as admirable as the average captain in the Salvation Army.” Spoken like a true atheist.

This “new athiesm” doesn’t want us to have a public voice, a public voice of faith. They truly believe that faith has no place in the public world. But we have to realize that God’s new creation stands entirely in opposition to that idea. The first generation of Christians led an entirely counter-culture example of how society should really be. Paul went into the public spheres of life, the very center in Athens at the areopogas, to talk about what God did in and through Jesus and what that meant for each person. This thing called Christianity is not a private, do-it-at-home, faith.


18 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Julian on March 6, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    I do not want to comment on this post as a whole, because that would take me too long because I would have to explain how wrong the idea of bringing religion into the public sphere really is. I do however want to comment on the incredibly ignorant remark you make about non-beleivers such as Lenin, Mao and Stalin. Using them as examples of artocities committed by atheists is a cop out, for the simple reason that yes, these atrocities were commited BY atheists, but they were NOT commited IN THE NAME OF ATHEISM. There is no correlation between these dictators crimes and their non-beleif. However there is a countless number of atrocities committed in the name of religion all the time. There are plenty of crimes commited BY atheists, of course, but I would like you to name me one instance of a crime committed IN THE NAME of atheism, I am willing to bet you cannot do so.


  2. Posted by JohnO on March 6, 2008 at 4:00 pm


    Since atheism has no name, and no creed, you ask for the impossible. And the claim does stand. The actions taken by men whose material philosophy based on atheism declares that human life can be spent, killed, and abused without any reprecussions.

    In the name of your so-highly-prized relativism it is amazing that my beliefs and actions can be denied access to the public sphere because it bothers you.


  3. Posted by Julian on March 6, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Atheism does not claim that human life can be spent, killed and abused. In order for you to beleive that you also have to beleive the claim that without god, one cannot be moral, a claim that I find to be mertiless. And I have absolutly NO problem with people having faith and beleiving in god, as long as they do so privately, the second you try to force it upon my children then it becomes very bothersome to me, and I think I have a right to feel that way. Creating a Christian nation that complies with the bible is offensive to those who do not beleive in God, and should not be forced upon us.


  4. Posted by JohnO on March 6, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    “Atheism does not claim that human life can be spent, killed and abused”

    The atheist philosophy espoused by Lenin, Stalin, and Mao DOES say that human life can be spent, killed, and abused.

    Before commenting I think you should actually read the article and sources. If you did so carefully, you’d realize that no one is talking about forcing you or your children to be Christian, nor creating a Christian nation.


  5. Posted by Julian on March 6, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Like I said before, the article as a whole was not what I wanted to comment on. It was the fact that I keep hearing the argument about Stalin and Lenin and the idea that without god anything goes. My response to that would be to consider this: (borrowed from another non-believer)

    1- atrocities made by believers
    2- atrocities made by atheists / humanists / scientists
    3- atrocities made in the name of religion
    4- atrocities made in the name of atheism / humanism / science

    it’s obvious that only 1, 2, and 3 ever happened. Not 4. Ever.

    However maybe my post would be bettet suited for a different topic, and I can understand how it is a little out of context for this specific article.
    Another point.
    Beleivers and non-beleivers will NEVER find a common ground. This arguement could go on for days, monthes, years between us, and each side would of course feel they have the better arguement, and we would continue to find ourselves back at the beggining.


  6. Posted by Julian on March 6, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    One more point.
    It is true that Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot, were all atheists. But the primary influences that led to their atrocities was not atheism per se but their dogmatic Marxism and communist ideas.
    And keep in mind that Hitler and Stalin were raised in churches.


  7. Posted by JohnO on March 6, 2008 at 4:49 pm


    I’m not sure if you’re listening again. Like I said before; Atheism has no common name, therefore by definition your point is useless.

    Though now that you add Science in that list you’ve given us a point. Many scientific tests, done in the name of promoting the advancement of science, and even the advancement of the human race (which is humanism), have been atrociously evil. We’re talking about the experiments done by the Nazi’s and the US after WW2 in the realm of mind/behavioral drugged experiments. And then there are the nuclear experiments performed on human beings. We could also go into chemical weapons testing on animals.

    Again, if you were reading – NONE of these articles are asking for a common ground. I agree with you that we aren’t going to have a common ground on everything. And yet somehow society demands we must since one law must rule over all. Which is decidely against the conclusions of the Enlightenment.

    If you know your history, the Enlightenment occurred because one law, a religious law, existed over everyone. And not everyone wanted to be bound by that law. This is the definition of pluralism. Yet oddly enough in the massively relativistic time in which we live, we now live under one law again, a secular law. And religious people all over do not wish to be bound by this law. Secularists are refusing us what we granted to you two hundred years ago.


  8. Posted by JohnO on March 6, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    If you’ve read about marxism, or read the article which goes to explain this: it is just one more step beyond athieism. Oddly enough Neitzsche was the one who told us all this would happen. Since “God is dead”, his predictions have come true.

    They might have been raised in churches, so. Neither of them were Christian, nor acted like a Christian despite whatever their rhetoric might have been.


  9. Posted by Josh on March 6, 2008 at 5:38 pm


    The worldly laws we face now still permit religions and their expressions to exsist. So I don’t see the problem, we are still a pluralistic society under one law. Dividing areas of the planet into secular and spiritual will only cause more chaos. How do you expect half of humanity to sit back and watch the entertainment of Sharia Law, while atheists do their own thing. I think we should do what is best for all of humanity, since we all have to share the same Earth, there should be some common restrictions that we agree upon, I think that is why Law has evolved so Universally.



  10. Posted by JohnO on March 6, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Law has not evolved Universally, that is actually the entire point of Rowan Williams lecture. The existence of every nations laws proves it. The existence of Sharia law proves it.

    Actually, all your secular laws have repeatedly refused religious peoples to express their religion. If you read Rowan Williams’ lecture you’ll understand a lot more.


  11. You say:

    “Atheism has no common name”

    Then why even point out that those men in the first place?


  12. Posted by moriahbethany on March 18, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    First of all…you are a good writer. But I disagree with the idea that religion should be allowed a place in the public sector. Specifically, laws. I do not see how people who do not believe in God ask you to compromise your faith, all we ask is to leave us out of it. Any major issues that I can think of (such as gay marriage and abortion) are often examples of religious people trying to tell other people what to do. Any examples available on your end to contradict that? Also, people do bad things, not athiests and not religious people, just people. That argument should be dropped because it discredits anyone who uses it.


  13. Laws govern us all. How can I be “left out” of the making of a law, or you be “left out” of the making of a law in this country (I’m assuming we’re both in the US). We elect representatives, that – contrary to observation, are supposed to – represent us. If we’re in a democracy, and majority goes one way, the minority cannot object. It is a part of the system.

    I’m not going to defend the idiocy of too many people that get to stand behind a microphone or in front of a camera. However, the atheist camp would have you think that those are really the only religious people that exist. Or that anyone who does not look like this is not really religious, the are faking it. Dawkins said as much in an interview where a reporter asked him “You always seem to focus on Christian fundamentalists, what about the more liberal Christians?”, and Dawkins replied “They’re not really Christians.”

    So, it seems, that the only way Christianity can be spoken about is *not by Christians* in the public sphere – only by non-Christians who have not made an attempt to actually understand it whatsoever. How is this a free press? How is this a healthy situation which will encourage dialouge? Aren’t we all here and don’t we need to work together towards something?


  14. Posted by moriahbethany on March 18, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    We all need to start having better conversations yes. I know quite a bit about the Bible, and about christianity. I was a christian for a long time. In the end I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that christians should be allowed to tell gay people that they can’t get married, or teenage moms that they can’t have an abortion. (I am bringing these 2 examples up again because you still haven’t adressed them) How is it ok for christians to go around judging everyone and telling them how to live( not necissarily you, and not all christians) I don’t believe that athiests need to go around trying to make you feel wrong because of what you believe but separation of church and state is important. Even our founding fathers knew it. BTW Richard Dawkins is an extreme person, he does not represent all athiests just as extreme fundementalists do not represent all christians. It is the duty of the majority(in this country christians) to respect the rights of the minority(athiests). How would you feel as a christian in a country dominated by beliefs not your own? Some countries do not have separation of church and state and they have not been better for it. Stop complaining, most people in this country feel the same way you do,you win.


  15. Well, allowed by whom? I’m sure there isn’t a standard or statute somewhere that allows them. Just like there isn’t a statute or standard that allows Dawkins to say that certain people are, or are not Christians. Yet both do it – and yes I realize that both are extreme cases that we’re talking about. But the extremes are real and ought not be ignored.

    The “feeling wrong” has nothing to do with Church and state. The vast majority of the world (really the only part that doesn’t have this is the Palestinian Middle-East, and any communist countries) already has a separation of church and state (inherited through European imperialism over the last two centuries).

    I guarantee that most people in this country *do not* feel as I do. I am pretty confident that I already reside in a country in which the majority of people do not believe as I do. And I’m a Christian. This is merely a testament to how little Christians know and think about what and why Christianity is.


  16. Posted by moriahbethany on March 23, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Ok then, give me a specific example of how you feel you have been “left out” of the descision making process because of your religion. What would you have different? How have athiests undermined your rights aside from asking that you do not force your religious views upon us? BTW, the majority of America identifies itself as Christian so you aren’t alone in that respect.


  17. This is less about “civil” rights – and much more about the right to participate in the conversation about “What it means to be human” and “Where do we go from here”. Theological reflection is refused in these questions because it does not submit itself to empiricism. Yet, over the course of history, religious/theological reflection is the only form of knowledge that has been capable of even being able to reach (let alone grasp) answers to these two questions.

    These two questions are not academic exercises. They have a direct impact as to how we are governed, what “good” our cultures produce, etc. The analytic notion that to study religion is to divide it apart from every other facet of life, therefore placing it in its own sandbox that cannot touch any other analyzed part of life, is the root of my problem. Theology has traditionally denied this separation, this analysis, or, in the least, after analyzed rebuilds itself up from its constituent parts.

    The problem is not one of numbers, constituents, or what have you; rather it is the allowed capacity of Christianity itself to speak to the world. And that is what has been, and is being, silenced.


  18. We should promote Santa Claus.
    Dig; he don’t exist. He’s fictious. We should promote a deep and profound faith in Santa Claus in children.

    In time, they figure it out. WHEN THEY DO, we salute them and welcome them into the arms of adult fellowship, people living in a lying world exploiting people with BS stories they hope we will believe.

    Ho ho ho.


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