The Culture Wars Between Atheists and Theists

Ephesians 2,12 - Greek atheos
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Lately, I’ve been working on a project that I might turn into a book on atheism that takes a different tack than man of the books already in print by other New Atheists. I say “tack” in the sense that I’m taking a new direction. I fully expect, and hope, that other New Atheists whom I admire and respect will sail on in their own directions.

First, let me say that I consider myself a New Atheist. This is a label that has garnered various acceptance and derision from both theists and atheists alike, but I see it as wholly appropriate. Atheist was originally a label of derision in a much younger Western society, one that was overwhelmingly controlled, politically, by polytheistic and, later, monotheistic worldviews. “New atheism” is a different worldview from the atheism of pre-Enlightenment times. And while we proudly share a great number of attributes with our Enlightenment predecessors, we live in a very different time. A time of a New Enlightenment – a time where it is beginning to be acceptable to embrace atheism. We New Atheists stand for a great many things, but reason, freethought, secular government and humanist ideals rank high among them.

New Atheists in the Culture “Wars”

“Nones” are among the fastest growing  groups with regard to religious affiliation in the United States. “Nones” include atheists, agnostics and those who simply say they’re “not religious.” Some estimates have put the “nones” category upwards of 11% of the American population. Understandably, this has the evangelicals of Christianity bothered to varied degrees. As we atheists seek to raise consciousness of atheism among the non-religious (the “nones”), we find ourselves pitted in an intellectual battle against evangelicals and apologists. Some New Atheists, notable authors like Sam Harris and  Christopher Hitchens, and less known bloggers like Vjack and -to a certain extent- myself, have found it convenient to point out the evils of religion and religious dogma. For our efforts, we get labeled as “militant” atheists, a term I’ve not come to accept at all because it’s inaccurate, derisive in its intent, and entirely pejorative. It seems to me that the ”militant” label more easily fits many evangelicals than it does atheists as we are not seeking to don a uniform or doctrine; we don’t generally refer to ourselves as “warriors” or “soldiers” for a cause; and no arms have been taken up for our cause.

A New Tack

Recently, I’ve attempted to interact with an apologist blogger, Jim West at Zwinglius Redivivus[1] who has written more than a few disparaging and downright hateful  words about atheists on his blog. Not surpirsingly, my comments on his blog never made it past his moderation queue, but he does seem to read the comments himself, as gauged  by the nature of subsequent posts on his blog. So, whether he likes it or not, a discussion is emerging.

Which has prompted me to re-evaluate my approach to apologists and whether or not its useful to even try. I think it is. The assumption he appears to be operating under is that atheists are immoral and Christians are, by definition, righteous. This seems to get a fair amount of play among his peers and readers and I have no doubt that he’s sincere in his belief about this. West apparently has a doctorate in either theology or bible studies (or both). And this is probably where I made my mistake: I allowed my emotion and dry wit to combine and take a dig at this qualification, likening “theology” and “bible studies” to “fairyology” and “Harry Potter studies,” since I see all four as equivalent pretenses to actual academic pursuit. That wasn’t the best way to open a dialog, regardless of how true I find the analogy since it was disparaging and insulting. And, regardless of how true it may or may not be, the man probably devoted an excess of eight years of his life toward achieving a degree in a field he feels strongly about. It’s, therefore, no surprise I’m on his crap list.

Which is why I’ve decided on an new tack. I’m taking a different direction from my “New Atheist brethren” and I’m going to make an attempt to be less insulting and more discussion oriented. Much in the same vein as Daniel Dennett. I started this blog with a desire to explore the phenomenon of religion with a goal to help others break the “spell” of religious dogma. There are enough of us approaching the issue head on, so perhaps there should be some willing to circle around the “enemy” to “out-flank” them, if the “battle” and “war” metaphor is to be used. But, perhaps along the way, friendships and respect could be forged, with a need for the term “enemy” to be obsolete. Its a far-fetched idea to be sure, but not one that is impossible.

So, over the next few days, I plan to continue my dialog with Jim West. He won’t post my comments, so I’ll have to comment here. In fact, I’m starting a new blog list on my sidebar which lists religious blogs. Zwinglius Redivivus is the first. I’ll have the discussion without him and let Google and Bing moderate it. As I discover other evangelical and apologists discussing the atheist movement, I’ll attempt to engage them in dialog as well. Jim West is welcome to post at my blog, though, like him I have comment moderation on. I have only ever censored spammers, Dennis Markuze, and some Mormon guy that is just a slice or two shorter of a loaf than Markuze. I never censor what apologists and evangelicals have to say as long as their not simply proselytizing without a dialog.

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  1. a blog one assumes is devoted to reviving the theological opinions of Ulrich Zwingli, the guy who gave up Catholicism for Lent during the early Protestant Reformation in Europe []
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