The New Atheists: Logical or Insane?


I have a bone to pick with Christopher Hitchens. Not just Hitchens, but with all the militant atheists currently in vogue. Like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. I single out Hitchens because of his statement “atheism is a necessary condition for the emancipation of the mind.” What??

All of these writers work from a false dichotomy. They insist that belief in God makes a person, at best, irrational, and at worst, intolerant and even murderous. They draw a line and insist we make a choice – either “rational atheism” or “irrational belief.” There is no third choice, no complexity to the question, no paradoxical exchange between the two poles. Just a black and white duality.

I would love the opportunity to question one of these guys (notice they are all white males. As one of those myself, that gives me the right to criticize them as such, as I understand the rules of political correctness.) Given that opportunity, I would ask him, “If God doesn’t exist, then what are you getting so worked up about?” As the philosopher Sam Keen says, “It makes no logical or linguistic sense to affirm or deny the existence of an infinite, supernatural God.” At least the theists in this country, which as I understand comprise ninety plus percent or so of the population, project their values onto something they believe in. Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens would have us buy into their psychological projection against something that they say doesn’t exist. Since all three of them take such pride in their coherent, logical arguments, I would ask them, how logical is that? Railing against something that you say doesn’t exist? Give me a break. What are these guys so afraid of?

Our faith, Unitarian Universalism, is positioned beautifully to transcend the false dichotomy these guys present. At our best, we offer a community where people are welcome whether they are atheists, theists, agnostics, or apatheists (people that don’t think the issue matters or just don’t care. That’s me, if you’re at all interested.)   The problem is, as a faith tradition, we don’t always do a very good job of transcending the “God” issue. I guess I’m guilty of this also, because I’m talking about it now. Sorry about that.

I’ll finish this with a quote by Joseph Campbell that contains wisdom, I think, for our faith tradition and for our world. “God is a thought, God is an idea, but its reference is to something that transcends all thinking. I mean, he’s beyond being, beyond the category of being or nonbeing. Is he or is he not? Neither is nor is not. Every god, every mythology, every religion, is true in this sense: it is true as metaphorical of the human and cosmic mystery.”

Thanks for allowing me to rant. Differing opinions welcome.



About lfhoward

Christian Universalist minister, religious gadfly
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