Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The "Knowledge" of the Atheists

Fr. Edward Oakes SJ, on the recent spate of books espousing atheism:

...Sales are solid, book readings are sold out, and their authors grace the highbrow talk shows and op-ed pages in prestigious newspapers and periodicals. But their arguments are shopworn, stale hand-me-downs and threadbare heirlooms inherited from an era that was fading away even before the French Revolution had made the connection between atheism and violence clear to any fair observer. Yet these books read as if they came from authors who had never heard of the Reign of Terror or Robespierre.

It is this blinkered ahistorical myopia that makes reading these books such a surreal experience. For like a “red thread” running through all their other arguments, each book has one central claim: Belief in God causes violence. The obvious corollary to this thesis is almost too absurdly risible to merit formulation, and some authors are just coy (or embarrassed) enough not to say it out loud; but others are bolder and shout it from the rooftops: If only atheism would take hold as the majority view throughout the globe, humans would lose their propensity for violence, lion would nestle beside the lamb, children would regain their long-lost happiness, swords would magically turn into plowshares, churches would empty and the resultant collapse in the market-price for incense would alone reverse global warming. Richard Dawkins, for example, opens his recent book The God Delusion with this hilariously na├»ve depiction of the Eschaton that awaits us if only we would cast off the security blanket of religion...

On the basis of that "truth claim" alone, one could reject any proposal favoring atheism.

Distinctions, distinctions...I will agree with those who postulate that "....the perversion of religion causes violence...." or something like that.

THAT we can prove.

HT: First Things


John Foust said...

Well, when you define "religion" as that which promotes or contains all goodness and can't possible contain any evil, that's pretty much what you get. Have you never heard someone make the claim that some evil deed was due to the absence of belief inside the perpetrator?

The burden of proof is on the one making a claim. Who proclaims that if only religion would take hold as the view throughout the world, that humans would lose their propensity for violence, lion would nestle beside the lamb, children would regain their long-lost happiness, swords would magically turn into plowshares?

That'll be ten percent of your income, please.

How did Pascal know he was betting on the right God?

Dad29 said...

John, I know that the Catholic church has never made such a proclamation--because the Catholic church acknowledges Original Sin and its effects.

That's why I can say that 'a perversion of religion' can cause violence.

It ain't religion, perfectly practiced and observed, that does so--but very few 'perfectly practice' ANY religion.

Original Sin. Still the best excuse.

John McAdams said...

The burden of proof is on the one making a claim.

Yea, but saying God exists is a claim, and saying that He does not is a claim.

Your claims don't get any special advantages.

John Foust said...

Wow, McAdams, the next thing you'll be telling me is that all those hundreds of claims of the existence of God for Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. all throughout history are all true, too! And all those religions that came before in history, that millions believed, but aren't popular now - they must be false, right?

Dave said...

John Foust:

I'll readily admit that how God operates is a matter of belief. Either Jesus is God Incarnate, or he is not. Mohammed is the Last Prophet, or he is not. A small tribe of Semites was set aside by God as his chosen people, or it was not. Even the Eastern religions, which have more flexibility, have certain principles to which a believer must adhere. Eventually, we will all find out which one is right, right?

Now, as to whether such a God/Creator/Supreme Being exists: I'd say that if one were not a believer in religion, then Deism (a Creator who exists outside Space and Time, but does not interfere with natural affairs)or agnosticism are the only two honest positions.

Anonymous said...

Haha, sorry but get used to it. Nothing is sacred any longer. Your religious beliefs will be challenged in the same manner as any other mistakenly held belief. The times when blasphemy was punishable by death are gone and the times when blasphemy was rude are now ending. You must examine your beliefs honestly and skeptically. You may not like it but the world simply continues around those who stand still.

Dave said...


Spoken like a troll and a fanatic.