Review Article The Plight Of The New Atheism: A Critique -- By: Gary R. Habermas

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 51:4 (Dec 2008)
Article: Review Article The Plight Of The New Atheism: A Critique
Author: Gary R. Habermas


Review Article
The Plight Of The New Atheism: A Critique

Gary R. Habermas*

* Gary R. Habermas is distinguished research professor and chair of the department of philosophy and theology at Liberty University, 1971 University Blvd., Lynchburg, VA 24502.

Contemporary trends, both popular and scholarly, have had a significant impact on religious issues over recent decades. There was the New Age Movement. Overlapping with that and extending far past it is Postmodernism. Now the New Atheism is in full bloom. Although the overall percentages are fairly small, some polls tell us that atheism is on the increase in the United States, especially among teenagers and young adults.

As many writers have noted, this last trend has manifested some very interesting characteristics. For example, leaders of the New Atheism such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris have been referred to as atheistic evangelicals, secular fundamentalists, preachers, and so on. These epitaphs are apparent references to the zeal, fervor, and bombastic methods with which they not only write, but perhaps apply even more to their public presentations, debates, and interviews.

Some have charged that their methods are more bombastic than they are substantial. Interestingly, these critiques are sometimes offered not only by conservatives, but also by the atheists’ secular peers.1 Their “converts” perhaps come more frequently, not from the rigorous intellectual arguments that are offered, but because of all their public and written vehemence. In other words, there are signs that the movement may be miles wide but only inches deep, at least intellectually.2

To be sure, the New Atheists can be excellent writers and, unquestionably, they sell myriads of books, a fair indication of their popularity. They can also appear as masters of hyperbole, while seemingly attempting to incite the masses with diatribe and flowery wording, seemingly designed to invoke frothed-up responses among their followers. On some occasions, it would appear that the result is the exultant fist-pumping that issues forth into a “yeah … yeah” sort of rant amongst their followers, not unlike what one might hear at a sporting event ... or a church.

Consider the following comment by Hitchens: “Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar.”3 Such comments might make one stop and think, or laugh, or even marvel at the use of the wr...

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