***UPDATE***: A few more responses to your questions are below. As for Christopher Hitchens’ publisher’s non-use of materials, BG says this:
Thomas Nelson [BG’s publishers] required that writers must obtain permission for anything over 25 words. Christopher Hitchens’ publisher sent me a letter denying me permission to use any material from “God is Not Great.”
After I posted the interview with Becky Garrison (BG) about her new book The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail: The Misguided Quest to Destroy Your Faith, you all had a lot of questions for her.
I posed your questions to BG. Her responses are below:
What did you specifically expect Dennett to get from N.T. Wright, Jürgen Moltmann, or Walter Bruggeman that would relate to what he was talking about?
BG: I listed these three men because they are three of the leading theological thinkers alive today – I would expect that someone who debates the existence of God to at least engage with the leading thinkers on this topic. After all, these are the same dudes who slam Christians (and rightly so) for using shoddy scientific research to launch, say, Creationism museums.
Why did she ignore the work of serious atheist scholars and philosophers instead?
BG: I did not engage the “serious” atheists because my task was critiquing the works of four authors – Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens.
What I would really like is an answer to a question that Hemant asked but didn’t get a real answer to, which is where Harris said anything like “an event such as 9/11 proves there is no God.”
How about a citation of the source, instead of criticizing him for the one part of an article that he didn’t write (the headline, as Karen pointed out)?
BG: I noticed someone asked me to cite Harris saying there is no God – this should suffice [link goes to print mode]. I have seen similar variants of this line of thinking.
[From Hemant: I pointed out that Harris never says there is no God in this article. BG’s response was as follows:]
This statement which Harris quotes in numerous other publications could easily lead one to conclude that he believes there is no God. However, I find this to be a rather moot point – if any of these guys do believe in God, they have a very odd way of showing it.
What are some examples where you found the “New Atheists” to be just plain factually wrong?
BG: Throughout the book I note where I cited numerous instances where I feel they reach their conclusions based on erroneous information – here are a few examples:
- using Medieval theological theories that have seen been refined (and in some cases disproved) by contemporary scholars
- blaming religion for the cause of “all wars,” a blanket statement that ignores the violence done by secular extremists (yes, I agree Christians can be just as guilty of dismissing violence done in the name of “God.”)
- labeling Martin Luther a nebulous humanist, noting that his beliefs are influenced by Janism and not Christianity. My late father was an Episcopal priest and a civil rights leader, and from all accounts of my childhood and stories I’ve heard since then, this was a movement largely influenced by the historic black churches.
Skim my endnotes and you’ll find a range of scholars who point out the illogic in their arguments. I admit in my book that these guys are brilliant in their respective disciplines — No question about it. But when they venture into the religious realm, they fail to apply their rigorous scholarship to the topic of religion. My favorite quote is from Terry Eagleton: “Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.”
BG: Amusing. But not as funny as say Landover Baptist Church.
The question is: aren’t you amping up the rhetoric yourself? You sound shrill and unnuanced. Even more so than those you seem to deride. What good are you doing for your part of this conversation that you condemn?
BG: People tend not to like it when their sacred cow gets skewered. As some of your posters have demonstrated, they can moo very loudly. Does this mean they can dish it out but they can’t take it. Bear in mind, the majority of quotes I cite slamming Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens came from other atheists. What they are missing is that throughout the book I chide Christians for giving the New Atheists plenty of fodder. Also, I make suggestions for where we can try and seek common ground in our shared humanity.
I don’t understand why calling God an abortionist is offensive. “Abortion” as a medical term covers both elective abortions and miscarriages. If we are to believe that God has a hand in what happens in the world, the he would have a hand in the many, many miscarriages that happen every year, and over time has had a hand in way, way more abortions than any Planned Parenthood. Do you, Becky, care to elaborate on why this is offensive?
BG: Calling God an abortionist is indeed inflammatory when one considers how this term has been used by family values crowd to garner support and raise funds for their respective organizations. Also, saying that God has a controlling hand in the world to the point where He controls individual miscarriages is an overtly simplistic and childlike view of God that doesn’t reflect the fullness of the faith.
Name a name of a single atheist who truly believes Darwin to be anyone or anything other than a scientist who popularized evolution.
BG: I don’t know what is in anyone’s heart – I am responding to how their rhetoric comes across to someone on the outside looking in. This is similar to how I know many atheists depict (and at times misinterpret) the teachings of Christianity because of some inflammatory statements made by select Christians. I get the anger here on some level – the focus of my work has been on encouraging Christians to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ instead of the whims of the Republican Party, Dr. Dobson, Bishop Spong or whoever use people set up as their ultimate authority. Throughout my book I freely admit those places where Christians have given the New Atheists plenty of fodder. I also make suggestions for places where we can come to areas of mutual understanding.
I can buy that there are atheists who would prefer if we lived in a world that didn’t believe in the supernatural. I, for one, think it would be pretty awesome. However, I am curious how prefering a godless world (if indeed these four men would prefer one; I will trust your word, Becky) means they have anything in common with a group that probably would prefer if everyone believed in a god. Two groups may have similar ideas (everyone should believe what I do) but that does not mean they have identical means of attempting this, or, indeed, that they are both actually attempting mass conversion. So, I ask you, Becky, how is writing books and articles, and occasionally engaging in debates only viewable on YouTube, trying to remove your right to believe? Or is the stand you reference simply mean that you are annoyed they make their ideas and arguments public?
BG: Again, I am not criticizing all atheists (a point that seems lost on the majority of the posters) just four New Atheists – and as noted most of the commentary I used against came from fellow atheists not Christians. I find that their rhetoric and desire for a godless world mirrors the rumblings one heard during the mid-seventies that led to the formation of the Moral Majority and the rise of the Religious Right.
[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian, Christianity, Jesus[/tags]