Dinesh D’Souza is right.
First, some facts from Berkowitz:
According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, in less than 12 months atheism’s newest champions have sold close to a million books. Some 500,000 hardcover copies are in print of Richard Dawkins’s “The God Delusion” (2006); 296,000 copies of Christopher Hitchens’s “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” (2007); 185,000 copies of Sam Harris’s “Letter to a Christian Nation” (2006); 64,100 copies of Daniel C. Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon“; and 60,000 copies of Victor J. Stenger’s “God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does not Exist” (2007).
Now, let’s start ripping apart Berkowitz’s arguments:
Unlike the Enlightenment atheism of the 18th century, which arose in a still predominantly religious society and which frequently went to some effort to disguise or mute its disbelief, the new new atheism proclaims its hatred of God and organized religion loudly and proudly from the rooftops.
“Hatred of God?” How could any of the atheists hate something they don’t believe even exists?
So Messrs. Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and the rest have some fair claim to novelty. But not where it really counts. They contend that from the vantage point of the 21st century, and thanks to the moral progress of mankind and the achievements of natural science, we can now know, with finality and certainty, that God does not exist and organized religion is a fraud.
But [Hitchens’] arguments do not come close to disproving God’s existence or demonstrating that religion is irredeemably evil.
Not a single atheist says God does not exist. If they do, they’re mistaken. Even Richard Dawkins titled one of the chapters in The God Delusion: “Why There Almost Certainly is No God.” God is improbable. Highly unlikely. But God is not completely out of the picture, even in these atheists’ eyes. You can’t prove a negative.
D’Souza sees the problems as well:
While accusing atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens of setting up a straw man, Berkowitz begins with a couple of Goliath-size staw men of his own. He accuses the atheists of claiming that “we can now know, with finality and certainty, that God does not exist.” Of Christopher Hitchens he writes, “His arguments do not come close to disproving God’s existence or demonstrating that religion is irredeemably evil.” Actually none of the atheists claims that we know “with finality and certainty” that God does not exist. Dawkins and Hitchens merely proclaim God’s existence extremely improbable, and on this point Berkowitz has no answer. Moreover, Hitchens can easily satisy his thesis short of showing that religion is “irredeemably” evil. He merely has to show that it is mostly evil.
Berkowitz spends most of the article trashing Hitchens.
… yet Mr. Hitchens shows no awareness that his atheism, far from resulting from skeptical inquiry, is the rigidly dogmatic premise from which his inquiries proceed, and that it colors all his observations and determines his conclusions.
With that, he’s wrongly implying that atheism is a religion.
Nor is [Hitchens’] case bolstered by his observation that 20th-century totalitarianism took on many features of religion. That only brings home the need to distinguish, as Mr. Hitchens resolutely refuses to do, between authentic and corrupt, and just and unjust, religious teachings. And it begs the question of why the 20th-century embrace of secularism unleashed human depravity of unprecedented proportions.
Do all Christians agree on which religious teachings are authentic…? Since when is it incumbent upon Hitchens to separate what even theologians have problems doing?
As for the last sentence, you wonder whether Berkowitz has even read the books he criticizes. Secularism was not the cause of the death and destruction in many bad regimes. Most of the authors (Dawkins, Harris, etc.) address this issue in their books.
D’Souza finishes his article with the following (emphasis mine):
Eventually it becomes clear what Berkowitz is up to. He doesn’t particularly care about Christianity or even Judaism for that matter. He simply wants to unite Jews, Christians and atheists to fight “militant Islam” which for him seems to mean Islam in general. Now we see why his arguments in defense of theism are so bad. The whole project is political. I suspect that the atheists are laughing uproariously at Berkowitz’s sophistries, and I for one am on their side here. With friends like Berkowtiz [sic], does religion really need enemies?
I doubt there’ll be many pieces by D’Souza that atheists can appreciate, but this is definitely one of the better ones.
(Thanks to Colin for the link!)
[tags]atheist, atheism, Dinesh D’Souza, Peter Berkowitz, The New New Atheism, The Wall Street Journal, Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation, Daniel C. Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, Victor J. Stenger, God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does not Exist, Enlightenment, God, Christian[/tags]