Theodore Dalrymple In The City Journal: Atheism’s Problems

Here is the link to Dalrymple’s article, which claims that the new round of atheists, (or at least some of the current spokesmen of popular atheism) are glossing over the deep metaphysical questions surrounding the existence of God.  Very few popular thinkers who attempt to address the depth of the God arguments succeed, but those who do so within Christianity strike me, as does Dinesh D’Souza, as ignoring a few hundred years of thought as they gaze out from within their own doctrines. 

Isn’t the pursuit of scientific inquiry and truth (fortunately) a separate enterprise from the religious pursuit of truth?

Some atheists seem to be in danger of becoming adherents rather than free thinkers. 

Addition:  More on Roger Sandall’s blog here, as he discusses Roger Scruton.

One question seems to be whether we choose to give religious arguments any quarter at all.  The hard atheist line seems to be no.  Mine is…perhaps…

See comments.

Another Addition:  Agnosticism, right?  Thanks to a friend for bringing this up.  Here’s a pretty nasty critique of agnosticism from the atheist point of view.

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5 Comments

There are no deep arguements for god. Almost all of them are begging the question. Why does justice require a god? How does existance require a god? The arguements that are advanced are vapid.

It would be nice to know from the article if he has anything to say. It seems rather… empty to me- don’t know why. I like his religious architecture is proof that religion doesn’t spoil everything. Because we all know that non religious people would never create art and that building huge monument scosting hundreds of lives is a good thing because it enriches our culture. Of course he does the whole “reason leads to evil” thing and probably has more flaws, but I lack the patience to dissect it.

How are they (the New atheists) in danger of being dogmatic? They seem only to agree on the idea that religion is false and that faith is bad- they have different positions on everything else.

Samuel, thanks for responding.

As for me, I find that the metaphysical reasons for the existence of God are still quite deep (though not valid). I’m thinking in particular of Kant (who provided means to refute them), and of the tendency of people like Einstein to leave such a question unanswered (as a backdrop) to the knowledge and laws they discover.

In the social realm, and the cultural one, I am quite supportive of providing a counter-weight to the absolutism and dogmatism that religious doctrines help foster and create. Many of my freedoms have depended on this happening.

Some new (popular) atheists aren’t really getting at these arguments in my mind, but just rearranging the questions that lie above them. They are potentially in just as much danger of making doctrines that could be clung to religiously in the future (which could mean they don’t truly understand the free-thinking that has allowed for their established atheism).

Dalrymple’s article seems a little empty to me too, like he’s being guided by some other idealogical motive into which he can wrap his thoughts.

“Isn’t the pursuit of scientific inquiry and truth (fortunately) a separate enterprise from the religious pursuit of truth?”

I also have a problem with that line. How can religin have its own version of the truth? Since science is the investigaiton and understanding of reality, it has a monopoly on truth. Cause if it isn’t about reality, it isn’t true or false- its fiction.

I think that is the basic idea behind the new atheists. We can get caught up and entangled in intricate arguements or we can concentrate on the main point and show it is hollow.

Samuel,

Religion has many deep arguments that are quite true. The teachings of Christ, for example, are those of a profound moral thinker…(and I am not a Christian, nor find any of the arguments for God to be logically valid).

You say that science is the investigation and understanding of reality, and I agree, but an understanding of reality that is based on laws and an incomplete knowledge of that reality.

Certainly anyone interested in discovering a new scientific law would be caught up in past intricate arguments about the nature of that reality.

If the main point of the new atheism is merely showing that religious doctirnes are false and hollow (a worthy enterprise in many ways) only by relying of a definition of science that claims it has a monopoly on truth…then I have some doubts about that concept of reality.

Expressing doubts can get you thrown out of churches and groups of atheists.

If there were no God, there would be no atheists.

G.K. Chesterton

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