Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Faith of the New Atheist

Spreading a post-modern, judicious brand of unbelief.

I wonder if even 10% of the people who proclaim their belief in God actually do believe in God.  Daniel Dennett1

As one of the leaders of the New Atheism, Mr. Dennett wonders about belief. He questions whether those of us who claim belief in God really possess it. Perhaps we only believe in believing in God, because believing in God is a good thing. Believers, whether genuine or not, might scoff. They’ll likely become defensive or act offended. Personally, I’m glad Mr. Dennett brought it up. Religious people should ask themselves whether they believe, or only believe in believing. Christians need to have an answer as to exactly what they believe. And they ought to know why they believe it. Otherwise, the fair and reasonable wonderment of Daniel Dennett will cut a hole in their flimsy belief in believing.

Mr. Dennett stands with a few other authors and thinkers who have earned the title of leader among the New Atheists. They include Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and probably the most recognized in the pop-cultural movement, Richard Dawkins. Harris expresses worry about people “pretending to know things they clearly can’t know.” In my Christian experience, I’m somewhat concerned about that too. I don’t want to pretend to know what I should know definitively. That is, the truth of Scripture and the message of the Gospel. The late Christopher Hitchens believed “being an atheist is something you are, not something you do.” I hold to that faithful philosophy as well. Being a Christian is not something I do. It’s a much deeper reality than that. Dawkins states that “evolution led him to atheism.” I too was led (by the truth of the Word of God), and it took faith to follow. The New Atheist speaks with the same tenet of belief I hear from Christians.

The unbelievers are evangelical and their language proves it. They write books, and their books are not sloppy or lazy. These people are educated, practiced, and convinced. The movement spreads its message not only in bookstores and online, but on billboards. While religion may be banned in schools, there is no rule against atheistic ideals. At the college level, the ethics of atheism spread further and anchor deeper in the worldview of each generation.

The faithful atheist becomes a proselytizer. Rivaling Christianity in the number of organizations, the New Atheism offers endless websites, blogs, magazines, newsletters, social groups and clubs. The only organizational distinctions between the atheists and Christians are prayer groups and charities. Of course, some charitable organizations are supported by the New Atheists. At the top of the list is Planned Parenthood. Go figure. Also listed among charities likely to include atheist donors are helpful institutions like Doctors without Borders and The American Red Cross. Christians might support these, even join the cause, out of concern for humankind. But a line is drawn between the atheist donor and the Christian giver.
The atheist might say Christians crosses the line with a hidden agenda to use charity as a means for evangelism. But perhaps the same line, with an altered purpose, is crossed by the atheists. They’re aggressive in their quest to spread the message of New Atheism around the world.

What is the message? There is no hope, no promise, no eternal life. No God. So…if there is nothing, why the fervent hunt for converts? I think it goes back to what Dawkins said—that he was led by evolution. I’m not arguing evolution with him or anybody else—it’s pointless and useless. But I question if that’s actually what led him. Jumping the chasm to atheism isn’t a direct leap of the intellect. A brilliant, deity-denying atheist can follow Satan’s call as swiftly and unwittingly as a fool.  The end result is the same as it is for the one who believes that believing in God equates being redeemed by God. The faith of the New Atheist binds him to the unseen, completely disregarded, adamantly denied power of darkness. It’s the opposite of heeding God’s call, but it does take faith. And it does promise eternity. The kind not even a fool would want.

1] The Folly of Pretense, Daniel Dennett; The Guardian; July 16, 2009


  1. Believing there is a God is easy, and almost everyone believes that there is some greater power. Even the atheists are inclined to insert aliens or other universes in order to overcome the crazy notion that this all happened by chance. On the other hand Jesus gave us the parable of the seed. Believing in Jesus should drive us to be different, both by our own strength and the work of the Holy Spirit. How many are really bond slaves?