Criticizing the “New Atheists”

Richard Dawkins has an angry mob
Image by Colin Purrington via Flickr
Very often on the Internet, books and articles by Christian apologists, or even on mainstream media where apologists are being interviewed, a criticism is offered that these “New Atheists” are “unreasonable, angry, and bitter at God,” engaging in what simply amounts to name-calling and ad hominem attack without actually giving a critical evaluation of Christian (or, for that matter, Muslim) doctrine.
Obviously I haven’t read or heard each and every criticism of the “New Atheists” by Christian apologists. I haven’t even hear most of them. In fact, I’ve admittedly not read some popular apologist literature like “The Dawkins Delusion” or Ray Comfort’s new book. I’ve read the forward of the latter, however, as well as several other apologist criticisms of atheism such as Alister McGrath‘s “Dawkins’ God.”
In that book, McGrath attempted an objection to Dawkins’ methods of critique and scientific discovery, but it ultimately failed since McGrath did little more than create a 200 page strawman of Dawkins’ arguments and positions. I would expect that, if there were any substance to the newer critiques of atheism that were substantive, we would find them repeated over and over on the various blogs and internet forums where Christian apologists seek out atheists to “do battle with” and test their new-found arguments. Whenever a new argument (or, more accurately, a fresh version of an old argument) for religion or creation finds it’s way into an apologist or fundamentalist text, it gets repeated on the net in just this way.
But I have yet to see a valid criticism of the New Atheists from Christian apologists. We see comments like “they’re shrill,” “they’re angry and irrational,” “the New Atheists resort to nothing but name-calling and pedantics,” and “they don’t honestly evaluate the evidence.”
These could be valid criticisms. They would be if they were accompanied by examples of where the New Atheists have been dishonest, irrational, engaged in just name-calling, angry, etc. in contexts that they imply. There are examples where labels like silly, liar, fanatic, irrational, and deluded are used, but always with rational exemplification or in a context where humor was employed. Indeed, on several occasions, Dawkins was accused of being “angry” when he was clearly being humorous. The “shrill, angry” accusations were directed at a portion of “The God Delusion” where he was being humorous, for instance.
The response to the New Atheists has, itself, been lacking in critical thought, rational argument, etc. Even the so-called “Neville Chamberlain” atheists, who call for the soft-approach or “framing” in order to further the atheist cause, are quick to criticize Dawkins, Harris, Dennett and Hitchens of being “insensitive,” “rude,” and even “dishonest” and “tiresome” fail to adequately quantify or qualify their criticisms. Its as if they’re chief complaint is that the New Atheists are hurting the feelings of those that seek to codify their dogma and superstitions in public policy and law. In the words of Lord Reith, “There are some people whom it is one’s duty to offend.” If it offended some whites that blacks desired to sit nearer the front of a bus or to date white women, was it, therefore, wrong for blacks and some other whites to do these things anyway?
Christian apologists are clearly upset that the New Atheists are publishing books, appearing on television, raising capital, arguing freely in the public square, etc. But it isn’t because the New Atheists are doing anything more wrong than stand up for what’s right and reasonable.
It’s because we dare.
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