Atheist Philosopher Julian Baggini on the New Atheism

A number of atheist philosophers have distanced themselves from the rhetoric and writings of the New Atheists (e.g., Michael Ruse).  Atheist philosopher Julian Baginni criticizes the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris) of the new atheism for treating religion as worthless, failing to be self-critical, and neglecting to recognize the limits of reason.  Here are some notable excerpts:

All this, I think, has been unhelpful in many ways. In short, the new atheism gets atheism wrong, gets religion wrong, and is counterproductive.

The new atheism, however, is characterised by its attacks on religion. “There is a logical path from religious faith to evil deeds,” wrote Richard Dawkins, quite typically, quoting approvingly Stephen Weinberg, who said, “for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.” Hitchens goes so far as to explicitly say that “I am not even an atheist so much as I am an antitheist.” This antitheism is for me a backwards step. It reinforces what I believe is a myth, that an atheist without a bishop to bash is like a fish without water. Worse, it raises the possibility that as a matter of fact, for many atheists, they do indeed need an enemy to give them their identity.

A second feature of atheism is that it is committed to the appropriate use of reason and evidence. In order to occupy this intellectual high ground, it is important to recognise the limits of reason, and also to acknowledge that atheists have no monopoly on it. The new atheism, however, tends to claim reason as a decisive combatant on its side only. With its talk of “spells” and “delusions”, it gives the impression that only through stupidity or crass disregard for reason could anyone be anything other than an atheist. “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence,” says Dawkins, once again implying that reason and evidence are strangers to religion. This is arrogant, and attributes to reason a power it does not have.

For these reasons, I am not happy about the public rhetoric of the new atheism, which has the most powerful effect on how people perceive people like me. Anyone committed to the proper use of reason and evidence should use both to see that this rhetoric matters, whether they like it or not, and modify their approach accordingly.’

Thanks to ID.Plus

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One thought on “Atheist Philosopher Julian Baggini on the New Atheism

  1. Pingback: 35 and Still Leaning Left « No Calls After 10

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