Reason Rally: The Problems With New Atheism

Why is the New Atheism not a threat? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The Reason Rally is largely a work of the new atheist movement. This has largely taken off after 9/11 with atheists seeking to have an even more prominent role in society. Mind you I have no problem with that. Atheists have as much right as anyone else to seek to change the laws to be in accordance with what they think is best and they have every right to state their views publicly, meet publicly, etc.

The problem is not that they are doing this. In reality, I do not see the new atheists as a problem. Rather, I see them as a blessing in much the same way The Da Vinci Code was. The Da Vinci Code started a conversation and Christians who were interested would better inform themselves about the truths of what it is they believe. I believe the New Atheists have done the same thing. They’ve made the dialogue public.

However, the blessing is not only have they made the dialogue public, but they have not presented a very strong case and one that a series at any church that was led by someone skilled in apologetics could train someone to answer. Due to their being seen as authorities, they are taken far more seriously and leading many atheists to think this is the cream of the crop.

If it is, then the crop has gone very bad. Dawkins, the leading speaker of the new atheism is not qualified in philosophy or theology or biblical studies to speak on any of these matters, but does so anyway. The atheist thinking “The God Delusion” presents sound arguments, walks away thinking, as an example, that the Thomistic arguments are easily dealt with.

That is, until he meets a Thomist who knows those arguments.

At that point, the atheist sadly usually does not see the flaws in the arguments, but instead still holds to them because, well Pope Dawkins has spoken and the case is closed. The reality is Dawkins could go to anyone out there who studies Thomism and be told that his positions are straw men and the arguments he has do not work.

Furthermore, with the high interest in science, we can expect to see more of scientism from the new atheist side. No Christian should be anti-science, but we should all be anti-scientism. We need to realize that there are other forms of finding truth out there and for most of us, the most important truths we know are not scientific in nature.

The benefit for us is this verificationism is easily dealt with. As I have stated earlier, for an atheist like this, science for them is essentially what Scripture is for the Christian. Instead of having Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we have Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and quite likely we can expect Meyers to be next in line.

With Dawkins being a leading speaker at this rally, we can expect more of the same. What this will do is just lead to further reinforcement. Just as much as Christians can cloister themselves away from the world at times in isolation to reinforce one another in beliefs that they hold without evidence, atheists can do the same. This is not to say all Christians believe without evidence. I certainly don’t and several others don’t. This is to say that there are several who do. There are several atheists of the Dawkins type who also hold their anti-religious beliefs without evidence.

Thus, not only do I think the Reason Rally is not really a threat, but it will also be a boon to Christians. If atheists want to keep availing themselves of material by the new atheists, we can expect that their side will ultimately suffer. Let us not make the same mistake however of growing lax in our efforts and make sure the sources we have and the ones we choose to have represent us are the best that they can be.

What atheists need to do is in fact distance themselves from meetings like the Reason Rally and to avoid the new atheists. They are better off going to older atheists of the past. Not only that, they need to make sure that they avail themselves of evangelical scholarship so they can be sure they know what their opponents are really arguing.

If atheists want to still go to this rally, please do go ahead. The more I see there, the more hope I will have for the spread of Christianity.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reason Rally: Tips for Dialogue

Can some help be given for the debates at Reason Rally? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’d like today’s post to be about helping with the dialogue what will go on at Reason Rally. However, in the interest of fairness, I think the Christians that I know that are able to go are very well equipped and I want to make sure the other side has some information to even things out on how they can have better dialogues.

First, please keep in mind that many of us read books and we prefer books that don’t have the word “Illustrated” on the cover. This also means that you will need to know about the books that we read. It also means that you will need to have more than a google search. In this area, never ever refer to Wikipedia. We know you treat it seriously, but we don’t.

Second, keep in mind that saying dead people coming back to life is absurd doesn’t faze us. That’s something from your worldview, and if there is no God, then we agree that it is absurd. You need to remember that we do not share that worldview and it does no good to say our worldview is wrong because it has things in it that are absurd to your worldview.

Third, avoid using the word faith to refer to believing something without evidence. We know that you believe that this is the definition of faith even though you have no evidence that any biblical writer intended the word faith to mean that. When you use faith and treat is as if we believe things without evidence, it leads us to further be certain of our position that you’re clueless.

Fourth, keep in mind that the scientific method is great for science, but not for everything else, and that verificationism has been a dead movement for a number of decades now. We know you are behind on the times on this, but that is what happens when there is no study done in philosophical matters due to science becoming the way, the truth, and the life.

Fifth, we are well-read with various opinions on matters that are secondary. Do not assume that we all believe in a 6000 year-old Earth or that we all interpret every biblical passage literally or that we all live and die on the words of William Lane Craig. Yes. We know that you treat Pope Dawkins that way, but we do not treat Craig that way. You might be surprised to know that at times, some of us actually disagree with him. We don’t blindly accept someone because they’re a theist, which is different from what we see from the atheist side of blindly accepting someone because they’re an atheist.

Sixth, when it comes to Craig, for those of us who do believe in some of his arguments, just saying “Craig has been refuted” or “Craig is a proven liar” or something like that. That means no more to us than if we come to you and just say “Dawkins has been refuted” without an argument.

Seventh, don’t assume that just because you believe you have proven evolution in a dialogue that every argument for God’s existence becomes irrelevant. Believe it or not, some of us actually have no problem with evolutionary theory and some of us realize that God’s existence is not based on filling a function alone.

Eighth, never say that Jesus never existed. When you do that, we automatically know that you are not worth taking seriously. Believe it or not, many atheists can accept that Jesus existed as a historical person and go on to lead lives that they find entirely consistent with atheism. Ask your doctor if it will work for you.

Ninth, when referring to books, be sure that you have read some of ours. This might sound strange to you, but we actually like to read books by atheists. It would be appreciative if you would read books by Christians. Note we mean intellectual Christians. “Your Best Life Now” doesn’t count.

Tenth, don’t assume that Ray Comfort and Josh McDowell are the peak of Christian apologetics. Some of us actually prefer the older arguments. We want to know if you can deal with Augustinian or Thomistic thought. Sure, we read moderns. But they’re just standing on the shoulders of giants.

Eleventh, as soon as you mention fairies, unicorns, Santa Claus, or anything similar, we already know to discount you. Believe it or not, using words like this are not synonymous with actually having an argument. You need to show that any such analogy would work and do so without assuming your worldview.

Twelfth, learn to critically examine your own authorities. Believe it or not, Dawkins can be wrong about some things and he actually is not an authority in philosophy, theology, or biblical studies. Personally, you should seek to move away from Dawkins if you want to have respect as an atheist. Sadly enough, your showing up at the Reason Rally is probably going to be an indication that you’re already too far gone in fundamentalist thinking.

This is a lot, but I do realize that you really need help in these dialogues and I seek to be fair. Following steps like this could lead to you coming to the dialogue with an informed opinion instead of just rants, and we would all appreciate that much more.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reason Rally: Pleased for P.Z.

Will P.Z. Myers change his policy after Reason Rally? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

P.Z. Myers isn’t too happy. Who is he? He’s the evolutionary biologist who is the blogger at Pharyngula. Apparently, he’s upset that a number of Christians plan to attend the Reason Rally. The post can be found here. Now he’s made a statement about a personal policy of his that I’d like to comment on.

I’m beginning to feel like my long-standing personal policy of not intruding on their church services needs to be questioned, because man, is this ever arrogant and obnoxious.

First off, a problem with us. One thing that I am sure of is that in a lot of churches, if someone like Meyers showed up, they would not be ready. Where there could be well over 100 Christians, not one of them would be able to give an answer and most of them would say that you just have to have faith.

Ugh. Makes me sick.

If you’re someone new to the faith, maybe I could grant you some leeway, but by and large our churches are failing at this point. We are not educating our members and sometimes I can understand why atheists think they are the champions of reason because there are too many Christians out there who aren’t thinking about their faith. They’re just living in their own world content with just knowing that Jesus loves them.

These churches will be trounced and there will be casualties leading to either new atheists who really don’t think seriously about religion (Several of which you can find on Meyers’s own blog) or else the situation of the Christians in these churches just further retreating into themselves and cutting themselves off from the world.

You will have a hard time getting the gospel to the world the more you retreat inside yourself.

That gets us to another point. Why is it that we have made churches more like isolation chambers. Now I do know we need places to congregate, but these should also be places where unbelievers can expect to have their questions on Christianity answered and where they can think they can go to to get those questions answered instead of having the mindset of “Just let them be.”

In fact, in 1 Cor. 14 Paul talks about how Christians should behave for when unbelievers come in. He is talking about the appearance that we will have before a world that is watching. Why is it that the church is not seen as a beacon of intellectualism? It is because we Christians did abandon intellectual grounds among the laity and much amongst the leadership as well. If we think the new atheist movement is truly lacking in reason, which I think they are, it is because the church lacked it first.

However, as to what Meyers has said, I will say that whatever church I find myself in, and I do not know which that will be since my wife and I will be moving soon, I would be delighted for Meyers to come to my church and to ask the hardest questions that he can think of. In fact, I would actually celebrate that opportunity. I would love to tell all my friends and family that Meyers came to my church today.

It would be ideal if this could happen in any church, but sadly, it wouldn’t. As I said, too many are unprepared and there will be a lot of casualties in the faith in several churches. Whose fault is this? It is not the fault of Christianity. It is not the fault of the new atheists. It is our fault.

Our churches do several great ministries by and large. We are often willing to set up soup kitchens and food pantries for those in need. We will help people with their bills when things get too difficult for them financially. We will help them with alcoholism and working through a divorce and with grief counseling when a loved one dies and we will send missionaries overseas to spread the gospel.

How much is the church investing in apologetics?

If Christianity is not true, then we are doing some nice things, but we are to be pitied for believing a lie.

Yet I am regularly concerned about churches that will spend millions on big buildings and gyms and everything else, but when it comes to supporting the work of the apologists, the ones who are on the front lines defending all the other work that is going on, there is nothing.

That’s why the people at True Reason also need your support. They are out there on the front lines. For my own self, I’m out there as well. This blog is not the only thing I do, but there is a donate button for a reason. It is people like you that keep this going.

Maybe if the church returns to being a force in intellectualism again and regains our apologetic ability, maybe we’ll actually start seeing a turnaround. Many of us complain about the evil we see in our society, but our idea is to sit back and just pray. Prayer is a good thing to do. It is never to be used as an excuse to laziness. I suggest we use Nehemiah 4:9 as an example. When the walls of Jerusalem were being rebuilt and the people were in danger, Nehemiah said they prayed and posted a guard. We, the apologists, are the guard. Support us and pray for us as well. Some of you I am sure cannot support financially, and in that case do pray, but also be an encouragement. Those of us on the front lines need it more than you realize.

Be a support today. When Meyers comes to your church, be ready to prevent casualties.

In Christ,
Nick Peters