To what extent do the "new atheism" writers speak the truth?

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To what extent do the "new atheism" writers speak the truth?

Postby Brandon Norgaard on Wed Sep 09, 2009 10:36 pm

In recent years, several secular minded public figures have become quite popular for their writings and speaking. Among the most notable are Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. Some have dubbed this movement the "new atheism". To what extent do you agree with these individuals?
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Re: To what extent do the "new atheism" writers speak the truth?

Postby greim on Tue Sep 29, 2009 3:10 pm

I think Dawkins speaks the truth about the theory of evolution. He does a good job of defending it and explaining its finer points.

I think Dawkins also raises a serious challenge to theism: The theist says, "we must posit God to explain why there's anything in the first place." Dawkins replies, "if everything demands an explanation, then what explains God?" He goes on to dismiss as hand-waving typical theistic reactions to this, which consist of variations of Anselm's ontological argument in which God exists by definition. I've never heard a convincing rebuttal to Dawkins on this particular point.

I think, as a movement, new atheism is best characterized as a catharsis, rather than a systematic refutation of theism. The relative anonymity of the internet has enabled closet doubters to connect and commiserate and express their frustration. 9/11 added fuel to the fire by more strongly associating religion with extremism. Because of these circumstance, writers like Hitchens and Harris found an audience, but the movement does not originate from these writers.
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Re: To what extent do the "new atheism" writers speak the truth?

Postby Brandon Norgaard on Tue Sep 29, 2009 4:55 pm

greim wrote:I think Dawkins speaks the truth about the theory of evolution. He does a good job of defending it and explaining its finer points.

I strongly agree. I disagree with him on many issues, but the whole anti-evolution argument that many religious fundies and other fools have been pushing for too long deserved to be strongly and thoroughly debunked.
greim wrote:I think Dawkins also raises a serious challenge to theism: The theist says, "we must posit God to explain why there's anything in the first place." Dawkins replies, "if everything demands an explanation, then what explains God?" He goes on to dismiss as hand-waving typical theistic reactions to this, which consist of variations of Anselm's ontological argument in which God exists by definition. I've never heard a convincing rebuttal to Dawkins on this particular point.

I also strongly disagree with the ontological argument. However, the cosmological argument, which concludes that there is a higher power that can be called God is the best explanation for the existence of the universe, is actually a very misunderstood argument. Dawkins here is making the same misunderstanding that many atheists make. You see, this argument is not based on the premise of the principle of sufficient reason (PSR), which postulates that everything has a cause, but instead the argument examines PSR and concludes that it ultimately leads to logical incoherency. Hence the need to alter the very premise and conclude that there was an uncaused cause. There are many objections that one can make to this argument, but this common criticism fails to understand the point of the argument.

For anyone reading this: Please go to the topic "Is there a God?" to discuss the merits of the cosmological argument or any other argument in favor of or against the existence of God. I have a more detailed cosmo argument written there. Go ahead and read it and write your rebuttal within that topic.
greim wrote:I think, as a movement, new atheism is best characterized as a catharsis, rather than a systematic refutation of theism. The relative anonymity of the internet has enabled closet doubters to connect and commiserate and express their frustration. 9/11 added fuel to the fire by more strongly associating religion with extremism. Because of these circumstance, writers like Hitchens and Harris found an audience, but the movement does not originate from these writers.

I like what the new atheism writers have done in letting people know about the dangers of blind faith in religion and the immoral practices and how religious scripture is mostly bullshit.

I was partially inspired by the the terror attacks in recent years and the response by many media organizations to give what I though was too much respect to religion in deciding to write about the problems with traditional faith based religion, while at the same time retaining some things about religion that I believe make sense. That last point is where I differ from new atheism or any other form of atheism. Though whether or not there is a god is not as important as realizing the there is a nonphysical component to one's consciousness, free will, and morality. I also have topics set up on this forum for those issues as well.
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Re: To what extent do the "new atheism" writers speak the truth?

Postby greim on Tue Sep 29, 2009 8:58 pm

Brandon Norgaard wrote:Dawkins here is making the same misunderstanding that many atheists make. You see, this argument is not based on the premise of the principle of sufficient reason (PSR), which postulates that everything has a cause, but instead the argument examines PSR and concludes that it ultimately leads to logical incoherency. Hence the need to alter the very premise and conclude that there was an uncaused cause.


I've seen various of Dawkins' talks and debates, and I don't think he misapprehends the cosmological argument at all. Dawkins' point is not that there can be no terminus to the PSR, or even that theists are being irresponsible in supposing that there's a terminus to the PSR, but that the choice of "God" as the terminus is unjustified. "God" doesn't necessarily equal "first cause," or if it does, then the theist is just expressing a preference in semantics and not gaining any real traction. He's fond of saying things like "if that's your definition of 'God' then I believe in 'God' too."

He talks at length about how things like Gods—thought of as having a nature, intellect and will—aren't the sort of things that make good choices for termini to the PSR. Based on Occam's Razor and everything we know about how the world works, the uncaused cause would have to be far simpler. I'm sure any number of sophisticated rebuttals have been raised to this, but I haven't seen one that doesn't somehow appeal to the ontological argument.
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Re: To what extent do the "new atheism" writers speak the truth?

Postby Brandon Norgaard on Tue Sep 29, 2009 10:03 pm

Yes, now I remember Dawkins making that point. There were others, though, that were arguing that the cosmo arg depends on PSR and violates this premise. Where I disagree with Dawkins is whether this first cause can be considered a higher power that selected the laws of nature to be as they are and could have done otherwise. Although I have concluded that a higher power is the best explanation, I try to keep it as simple as possible to the point where I can conclude only very little about it. I am not completely sure that the conception that I have of this higher power in fact matches any of the common understandings of the word "god". I have been discussing this issue at length on other websites and I pasted one of my responses into the forum on this website under the topic "Is there a God". I concede that this argument, as currently written in this post, is not perfect and I will post an update to this argument, which includes an analysis of the concept of infinity, as soon as someone responds to that post.
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Re: To what extent do the "new atheism" writers speak the truth?

Postby technicolor on Wed Jan 13, 2010 1:50 am

There is no such thing as "New atheism". Atheism in all forms has existed since Mans inception on Earth. One thing Atheists forget and that is; Just because One determines, in theory that God doesn't exist; does not make it so. If we were to find, between the believers and the non believer, just which group is more preoccupied with proving the other wrong, I'd say the believers are not worried about this. We are worried about the desire of the Atheist group to (as a minority) control the lives of all men, and tell him who he can't or can worship. If it is not such a big deal, just leave us and our nativity scenes, and our Ten Commandment tributes, and our desire to be Judeo Christians the heck alone. What society wouldn't do well under a code of ethics such as this? Even if you don't want to live this way, cant you respect the right of others to? We are at the crossroads of our freedom. Which road will we take? Has Crime and plunder gone down since the Progressives have taken over? NO! When did the last great Atheist nation exists; and for how long? How were their relationships in their families; with each other , with other nations. How enduring was the foundation of their non-belief? When the Storms and tempests blew, and raged on; were they able to stand? NO!
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Re: To what extent do the "new atheism" writers speak the truth?

Postby Brandon Norgaard on Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:55 pm

Technicolor, I am not an atheist, but some of the things you said were mischaracterizations.

technicolor wrote:There is no such thing as "New atheism". Atheism in all forms has existed since Mans inception on Earth.

"New Atheism" refers to the variation that has become more popular in recent years. Before, atheism was far less confrontational with religion than it has become recently. They tend to blame religion for the worlds ills. As you may have gathered from reading my writings up to this point, I agree with them to some extent because I have concluded that blind faith often leads to suffering and death. You are probably correct that many atheists seem zealous in their quest to prove God doesn't exist. Some of them seem just as certain about this and seem to think that there is just as much evidence for this as there is for natural selection. They seem to think that the two work hand in hand. This thinking is simple minded. Exactly what they claim religious people to be.

technicolor wrote:We are worried about the desire of the Atheist group to (as a minority) control the lives of all men, and tell him who he can't or can worship. If it is not such a big deal, just leave us and our nativity scenes, and our Ten Commandment tributes, and our desire to be Judeo Christians the heck alone.

Your implications of persecution of the religious by the nonreligious are unfounded. How exactly are atheists controlling the lives of anyone? What evidence supports your fear that atheists seek to control the lives of all people and tell them how to worship? I'm pretty sure even the most fervent of atheists are actually reacting to their perception of being controlled by the religious majority. Their fears are irrational, but so are yours.
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