The New Atheism: The Future Of Atheism

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! Tonight, we’re going to do the final chapter in Victor Stenger’s book “The New Atheism: Taking A Stand For Science And Reason.” In this chapter, Stenger looks at the future of atheism.

I recall the words Ravi Zacharias said once that he got from an unnamed professor of his. Ravi stated that prediction is always difficult, especially about the future.” Stenger and I predict very different things about the future. I will give mine another day, but for now, let us spend our time examining his.

To begin with, Stenger starts with a history of religion. He tells of how supernatural forces were invoked as leaders sought to control the people. What’s missing? You guessed it! Sources! Stenger gives a just-so story that does not have any documentation and sounds more like a Freudian idea (Which has no backing) than any actual reading of history (Of course, we already know if he had read scholars of history, he would not treat the Christ-myth idea seriously).

Stenger also tells us that religion and morality have always gone hand in hand, but is this the case? The Greeks, for instance, believed in objective moral values, but never seemed to tie them to God. Their gods were often just as depraved as they were, if not more so! Such happened also with gods in other religions. More often, it was about power more than morality. When Sennacherib marches against Judah for instance, he says it is because God told him to. It was the drive for territory and power rather than the goal of being a righteous people.

Stenger instead relies on the social contract idea and says that religion often leads to the breakdown of the conflict. Any examples given? Not one. The problem with social contract theories is that the only reason I should abide by them is that I don’t want to get punished. It’s not because I seek the good of my fellow man. If I can do X and get away with it, then why not?

What about the reformer’s dilemma? What happens when someone wants to change the contract for how we live. Gandhi did. Martin Luther King Jr. Did. The abolitionist movement did. Yet each of these are seen as heroes and if we see ourselves as better, then we have a standard outside of the contract we are pointing to.

Morality without a referent is flawed. Anyone can change the rules at any time and no change is better or worse than another change. In theis, there is a transcendent basis that says that man is good because he exists and existence is good because that is the very nature of God.

How does one live without religion? Stenger tells us that we make our own meaning and meaning, value, and purpose are human ideas. Does he really believe this? Did Charles Manson and Timothy McVeigh and others make their own meaning by determining what lives were of value? If I decide that life has no purpose, then who is to say that I am wrong if that is a human idea? If it has no purpose, why not obliterate my neighbor rather than love him? Now I could instead love him. There’d be no reason to do so. There’d be no reason to not do so. It’d just be something to do.

What about Stenger’s own words? Can I determine my own meaning for them? Could I close the book and say “Stenger wishes we were all theists and thinks atheism is bankrupt!” We rightly decry the postmodern movement, but could it be that the postmodern movement is, as Nietzsche saw, the logical outworking of man’s murdering God?

In talking about religious views, Stenger says it is not coherent to kill for your religious beliefs. Now I do agree my Christianity condemns the taking of innocent life, but if Stenger believes that killing for religious beliefs is incoherent, I’d like to know why. I’m not saying it is. I’m just wondering if he could make an argument for it. The only way would be to describe a way that the universe is in a moral sense and a way we ought to act in response in an obligatory sense. His worldview denies both of those!

In reply to evil, Stenger says the big questions of evil are not answered by theism. Now I believe they are, but my question to him is, are they by atheism? What answer does atheism give? Bertrand Russell once asked what a Christian will say by the bedside of a dying child. That’s a good question! Here’s one that was asked in reply by William Lane Craig. What will Bertrand Russell say?

One reason for adopting a worldview should be the explanatory power that it possesses. If you are going to adopt atheism as your worldview, you need to do so because it can answer questions others can’t. If atheism has no such answers, then I would say be an agnostic instead. It’s far more reasonable.

In summarizing the new atheism, Stenger again repeats the mantra that faith is believing something without evidence. As we have shown, this proves that Stenger is a man of faith since he believes his definition of faith even though he has given no evidence to support it.

Stenger also says many biblical practices such as slavery and the subjugation of women are immoral by modern standards. Now we could argue what slavery is in the biblical period and I think Stenger would come up dreadfully short on what he thinks the Bible is talking about. The most in-depth review online can be found here . I also recommend the book by Walter Kaiser “Towards Old Testament Ethics.” Subjugation of women will wait for the next book we review.

What I’d like to comment on however is this idea of modern standards being the source. By this standard, we can simply say everyone else is wrong because they’re different. It is congratulating yourself for reaching a goal and that goal is defined by the place you’re at. Who says modern man is right? Now he could be, but he could also not be and we can’t know unless we have something beyond modern man.

Ironically, Stenger next says that this shows that morality is not constant but evolves with time. Evolves to what? Are we reaching some goal? But if that is the case, then this is no longer naturalistic evolution as that would exclude a final cause, especially in the area of morality. We could agree that morality is changing, but without a standard, it is doing just that. It is not changing for better or for worse. It is just changing.

Finally, Stenger says that religious believers are driven by fear. Stenger reveals more about himself than about his opponents. My life is not lived in the fear of God but the joy of the adventure of learning more every day. I wonder how many religious people Stenger has really talked to to come to this conclusion. I know his research has been lacking, but when I meet someone who is Christian and driven by fear, they are definitely the anomaly.

Stenger has hope for the new atheism. What’s my response to the future of the new atheism?

That will be in my conclusion tomorrow.

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