Some Chilling Strategies of Neo-Atheists
Regis NicollRegis Nicoll's weblog
- 2008 Feb 04
“One outcome of this—the greatest psychological survey in the whole of history—was to demonstrate conclusively that the chief danger to civilization was not merely religious extremism but religions themselves.” (Arthur C. Clarke, writer and futurist)
AN OLD PLOY
A new wave of atheism is sweeping over the cultural landscape. At the vanguard are Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris whose anti-God polemics can be found in The God Delusion, God is Not Great, and The End of Faith. Judging from book sales and bestseller lists, these pitchmen have definitely hit a harmonic with anyone who has ever had an ax to grind against religion; especially, Christianity.
The ploy is an old one: Point to some negative consequence, single out a belief system or people group that you don’t particularly like, make a connection—no matter how tenuous—and suggest a solution. In ancient times, it resulted in the scourge, the rack and the Roman coliseum; in modern times, the gulag, crematoria, and mass graves.
Through the patristic period, Christianity was blamed for nearly every malady that beset society, from famines and plagues to the fall of
The creation of hospitals, orphanages, and universities; the advancement of abolition, suffrage, labor laws and science; and the Western rule of law, including the separation of church and state and the separation of powers, were the products of a Christian worldview that today is called “toxic” because of acts by misguided or unprincipled Christians.
But notice how easily that tactic is turned around.
Forget the world-changing discoveries of Isaac Newton, Jonas Salk, and Louis Pasteur. Single out the heinous experiments of Joseph Mengele or the fraudulent research of Hwang Woo-Suk, and you’ve got an open-and-shut case for science as the “root of all evil.”
Don’t like doctors or hospitals? Overlook all the good medical care that has helped untold millions to health, focus on the instances of malpractice and quackery, and you’ve found a new scapegoat for human misery: the medical industry.
Unfazed by such logic, Dawkins &
TARGETING THE YOUNG
In God is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens writes, “If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world.” Mr. Hitchens will find no argument here. Neglect religious instruction at mother’s knee and I suspect the world would be a much different place indeed.
Daniel Dennett adds, “[Parents] ought to be held accountable by outsiders for their guardianship [of children], which does imply that outsiders have a right to interfere.”
What Dennett suggests is that educators, not parents, are best equipped to impart knowledge to kids. And the knowledge he is most intent on imparting is that religious belief is a phenomenon of our evolutionary development and, hence, not true. Never mind that the same line of reasoning would make Mr. Dennett’s belief in Darwinism a product of evolutionary development and, hence, not true.
The attack on parental responsibility reaches breathtaking proportions with psychologist Nicholas Humphrey. As cited by Dinesh D’Souza, Humphrey insists: “Parents have no god-given license to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose: no right to limit the horizons of their children’s knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith.”
And yet impersonal institutions like the National Education Association and National Science Foundation should be allowed to limit children’s exposure to the “straight and narrow paths of their own faith (in scientific materialism)”? Preposterous!
MAKING YOUNG CLONES
D’Souza goes on to quote postmodern philosopher Richard Rorty: “Secular professors in the universities ought ‘to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own’ . . . students are fortunate to find themselves under the control ‘of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents.’”
Imagine, a whole generation of young people cloned by the one-man Ministry of (De-constructed) Truth himself. Our concern ought to be that they could fall into the grip of such frighteningly dangerous man-molders.
What’s more, Rorty continues, “we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.’”
Can you believe it? Religious belief is so dangerous, it must be stamped out, even if it means disgracing parents. The hubris is stunning. It’s hard to ponder these things without thinking of Joseph Kony, the self-appointed leader of a Ugandan terrorist group that ravages villages, killing parents and kidnapping children. While Rorty is not advocating murder and child abduction, his intention to discredit parents so that their children will fall under his spell, sounds alarmingly Kony-esque.
It’s hard to ponder these things without thinking of Joseph Kony, the self-appointed leader of a Ugandan terrorist group that ravages villages, killing parents and kidnapping children. While Rorty is not advocating murder and child abduction, his intention to discredit parents so that their children will fall under his spell, sounds alarmingly Kony-esque.
Just a few decades ago, the idea that anyone, much less the socio-technological establishment, had the right, over parents, to shape the religious beliefs of the next generation, would have been unthinkable. Today, it is brazenly proposed.
But the most bracing vision comes from sci-fi writer, Arthur C. Clarke.
DISSOLVING INTO A "SUPERMIND"
From a futuristic perspective in 2500 AD, Clarke looks back at 2010 as the year the human race averted its gravest danger. No, it wasn’t thermonuclear war, global warming, or an earth-bound asteroid; it was the “mental virus” of organized religion.
The “good” news is that before our worst fears were realized, science came to the rescue. The wonders of technology enabled minds across the globe to be linked into a “supermind” causing religion, and all other divisive ideas, to meld in cosmic oneness. Once the distinctions of thought and personality dissolved into the universal, impersonal entity, the utopian promise of peace and prosperity was fulfilled.
ANSWERING THE CRITICS
Belief in God is irrational. Religion is virus that threatens mankind’s survival. How do we answer these and other such statements?
Without God, there is no Archimedean point outside our experience to discern truth from falsehood or fact from fantasy. In a Godless cosmos, truth and reality are not objective descriptions of how the world works; they’re products of human perception or invention. And that goes for moral truth as well.
When an atheist fumes over the evils of religion, he has made a judgment for which he has no standard, save his own opinion. To make it “true,” he must persuade 51 percent of the community to his way of thinking. And he must do so, paradoxically, by appealing to the theistic presupposition that distinctions between good and evil exist, which reasonable people everywhere acknowledge.
Then there’s the charge that religious instruction is child abuse. A recent survey by Ellison Research reports that 74 percent of all adults consider their childhood church attendance as having a positive influence on their lives. If you include those who felt it had “no influence,” the percentage jumps to 92 percent. Even among people who no longer attend church, 86 percent believe their early religious exposure caused them no harm.
As to the claim that religion is a social danger tantamount to viral pandemic, the research indicates otherwise.
The conclusion of numerous studies complied by the Heritage Foundation, is that deep religious commitment is strongly associated with stable marriages and families, well-adjusted and better educated children, and lower incidences of domestic violence, divorce, crime, addictive behaviors and ex-offender recidivism. Summarizing the large body of research conducted over the last decade, former Deputy Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary, Patrick Fagan states:
A steadily increasing body of evidence from the social sciences demonstrates that regular religious practice benefits individuals, families, and communities, and thus the nation as a whole. The practice of religion improves health, academic achievement, and economic well-being and fosters self-control, self-esteem, empathy, and compassion.
What’s more, these conclusions confirm what our Founding Fathers observed over two centuries ago.
Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” (George Washington, in his farewell address to the nation)
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