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 atheistnexus.org: “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.