Skip to comments.For Advent: Answering the New Atheism, Dawkins Dismantled
Posted on 11/30/2014 8:16:47 PM PST by Salvation
Answering the New Atheism
An Interview with Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker
Emmaus Road’s upcoming release critiques in detail Richard Dawkins’ best selling book, The God Delusion. In Answering the New Atheism: Dawkins Dismantled, coauthors Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker reveal the inconsistencies, factual errors, and faulty logic of Dawkins atheistic secularism – providing a cogent defense of the existence of God and the foundation for morality.
Answering the New Atheism: Dawkins Dismantled is timely given the rash of books promoting atheism – books that have confused many and even caused some to lose their faith. Whether or not they are familiar with Richard Dawkins, readers will acquire both a solid understanding of the claims of the new atheism and the arguments to counter them. Following is an interview with Hahn and Wiker on the importance of dismantling Dawkins’ arguments.
Atheism has been around for awhile. Why is a book responding to the atheistic world view important now, in 2008?
Atheism has indeed been with us a long time – if not throughout history, at least for several thousand years. That said, there’s been a recent aggressive assault on religion by prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. They are not particularly original – much of what they have to say was said with a lot more wit by the atheists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But they are more crudely belligerent and public about their animosity toward religion.
Part of what seems to have stirred them is the rise of radical Islam. Christianity has become quite timid and conciliatory in our culture, allowing atheism a comfortable berth. Muslims on the other hand, are anything but timid, and have a very active resentment toward Western secularized, liberal culture, especially insofar as it carries atheism within. Especially in Europe, atheists see a very religious Muslim population growing in their own backyard and they realize that, unlike Christians, Muslims will not tolerate atheism. American atheists are likewise worried. I think it is no accident that these atheist bestsellers started spinning off the press not long after 9/11. Whatever the cause, no one can doubt that atheists have launched a new assault on religion over the last five years.
While the caliber of their arguments is not very high, the sales of their books are. As a consequence, believers are becoming non-believers after reading the likes of Dawkins, Harris, Dennet, and Hitchens. To cite an example close to home, we know of students at Franciscan University of Steubenville whose faith was either lost or severely damaged by reading Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion – a disturbing effect that led us to write this book. Of all the atheists, Dawkins seems to be the most effective and famous; his books have been translated into multiple languages and have sold in the millions. That is why we felt pressed to respond to his arguments in particular.
What, if any, impact does atheism have on morality?
This is a question we deal with extensively in Answering the New Atheism: Dawkins Dismantled. The one area of originality with today’s atheists is their reliance on Darwinism, and that leads to an entirely different view of morality on their part, one that is completely antagonistic to Catholic natural law reasoning. This point cannot be stressed enough.
Whatever the merits of evolutionary theory in general – and they are significant and therefore need to be carefully considered by Catholics – the effect on morality is devastating. While everyone knows that Charles Darwin set forth his theory of evolution in The Origin of Species, few are aware that he gave an evolutionary account of morality in a book written about 10 years later called The Descent of Man.
In his Descent Darwin argued that moral traits are evolved traits; that is, they are just like the lengths of beaks or the different kinds of feather coloration in birds. There are as many different evolved moralities as there are beaks and feathers on birds. There is no "right" or "wrong," no single objective standard for the length of a bird beak, but only the one that helps a particular kind of bird survive under certain conditions. In the same way, there is no real right or wrong, no single objective standard of morality, but only the "moral" traits that help a particular kind of people survive under particular conditions. Just like any evolved trait, moralities change as conditions change.
Dawkins takes over Darwin’s account of morality, even while he admits that he doesn’t like the ultimate consequences. Dawkins rightly notes, if morality is based on evolution, then the only real rule is "survival of the fittest." That is a rather nasty rule, as the Nazis, who based their racial theories on Darwinism, all too clearly demonstrated. Survival of the fittest means extinction of the unfit, and that means eugenics.
The atheist Dawkins wants to reject a purely Darwinistic account of morality for something he calls "super niceness," but this ends up being an incoherent and equally dangerous substitute, as we make clear in our book. He would "nicely" allow abortion, euthanasia, and complete sexual libertinism. But the deeper problem with Dawkins’ "super niceness" is that, as he admits, it has no evolutionary support. Since he’s an atheist, it obviously has no divine or cosmic support. As a result, there is no reason that other atheists should not embrace the vicious law of evolutionary theory and live by a morality of the survival of the fittest.
The heart of the problem is this: Atheist evolutionism rejects the very notion that there is something permanent called "human nature." For Catholic natural law reasoning, all morality is rooted in the fact that man is not just another animal, but is made in the image of God. All moral distinctions are rooted in this one simple truth. Once this is given up, there is no reason not to treat human beings in the same way we treat other animals. As a consequence, medical doctors start acting like veterinarians, putting people down when they get old and bothersome.
Is it important for the average Catholic to have an understanding of atheism as presented by Dawkins and others? Why?
Yes, and we’ve written Answering the New Atheism for the average Catholic, matching Dawkins arguments one for one. A glance at the bestseller list allows us to see that atheism has become big business. The popularization of atheism means that bad arguments are floating around in the very air we breathe, and there is no doubt that Dawkins and his ilk mean to mass-produce unbelief.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear (see nos. 2088 and 2125 in particular), Catholics must prepare themselves against dangers to the faith, and that means against the very particular kinds of dangers that we are facing today. In our book we give Dawkins’ arguments and then dismantle them, take them apart piece by piece. Readers will know what he said and what’s wrong with it.
If a family member has been influenced by the writings of Dawkins and others, what can someone do to counter that influence?
Probably the most important thing is not to "attack" that person. It is likely that Dawkins’ greatest effect is on those whose faith is the least well formed, but who are intelligent. It won’t do, then, simply to say "Dawkins is evil!", snatch away his God Delusion and stuff pious material into his hands. That doesn’t answer the questions that Dawkins has raised. We think the best way is to take Dawkins seriously and meet him on his own grounds, showing how shakey those grounds ultimately are. That is what we have done in Answering the New Atheism. Since it is especially the late high school and college age crowd that is most likely to latch onto Dawkins, we especially urge parents to make our book available for any children within that range.
At the same time as the influence of atheism is growing, there also seems to be growth within Christian faiths, especially Catholic and Evangelical. Is our society becoming more polarized?
We’re not sure "polarized" is quite the right term. What we are seeing is the end product of a rather long process of secularization that began several centuries ago and is now coming to a head. Christian culture has become largely de-Christianized, and that has made serious Christians far more anxious about the atheistic roots of the new secular culture, and serious atheists far more anxious to be rid of the few remaining serious Christians.
What impact does this apparently growing appeal of atheism have in the media and in academia?
Not to be too politically incorrect, but the intellectual culture of both the media and academia is largely defined by Western secular liberalism, and has been for some time. Secular liberalism has long maintained a hegemony among the intellectual elite, and this has trickled down to the various media. The growing appeal of atheism is then, a result of their long-standing control of the intellectual culture and the ways that its opinions are disseminated. That atheism has become so popular is, we can be sure, a cause for celebration among them.
Reprinted with permission from the March/April 2008 issue of Lay Witness magazine. © 2008 Catholics United for the Faith / www.cuf.org
Advent series ping!
I always like to hear what Scott Hahn has to say. He is SUCH a good speaker. I see him sometimes on EWTN.
I don’t know and I don’t care.....
Couldn’t figure out how to weave my favorite atheist line in.
I am buying this book. Have a friend who is atheist and while we have interesting debates, I couod always use a good guide.
Here is the book summary per Wiki:
Dawkins writes that The God Delusion contains four “consciousness-raising” messages:
1. Atheists can be happy, balanced, moral, and intellectually fulfilled.
2. Natural selection and similar scientific theories are superior to a “God hypothesis”the illusion of intelligent designin explaining the living world and the cosmos.
3. Children should not be labelled by their parents’ religion. Terms like “Catholic child” or “Muslim child” should make people cringe.
4. Atheists should be proud, not apologetic, because atheism is evidence of a healthy, independent mind.
Dawkins instead takes issue with the theism present in religions like Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. The proposed existence of this interventionist God, which Dawkins calls the “God Hypothesis”, becomes an important theme in the book. He maintains that the existence or non-existence of God is a scientific fact about the universe, which is discoverable in principle if not in practice.
Dawkins summarises the main philosophical arguments on God’s existence, singling out the Argument from design for longer consideration. Dawkins concludes that evolution by natural selection can explain apparent design in nature.
He writes that one of the greatest challenges to the human intellect has been to explain “how the complex, improbable design in the universe arises”, and suggests that there are two competing explanations:
A hypothesis involving a designer, that is, a complex being to account for the complexity that we see.
A hypothesis, with supporting theories, that explains how, from simple origins and principles, something more complex can emerge.
This is the basic set-up of his argument against the existence of God, the Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit, where he argues that the first attempt is self-refuting, and the second approach is the way forward.
At the end of chapter 4, Why there almost certainly is no God, Dawkins sums up his argument and states, “The temptation [to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself] is a false one, because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable”.
In addition, chapter 4 asserts that the alternative to the designer hypothesis is not chance, but natural selection.
Dawkins does not claim to disprove God with absolute certainty. Instead, he suggests as a general principle that simpler explanations are preferable (see Occam’s razor), and that an omniscient or omnipotent God must be extremely complex. (Dawkins argues that it is logically impossible for a God to be simultaneously omniscient and omnipotent.) As such he argues that the theory of a universe without a God is preferable to the theory of a universe with a God.
Religion and morality
The second half of the book begins by exploring the roots of religion and seeking an explanation for its ubiquity across human cultures. Dawkins advocates the “theory of religion as an accidental by-product a misfiring of something useful” as for example the mind’s employment of intentional stance.
Dawkins suggests that the theory of memes, and human susceptibility to religious memes in particular, can explain how religions might spread like “mind viruses” across societies.
He then turns to the subject of morality, maintaining that we do not need religion to be good. Instead, our morality has a Darwinian explanation: altruistic genes, selected through the process of evolution, give people natural empathy. He asks, “would you commit murder, rape or robbery if you knew that no God existed?” He argues that very few people would answer “yes”, undermining the claim that religion is needed to make us behave morally.
In support of this view, he surveys the history of morality, arguing that there is a moral Zeitgeist that continually evolves in society, generally progressing toward liberalism. As it progresses, this moral consensus influences how religious leaders interpret their holy writings. Thus, Dawkins states, morality does not originate from the Bible, rather our moral progress informs what part of the Bible Christians accept and what they now dismiss.
The God Delusion is not just a defence of atheism, but also goes on the offensive against religion. Dawkins sees religion as subverting science, fostering fanaticism, encouraging bigotry against homosexuals, and influencing society in other negative ways. He is most outraged about the teaching of religion in schools, which he considers to be an indoctrination process. He equates the religious teaching of children by parents and teachers in faith schools to a form of mental abuse. Dawkins considers the labels “Muslim child” or a “Catholic child” equally misapplied as the descriptions “Marxist child” or a “Tory child”, as he wonders how a young child can be considered developed enough to have such independent views on the cosmos and humanity’s place within it.
The book concludes with the question whether religion, despite its alleged problems, fills a “much needed gap”, giving consolation and inspiration to people who need it. According to Dawkins, these needs are much better filled by non-religious means such as philosophy and science. He suggests that an atheistic worldview is life-affirming in a way that religion, with its unsatisfying “answers” to life’s mysteries, could never be.
An appendix gives addresses for those “needing support in escaping religion”.
While my own religion has changed quite a bit over the many years and often ventured into “agnostic,” it has never ventured into “atheism.” My near death experience in 1988 changed all that and brought me into being a Christian, but also understanding Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and many other religions. Once you experience Him first hand, there is no denying that God exists. In many ways, the physical body is more of an illusion than the human soul.
I’m not writing this to sell you my path or my own individual religion. Follow Jesus and live His teachings and you will find the same things I found. But do it your own way. I do not recommend a having a physical death experience in order to grow spiritually as I did.
For me, everything that Jesus taught is dead on accurate and explained my personal experience better than any other religion, but it did not discount the other religions. It took me to a higher level of understanding where they are all true. Yes, they all also have inaccuracies but those are very minor in comparison to the wisdom of understanding they provide.
First, my experience provided me with the knowledge and continued experience that my soul or spirit is a real physical tangible object that exists beyond my physical body. Note that I did not say separate from my physical body as it is not separate. My soul created and continues to create this physical body. It is far greater than the physical body and the physical body exists within my soul as long as it has life. (At its smallest point the human soul is about 30 ft in diameter and it expands the higher you go.)
Experiencing my soul allowed me to examine it in detail and apply the teachings of Jesus as an operating manual. Christianity is the best operating manual for the soul available. For me, this is not just theory, but a continued experience of my soul as a physical tangible object.
Upon perceiving my own soul, I began to perceive the souls of others. To know their thoughts and memories of past experiences. Differentiation between the thoughts and experiences of others and my own became very difficult and discernment was a difficult lesson to learn. It still continues to be a difficult lesson as the only way to stop experiencing the physical and emotional pain of others is to rise above it. How do you rise above it? Embrace Jesus which is what communion is all about.
That is where Jesus and the Holy Spirit come in. They teach us to rise above the level of consciousness at which all our problems were created and exist. For me, this is all science as I see the immediate impact upon my soul as I rise and descend in my own awareness. There is direct cause and effect and a resulting change in perception of reality.
Sin is real. I define sin as anything that creates an obstacle to Love within my soul. Why is Love so important? It’s the glue that holds the soul together so it can rise to higher levels. Love serves as the cement that holds the foundation of our soul together so it becomes as solid as a rock in order to build higher by growing. That’s why Jesus taught what he did.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. Why? Loving God for the soul is very similar to a plant loving sunlight. It can’t grow without it. Loving God is what causes our souls to grow to higher and higher levels of awareness and understanding. Once you are “Born of the Spirit,” you begin to perceive from your soul or spirit rather than just your five physical senses. This creates a new reality. The reality that I described above in that you now perceive your own soul and the souls of others in detail. My Father’s Mansion has many rooms and you can grow to traverse and perceive them as you grow. This is why Jesus used the parables of seeds many times.
The second commandment by Jesus, Loving thy neighbor as thyself is the process of removing the obstacles to Love from our souls which are the anchors or ballast that inhibit us from doing a better Job at the first commandment. It’s the cleansing process so more Love can exist in our souls which allows us to grow closer to God. (Commandment #1) It really is that simple.
When this is experienced, there is a completely new science of understanding how God works by understanding the anatomy & physiology of the human soul. Yes, the human soul has an anatomy & physiology just as the physical body does. When you understand it, you then understand how Jesus performed His miracles. They are natural attributes of the higher level of consciousness attained by growing and becoming “One with Jesus,” just as He became “One with His Father.” This is why Jesus said, “The things that I do and even more you too shall do in Me.”
The only way you can fully understand the soul or spirit is to experience it as without the experience there is no point of reference for gaining understanding. To experience it, you must go within.
Let Dawkins and the others go their own way and you follow your own journey. It’s as though they are sitting in a house and arguing that there is nothing that exists outside their house. How can you argue with them unless you venture outside your own house. Follow your religion and experience the world of the soul. It’s far more complex than the depths of the oceans or the outer realms of space.
Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart says that Dawkins “devoted several pages of The God Delusion to a discussion of the ‘Five Ways’ of Thomas Aquinas but never thought to avail himself of the services of some scholar of ancient and mediaeval thought who might have explained them to him ... As a result, he not only mistook the Five Ways for Thomas’s comprehensive statement on why we should believe in God, which they most definitely are not, but ended up completely misrepresenting the logic of every single one of them, and at the most basic levels.”
Also one can now use science and in a special way, Biblical archaeology science which with new discoveries, help bring the Bible to life each day.
Please see post number 10. Thank-you!
With new discoveries that go on in the Holy Land, those with faith have a science-based back-up.
Yes, this is very important. But there is another science of understanding human consciousness and the human soul that Jesus was trying to teach us. It is as real as the historical archaeology.
The problem with knowledge is that it often becomes a possession just as wealth. We build an identity around it and become full of ourselves, leaving no room for God.
It is only when we become the empty vessel that we have room for God.
*8It is only when we become the empty vessel that we have room for God.**
Still, it cannot hurt to have those science discoveries in the Holy Land serve as needed proof that the Holy Bible is not only based on faith but also in history, and learning about Bible history in that way helps us to get closer to God.
BOTH our points are GOOD.
Yes, I agree.
I “know” based upon experiencing His Love and knowing Him personally as He is already here. While the historical facts are icing on the cake, they are not what sustains us. His Love sustains us.
It is an ever increasing path of always seeking to be closer to those whom you Love. We must always Love God first and foremost.
That is why I love Bible history stuff because they are the legacy of God’s great love.
Ping for later
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