Atheist writer Eric MacDonald has distanced himself from the New Atheism movement though previously being a follower: “I have found myself, over the last year or two, distancing myself more and more from the new atheism, although I was, I think, once associated more closely to it.”
One reason is that he could no longer agree with the mass misrepresentations so prevalent within New Atheist literature: “However, as time went on I found myself at loggerheads with much that sailed under the banner of the New Atheism, finding its conception of religion so contrary to anything that I would have said about my faith in earlier years that I find myself no longer able to associate myself with this movement. Much that new atheists say about religion is simply so much straw.“
MacDonald soon found himself disagreeing with the atheist Peter Boghossian. He finds Boghossian particularly threatening: “in his book on making atheists — [he] repeats the accusation that faith is pathological in his book so often that one is reminded of the George Orwell’s 1984, or the common practice in the Soviet Union of placing dissidents in psychiatric hospitals. There is a deeply threatening aspect to the belief that those whose ideas you oppose are somehow mentally ill, or victims of pathological ways of thinking in need of a cure.“
Also the failure of the New “atheists to engage with what theologians and other religious believers have to say in defence of their worldview” had caught his attention. The New Atheists are well-known to produce a flick of the hand without engaging with the arguments other have forwarded. They also appear ignorant, as exegete & philosopher, Paul Copan seems to believe: “The Neo-atheists are often profoundly ignorant of what they criticize, and they typically receive the greatest laughs and cheers from the philosophically and theologically challenged. True, they effectively utilize a combination of emotion and verbal rhetoric, but they aren’t known for logically carrying thoughts through from beginning to end” (1).
It is also true that New Atheists hold to the logically incoherent view of scientism. Philosopher William Craig explains that this it the “view that we should believe only what can be proven scientifically. In other words, science is the sole source of knowledge and the sole arbiter of truth” and that “if adopted, [it would] compel us to abandon wide swaths of what most of us take to be fields of human knowledge.”(2). Likwise, MacDonald agrees that “Empirical science is not the only source of truth or understanding.”
He notices that “new atheism is quickly attaching itself to beliefs that are as dogmatic and irrational as many religious dogmas, and to a kind of ideological certitude that may be as dangerous as the ideologies of the past that caused so much harm.”
One could point to the likes of Al Stefanelli who, in reference to Islam & Christianity, says that “hey must, must, must be eradicated” (3). Or as New Atheist Sam Harris claims: “If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion” (4). According to Steven Weinberg anything that can “weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilization” (5). These are men that are giving their fellow atheists a bad name and thus many “Atheists are clearly divided about the aggressive approach of the New Atheists, and some find it positively embarrassing” (6).
1. Copan, P. 2011. Is God a Moral Monster? p. 16 (Scribd ebook format)
2. Craig, W. 2011. Is Scientism Self Refuting? Available.
3. Hallowell, B. 2011. American Atheist Leader Calls for the ‘Eradication’ of ‘Fundamentalist Christians.’ Available.
4. Sam Harris in an interview: The Temple Of Reason. 2006.
5. Steven Weinberg in the closing statements of the presentation: Beyond Belief : Science, Religion, Reason and Survival. 2006.
6. Lennox, J. 2011. Gunning for God. p. 23.