I’d like to say a word about the so-called New Atheists, if I haven’t already mentioned it.
I think I’ve come up with a reason why the term exists at all. I was listening to a presentation by a couple of non-believers and one of them began with his opinion of the New Atheists and it moved into using Richard Dawkins as an example. For some, he seems strident. “They’re more in your face,” said John Loftus.
I don’t think that’s true. I think that Bertrand Russell, Henry Ford, or even P.T. Barnum would be perceived the same by modern audiences. The two presenters in question are Robert M. Price and John W. Loftus, both de-converted ministers. They both seemed to think that Dawkins has a very narrow perception of Christianity, that he doesn’t quite see the value of it.
If one considers that those accusing the New Atheists of being in your face are not the atheists in general, but rather Christians and those from Christian backgrounds, and not just being part of the religion but seriously involved in it, it throws a bit of light on the accusation. New Atheists are just like the Old Atheists. But some of them don’t dissect the gospels, some don’t speak directly of the positive effects of religion, therefore, they must be different. People feel insulted by them. Horreurs!
Perhaps I’ve read Dawkins and watched him speak more than they have. I have found him to be inordinately polite when it wasn’t necessary, and a little passionate at times. Contrast that with Price sitting back in a chair while being introduced, face blank, registering no emotion at all.
They are different types of people, as are we all. One must wonder if they see an evangelical preacher, waving his arms and strutting around the stage, do they say he’s strident too? In your face?
Dawkins has the upper hand. He can back up everything he says. Price and Loftus come at religion with a belief that flew away on close examination of the apologetics. Dawkins has science and rational discourse on his side – he can show the exact arguments why biblical arguments are impossible from the scientific point of view, while the defrocked preachers can show it from the incomprehensibility of the scriptural evidence.
We need both – each strength is another cog in the big wheel of knowledge. And these days, we can find much more information since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and so on, the translations of Egyptian and other historical languages – why, one might think that the ability to find so much information on the unreliability of the scriptures being so much better, we might have to call Loftus, Price, et. al. New Atheists, too.
And people change over time. I’m certainly not the person I was when I first realized at 17 that I was no longer a Catholic, or at 35, when I realized I wasn’t a believer at all. I used to think that one had to respect another’s beliefs. Now I understand that I might have to respect their right to believe, but that I have no reason to respect their beliefs unless they are worthy of respect. I also realize that religion cannot be ignored. We may live in a Christian culture, but we would rather live in a more accepting and tolerant culture, and we should work to achieve that goal.
Over the years I have gained much knowledge of the nature of the universe, the nature of religion, and the nature of mythology in general. When I first realized my atheism, I knew very little of that. Maybe those who today resist what they see as New Atheism will come to realize that it isn’t so bad to speak out passionately.