The arrogance of the new atheists

Columnist (and atheist) S.E. Cupp dissects the “neo-atheists” in a piece in today’s New York Daily News — and I think she says what a lot of us have been thinking about this phenomenon:

So often it seems like a conversation ender, not a conversation starter. And the loudest voices of today’s militant atheism, for all their talk of rational thought, don’t seem to want to do too much thinking at all. As James Wood wrote in The New Yorker, “The new atheists do not speak to the millions of people whose form of religion is far from the embodied certainties of contemporary literalism. Indeed, it is a settled assumption of this kind of atheism that there are no intelligent religious believers.”

What spiritual quest are they on, except to put an abrupt end to those like my father’s? For them, the science is settled, the data are conclusive and the book (no, not the Good Book) has been written. Time for everyone else to pack up and move on to other business, like, presumably, accumulating wealth and fulminating at the sight of the nearest Christmas tree.

The militant atheist wants nothing more than to spoil the believer’s spiritual journey. That’s both meanspirited and radically unenlightened.

Though more than 95% of the world finds some meaning in faith, God-hating comic Bill Maher shrugs this off as a “neurological disorder.” His version of a quest for knowledge was a series of scathing jokes at the faithfuls’ expense in the documentary “Religulous.”

The latest incarnation of the thought-eschewing secularist is American Atheists spokesman Dave Silverman, who sums up the argument this way on “Religion is my bitch.” He has also tweeted, “Yes it is a myth. Deal with it. All delusions are myths.”

It’s these snarky and condescending rejections, not of faith itself but of those who profess it, that reflect a total unwillingness to learn something new about human nature, the world around us and even of science itself. While the neoatheists pay only cursory attention to dismantling arguments for God, they spend most of their time painting his followers as uncultured rubes. The fact that religion has inexplicably persisted, even despite Copernicus, Darwin and the Enlightenment, doesn’t seem to have much sociological meaning for them.

The truth is, folks like Maher and Silverman don’t want to know about actual belief – in fact, they are much more certain about the nature of the world than most actual believers, who understand that a measure of doubt is necessary for faith. They want to focus on the downfall of a gay pastor or the Nativity scene at a mall.

I wonder what they’d say to someone like Immaculee Ilibagiza, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide who says that her faith in Jesus Christ got her through 91 days of hiding in a 3×4 foot bathroom while her family was murdered outside. Would they tell her she was crazy? Delusional? To just deal with it? I would hope not – but I am not sure.

Read more.


  1. As Peter Kreeft says in one of his online talks, to be an atheist is to be a snob.

    Approximately 99% of all the people who have ever lived have believed in some sort of a god or gods – and this group includes almost all of the wisest people who have ever written.

    Therefore the atheist must regard essentially all of humanity as either dupes of a massive con game or fools addicted to folly in the area of their lives of most concern to them.

  2. Mr Flapatap says:

    It takes more “faith” to be an atheist than a believer as they are the closed-minded ones too eager to deny the existence of something without being able to prove it, especially since it forces them to come up with all sorts of outlandish theories to “explain” the elegance and precision of the universe (e.g., an infinite number of different universes outside of our realm that we will never be able to discover). It has been my experience with most atheists that I have met that their real issue is not the existence of God but what His existence really means and what it conveys. Most times their argument truly boils down to “…but I want to get l–d!”

    I have some respect for agnostics who will admit that they do not really know but just want to deny that God wants to have a relationship with His creation (which still takes away our purpose).

  3. The militant atheist isn’t an a-theist at all, but an anti-theist. They aren’t without a god. They think more about God and religion than I do.

  4. This is really a good article and there’s a lot I could comment on. The statement that struck me the most was this one:

    “The truth is, folks like Maher and Silverman don’t want to know about actual belief – in fact, they are much more certain about the nature of the world than most actual believers, who understand that a measure of doubt is necessary for faith. They want to focus on the downfall of a gay pastor or the Nativity scene at a mall.”

    This is precisely why dialogue with these sorts of atheists (“new” atheists, as the author of this article describes them) is absolutely pointless. There is really nothing that can be done.

    Ratzinger, in his book Introduction to Christianity (probably my favorite and most influential books… don’t let the title fool you, it is NOT a mere introduction to Christianity, it is MUCH more), asserts that the commonality between the believer and the non-believer is doubt, if each does not hide from themselves and from the truth of their being.

    That ‘if’ is very important.

    An excerpt from Ratzinger about belief, nonbelief, and doubt:

    “Just as we have already recognized that the believer does not live immune to doubt but is always threatened by the plunge into the void, so now we can discern the entangled nature of human destinies and say that the nonbeliever does not lead a sealed-off, self-sufficient life, either. However vigorously he may assert that he is a pure positivist, who has long left behind him supernatural temptations and weaknesses and now accepts only what is immediately certin, he will never be free of the secret uncertainty about whether positivism really has the last word…

    ..Just as the believer knows himself to be constantly threatened by unbelief, which he must experience as a continual temptation, so for the unbeliever faith remains a temptation and a threat to his apparently permanently closed world. In short, there is no escape from the dilemma of being a man. Anyone who makes up his mind to evade the uncertainty of belief will have to experience the uncertainty of unbelief…

    …In other words, both the believer and the unbeliever share, each in his own way, doubt and belief, IF they do not hide from themselves and from the truth of their being.”

    -Introducion to Christianity, 45-46

    From here, Ratzinger makes a very compelling case for belief. But it rests entirely on that ‘if.’ If people, like these “new” atheists, do not accept the truth of their being (that is, if they refuse to recognize that they cannot have one hundred percent certainty in their unbelief), then there can be no dialogue. No real discussion.

    In these folks, there is no real desire for truth. To desire truth is to be open to something else. Maybe you think that your beliefs are the truth, which is fine and good… But if you are not open to the possibility that you are wrong, then you really can’t love the truth. You love your beliefs. Nothing more.

    It takes a great humility to love and desire the truth, whatever that may be. And I firmly believe that dialogue and conversion can only take place within this scope. Dialogue with atheists, dialogue with Protestants, dialogue even within different “factions” within the Church.

    If there is no love and desire for the truth, there is no humility, and one denies part of what it means to be human.

  5. I do find it interesting that “militant Muslims” blow stuff up, and “militant Christians” shoot doctors, while “militant atheists” write strongly worded letters to The Guardian.



  1. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    RT @TopsyRT: New post: the arrogance of the new atheists

  2. RT @TopsyRT: New post: the arrogance of the new atheists

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