Friday, March 8, 2013

In Defense Of The New Atheists (And My Problem With Them)

Some critics of the New Atheists have said that they aren't too intellectually bright and don't even understand the religions they're criticizing. Although I don't always agree with all the New Atheists all the time, one thing to remember is that they are largely reacting to fundamentalist theists who do interpret their religious texts literally, and who do hold views that other mainstream or moderate theists do not. So when Richard Dawkins goes on a polemic about the ignorance of creationism, he isn't necessarily talking about all theists, just a certain kind of theist. The variety of religious belief - even amongst people of the same religious denominations, means that no one can ever criticize "religion" and hope to encapsulate all believers in one swath of the tongue or the keyboard.

The New Atheists have helped make atheism, agnosticism and non-belief in general more mainstream, and for that I am greatly in debt to them. But I've written before that irrational militant atheism can backfire and actually harm the skeptical community, so I don't always support the kind of blame-game rhetoric some New Atheists use some of the time in castigating religion as if it's responsible for all the world's evils. If I was a public figure, I'm not sure how close I'd want to be associated with some of the New Atheists. I'd like to perhaps move the conversation towards a more intellectual stance, and make sure that we don't sound like a bunch of cry babies complaining about religion all the time. There is certainly a time and place for making fun of religion and god, I'm just saying that's not all we should do as non-believers. We should be listening to the best arguments theists are making and be dissecting them under the microscope so that we can provide proper counterarguments and offer a more plausible worldview than what they're offering.

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