by Denyse O'Leary
While some clergy are content to reassure their congregations that going along with materialism (especially Darwinism) is okay, many thoughtful Christians and Muslims are getting the picture pretty fast. The threat is not an intellectual one, but a political one.
Now despite the fact that ths book is mainly philosophy, Dawkins is not a philosopher (he's a biologist). Even taking this into account, however, much of the philosophy he purveys is at best jejune. You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores; the fact is (grade inflation aside) many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class. This, combined with the arrogant, smarter-than-thou ('thou' being believers in God) tone of the book can be annoying. I shall put irritation aside, however and do my best to take Dawkinsâ€™ main argument seriously.
The boredom and lack of defensiveness on the part of Christian philosophers is not too surprising, considering that - as has been widely noted - the anti-God campaign has not come up with a single new idea of any substance.
(Note: The whole of Plantinga's comments will be available at Books and Culture in due course.)
But one thing the anti-God campaign has come up with is the desire for new rules to restrict religious believers. As Sam Schulman notes in "Without God, Gall Is Permitted" (Wall Street Journal ),
What is new about the new atheists? It's not their arguments. Spend as much time as you like with a pile of the recent anti-religion books, but you won't encounter a single point you didn't hear in your freshman dormitory. It's their tone that is novel. Belief, in their eyes, is not just misguided but contemptible, the product of provincial minds, the mark of people who need to be told how to think and how to vote--both of which, the new atheists assure us, they do in lockstep with the pope and Jerry Falwell.
For them, belief in God is beyond childish, it is unsuitable for children. Today's atheists are particularly disgusted by the religious training of young people--which Dr. Dawkins calls "a form of child abuse." He even floats the idea that the state should intervene to protect children from their parents' religious beliefs.
Schulman is unsparing in his description of the truncated sort of literature that this new generation of atheists produces.
Tobias Jones writes in The Guardian that the campaign is not merely authoritarian but totalitarian:
There's an aspiring totalitarianism in Britain which is brilliantly disguised. It's disguised because the would-be dictators - and there are many of them - all pretend to be more tolerant than thou. They hide alongside the anti-racists, the anti-homophobes and anti-sexists. But what they are really against is something very different. They - call them secular fundamentalists - are anti-God, and what they really want is the eradication of religion, and all believers, from the face of the earth.
Well, yes. Given that materialist atheists do not believe in free will, they have nothing to lose by attempting to simply force people to do what they want. Or use eugenics for the purpose. The thing to see here is that people who do not believe in free will do usually enjoy power and its uses.
For that matter, Dinesh D'Souza comments that, generally speaking, materialist atheism has been a much better recipe for mass murder in recent history than has any form of religious violence or persecution:
It is strange to witness the passion with which some secular figures rail against the misdeeds of the Crusaders and Inquisitors more than 500 years ago. The number sentenced to death by the Spanish Inquisition appears to be about 10,000. Some historians contend that an additional 100,000 died in jail due to malnutrition or illness.
These figures are tragic, and of course population levels were much lower at the time. But even so, they are minuscule compared with the death tolls produced by the atheist despotisms of the 20th century. In the name of creating their version of a religion-free utopia, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong produced the kind of mass slaughter that no Inquisitor could possibly match. Collectively these atheist tyrants murdered more than 100 million people.
But for people who believe that humans are "a mere grab bag of atomic particles", accusations of violence against religious groups are probably only talking points anyway.
Slowly, those who believe in a non-materialist universe are beginning to see that they have more in common with each other, despite differences in the specifics of their beliefs, than they do with the materialists. Muslim intellectual and ID enthusiast Mustafa Akyol observes:
Said Nursi, in the 1950s, foresaw an alliance between Islam and Christianity against materialism. He prophetically wrote, "A tyrannical current born of naturalist and materialist philosophy will gradually gain strength and spread at the end of time, reaching such a degree that it denies God. ... Although defeated before the atheistic current while separate, Christianity and Islam will have the capability to defeat and rout it as a result of their alliance" (Nursi, Letters, s. 77-78). Half a century after Nursi, the stage for that alliance is set.
Intellectual Muslims, fed up with the pathological anti-Western hatred of the radicals who defame Islam by their violent acts, are seeking the right way to express and stand for their faith and identity in the modern world.
Intellectual Christians have already found that way. They encountered materialism before we did, because it grew right in the heart of Christendom. They have been standing against it for several decades.
Akyol is perceptive in seeing that materialists use Western Christian secularism - which originated in a desire not to violate the conscience of others - to make war on all spiritual traditions.
People from the great religious traditions of the East are also beginning to see what is at stake.
One problem that we face in the West today, however, is that many Christians, unlike those of whom Akyol speaks, have simply accommodated to materialism, and to Darwinism as its creation story.
Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O'Leary (www.designorchance.com) is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), an overview of the intelligent design controversy. She was named CBA Canada's Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of the forthcoming The Spiritual Brain (Harper 2007).
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