[This post is a work in progress as part of the CAA Catechism.]
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Summary in 400 words or less:
“Atheism” is best defined as the belief that there is no God or gods. It is the positive denial that God exists. “A” is a Greek prefix meaning “not,” while “theos” was used by the Greeks for both God and the gods. It is incorrect to define atheism as a “lack of a belief in God”, which would make not only babies atheists, but presumably animals and plants. Also, on such a view, atheism can neither be true or false since there is no truth claim. “Agnosticism” I think would be an appropriate view for those who lack belief in God.
The New Atheism began with Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion in 2006, followed by books by Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, causing anti-religious and especially anti-Christian sentiments.
The following traits do tend to characterize this movement, and distinguish it not absolutely, but relatively, from most other forms of atheism:
(1) The New Atheists (or “Gnus”) both attempt to refute old arguments for God and offer old and new arguments against God. However, they may not interact with the new arguments for God in great depth.
(2) Self-confidence typify the movement to an often astounding extent. This is often fueled by the trying to show themselves as rational thinkers following science which determines truth in contrast to people with religious beliefs.
(3) One of the New Atheism’s most pervasive themes is that religious belief is based on “blind faith.” Gnu books refer to “Faith” in the sense of “believing not only without evidence, but against the evidence” or “believing what we cannot know”. They however do not interact with our definitions of faith set by many apologists and theologians.
(4) Most Gnus are Secular Humanists, and there is therefore a strong moral dimension to their critique of religion. So not only do they think that all religions are wrong, they also think that it is harmful for society. Hence they try to show the bad side of what religious beliefs may lead to (whether true or not) and ignore any good that religion may have.
(5) New Atheists generally depend on a liberal Jesus spin (Jesus Seminar, Elaine Pagels, Bart Ehrman). Some have also developed their own theories, for instance Richard Carrier’s (failing) recent attempt to make mythicism respectable academically.
Scripture for YouVersion:
Three questions (1 fill-in-the-blank, 1 multiple choice, and one discussion question):
1. Which of the following is not mentioned as a member of the New Atheists?
A. Richard Dawkins
B. Stephen Hawking
C. Daniel Dennett
D. Richard Carrier
2. Because a majority of the members of this movement consider themselves Secular Humanists there is a _______ moral dimension to the beliefs proposed by New Atheists.
References for further reading:
Books For: Aside from the “Four Horsemen” named above, some influential New Atheists or affiliated skeptics include Hector Avalos, Richard Carrier, Greta Christiana, Stephen Law (perhaps), John Loftus, Bill Maher, PZ Myers, John Paulos, Michael Shermer . . .
Rebuttals by CAA Members: David Marshall, The Truth Behind the New Atheism (2007), Tom Gilson & Carson Weitnauer, ed, plus other CAA members, True Reason (2013)
Other good rebuttals: Tim Keller, John Lennox, Dinesh D’Souza, (personally not very excited over Alister McGrath’s two books on subject.)
Collaborators: David Marshall, Frederick Choo, Mike Alexander Perry
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