My current book project is on the subject of atheism.  Though there have been plenty of books on this topic the last few years, both by atheists (the “new atheists” as they’ve come to be called) and their critics, nearly all of these books address the evidence for or against theism.  Atheist writers complain that because of the existence of evil and the immorality of believers faith in God is unreasonable.  And they argue that the explanatory power of science makes faith unnecessary.  Defenders of theism have given rejoinders to these arguments and offered evidences for God either overlooked or underappreciated by the new atheists.  Some Christian apologists have devoted entire books to critiquing particular works by the new atheists (e.g. The McGraths’ The Dawkins Delusion and Zacharias’ The End of Reason).

But lost in the whirlwind of this debate is the deeper question as to whether atheism is actually the product of rational inquiry.  Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett have suggested that theists suffer from a sort of delusion.  Could this be a case of “If you spot it, you got it”?  If anyone is delusional, perhaps it is atheists.  After all, looking at the matter from a statistical standpoint, is it more likely that over 90% of human beings (religious believers) are deluded or that only a small minority (atheists) are so deceived?  To take the former view, along with Dawkins, Dennett, and others, is a serious psychological indictment of the human race.  (And, given this thesis, one wonders why these authors would expect their readers to have a rational response to their books!)  On the other hand, if atheists are the duped ones, what explains this?  Is it simply a misconstrual of the evidence for God?  If so, what could account for that?  Is the problem somehow psychological, sociological, or even moral in nature?

These are some of the questions I am raising (and attempting to answer) in my book, which will be published by Moody Press in 2010.  I would welcome your own thoughts on the matter…whether or not they turn out to be delusional.


4 Responses to “The Making of Atheists”


  1. Michael W. McGowan

     

    Hi Jim,

    I, too, am glad to see that you’re playing a part in the growing response to the “new atheists,” and I think your contribution will help. I’ve been in contact with Greg Ganssle, whom you know through your other book. His latest book is also dealing with this issue and is due out in September or October (can’t remember). It’s from Baylor Univ. Press.: “A Reasonable God: Engaging the New Face of Atheism”. I’ve read snippets of his, and between the two of you I’d hope that they’re positioned to see weaknesses in their presuppositions. Keep up the good work!

    M

    Reply
  2. Andy

     

    Bob reached the top of the trail just in time to see the western sky radiant with shades of violet and crimson. “Wow, look at that sunset!”

    “Gorgeous!” Lisa chimed in, coming up the trail behind them.

    “There’s no such thing.”

    They both turned around to see where the gruff voice had come from. A man sat on the ground with a staff across his lap. He appeared to be trying to catch bugs by waiting for them to walk across his hands.

    “Who are you?” asked Bob.

    “The name’s Ted. And I’m getting tired of all these people coming through here talking about the spectacular view, as if there actually was such a thing.”

    “What do you mean? Can’t you see the view?” Lisa asked. “You’re not blind, are you?”

    “Blind? Ha! That’s just a derogatory term you light-believers use to slander free-thinkers like myself!” Ted grimaced in disgust, “You’re the ones who are deceived, believing in this so-called ‘vision’ thing… something no one ever has any evidence for!”

    Lisa was astounded, “You mean you think light doesn’t exist?”

    “Think? Ha! I know it doesn’t exist! My life is based on provable Facts, lady, not wishful thinking!”

    “So since we can’t prove to your satisfaction that light exists, you won’t believe in it?” Bob was incredulous, “Even after you said yourself that everyone who comes up here praises the beautiful scenery?”

    Ted spat, “Of course not! It doesn’t matter how many people believe in it! That’s an ad populum fallacy! Don’t you know anything about logic? I can’t help it if you’re all deceived together!”

    “Um, I don’t think that’s how it works… Besides, what if it actually is true?” Bob countered, “Wouldn’t you want to see what everyone else is so excited about?”

    “I know a guy who may be able to give you sight!” Lisa pitched in with genuine enthusiasm, “That is, if you’re interested…”

    “Nope, not interested. Why would I want to be so restricted, when I currently have the freedom of deciding for myself how to perceive things? You foolish light-believers are too rigid – once you supposedly ‘see’ something, you can never ‘see’ it any differently! But free-thinkers like myself can perceive it however we wish without any such dogmatic restraints.”

    Bob just shook his head in astonishment.

    Lisa suddenly noticed the time, “Hey Bob, we’d should think about heading back down to the car.”

    “What? Leaving without providing any evidence of your so-called ‘light?'” Ted was giddy with his intellectual victory.

    “You’re welcome to come with us,” Bob pointed out, “We could introduce you to that guy…”

    Ted cut him off, the grin vanished from his face. “You’ve gotta be kidding me! Why would I want to come with a bunch of misguided fanatics?” he sneered, “Besides, if I leave, who would correct all the ignorant fools who come through here raving about the view?”

    Bob sighed, “Just thought I’d offer. We’ll leave you alone now. Oh, and by the way, Ted, you’re sitting awfully close to the edge…”

    * * *

    As Bob and Lisa hiked back down the trail, they were delighted to see legions of fireflies flickering lazily between the trees, and the gathering mist in the moonlight cast a surreal look to the woods that sloped away in the distance.

    Meanwhile, up on the peak, Ted caught two crickets and a firefly of his own. They tasted nearly identical.

    Reply
  3. Chris Williams

     

    I’m glad to see you taking this project on. I just finished reading Becky Garrison’s take on the “New Atheists” about 2 weeks ago. Her work is great, but very satirical, as you might expect from a professional satirist. The 20 somethings small group I am a part of could use a well-informed yet accessibly readable resource to offer people on the our nearby campus (U of Montana).

    Looking forward to reading!

    Reply

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