Posted by: andreaheyse | April 12, 2009

The New Atheist response to Beattie…what response?

So when we were discussing Tina Beattie’s book The New Atheists: The Twilight of Reason and the War on Religion I asked if anyone knew the new atheist’s response to her book (or others like it for that matter) because I had yet to find what they thought. I decided to embark on a little investigation to see if I could come across any kind of new atheist response but surprise, surprise…I have been unsuccessful in the search thus far. If anyone has come across anything, please post it because I’m still interested in learning more. 

The closest thing I found was a post on RichardDawkins.net (a site where I’ll have to admit, has proven to be very useful in finding info for both sides of the discussion). The post was by some guy pen-named louis14 who posted part of a BBC radio transcript where they discussed the new atheists a bit, specifically Tina Beattie’s book and the new atheists on her cover since she was one of the guests that day (here’s the full post: http://richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=34525&start=0&st=0&sk=t&sd=a ).

Right off the bat, he criticized her by saying that she was too wordy with a weak argument. The host of the program asked Beattie why she thought “that the ‘new atheism’ is in some sense a smoke-screen for a withering of democracy.” She responded by saying that intelligent Brits and Americans project the problems of post-modernity onto religion. Beattie said that they use religion as an excuse that “allows us to escape our own responsibility for a burgeoning global climate of violence and confrontation.” 

I agree with her in that statement. One thing I’ve noticed in most of the new atheist arguments, besides the fact that they all use the same arguments, is that they too easily push everything off on religion, very rarely considering other factors. I agree with them, that religion has been a factor, but there is a great deal more that has gone into the conflicts over the last few centuries than just religion. If my memory serves me correctly, Beattie outlines that pretty specifically in her book as well. 

Beattie also said that “Atheism can be a very powerful form of human reflection and belief; an inspiring form. But I’m not sure that the new atheists I’m talking about have that imaginitive capacity to think about atheism in those terms,” which I very much agree with her on. The new atheists focus so much on attacking religion and making sure they present it as a ridiculous concept that anyone in their right mind would reject that they discredit their form of atheism in the process. Although they bring up some interesting points, they have yet to really convince me through their malicious and sarcastic rhetoric. It would do them some good to engage in conversation (more so critique) with any kind of religion other than the fundamentalists they always seem to ‘easily’ peg into a hole. I dare them to respond to someone like Beattie. They will have to take other forms of argument seriously if they want me to take them seriously in return.

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Responses

  1. It’s interesting to wonder why, of all the human factors, religion is the one which most often is blamed for the problems of the world in an umbrella-fashion. I was thinking a bit today about a book: “The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History”. The author, Michael Hart, lists Isaac Newton in the second place spot, but otherwise the top 6 spots in his list contain 5 founders of religions. Part of this must be historical memory of how influential religion once was before disestablishmentarianist movements. However, I think it is also a sign of how utterly religion prevades society even today – obviously by virtue of religion’s claim to have “The Answer”.

    I don’t necessarily think that atheism cares whether people believe in God or not, but whether belief in gods affect how people live their lives and make judgments. I guess this comes from the mistaken assumption that if a person embraces a philosophy which proclaims an “Answer”, this Answer -must- define all decisions. But Dawkins, in essence, claims to have an Answer in evolution, and yet has little reservation about abandoning it in favour of moral compulsions when he comes to issues of social Darwinism etc. I’m shocked that atheists can understand how religious people just as quickly compromise their devotion to their Answer when the situation calls for it.


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