Archive for April 2009

A Miscellany: Iowa and the New Atheism

April 4, 2009

I’ve entitled this “a miscellany” to avoid the confusion that I think the judicial ruling on homosexuality in Iowa has anything to do with the New Atheism. That said, I’m quite happy when fundamentalism of any stripe is thwarted, be it Christian (in Iowa) or atheist.

First things first: IOWA?!?!? Who knew???? Okay, it looks like a center-left state, at least according to the last few presidential elections. But still…Iowa? How does it feel, California, to be passed up by Iowa? How does it feel, Hollywood and San Francisco, to be a cultural and political backwater to…Des Moines?

Second, I’ve come across some well-written, incisively argued critiques of the so-called New Atheism recently. New Atheism is more annoying than threatening, but based on its astronomical book sales and how often I hear its specious arguments thrown around, it’s nice to see them get their comeuppance every once in a while. Anyway, the first of these articles is a couple years old, by the mostly boring conservative-Christian analytic philosopher Alvin Plantinga. Regardless of how I feel about analytic philosophy, the man knows how to make an argument, and it’s fun to see him make mince of Richard Dawkins. The next article is not as tightly argued as Plantinga’s, but Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart is a glorious writer, and hilariously compares Daniel Dennet to Lewis Carroll’s snark hunter–all bluster with no evidence, what exactly is he looking for again? Finally, the skeptical philosopher John Gray reviews the whole movement and concludes that

The attempt to eradicate religion…only leads to it reappearing in grotesque and degraded forms. A credulous belief in world revolution, universal democracy or the occult powers of mobile phones is more offensive to reason than the mysteries of religion, and less likely to survive in years to come. Victorian poet Matthew Arnold wrote of believers being left bereft as the tide of faith ebbs away. Today secular faith is ebbing, and it is the apostles of unbelief who are left stranded on the beach.