“Are Atheists the New Gays?” or Are Faith and Reason Incompatible?

Friends,

I haven’t yet figured out this fella named Dinesh D’Souza. He seems to be all the rage nowadays among certain wings of churchianity. However, I came across this little essay he wrote and published at Townhall.com and I thought it was a rather interesting piece: Are Atheists the New Gays? Mr D’Souza spends the majority of the short essay mocking Richard Dawkins (which is fine as far as it goes) because of his campaign to style the atheists of the world as the ‘new gays’ (as if atheists have to go through all the terrible ordeals that homosexuals have to go through, like getting married, and suchlike. Imagine how tough it must be for a homosexual atheist to get married! Just kidding. Sort of.) Anyhow…Mr D’Souza writes:

Dawkins has also suggested that atheists, like gays, should come out of the closet. Well, what if they don’t want to? I doubt that Dawkins would support “outing” atheists. But can an atheist “rights” group be far behind? Hate crimes laws to protect atheists? Affirmative action for unbelievers? An Atheist Annual Parade, complete with dancers and floats? Atheist History Month?

Honestly, I think the whole atheist-gay analogy is quite absurd. It seems strange for Dawkins to urge atheists to come out of the closet in the style of the all-American boy standing up on the dining table of his public high school and confessing that he is a homosexual? Dawkins, being British, doesn’t seem to recognize that this would not win many popularity contests in America.

He also writes about Dawkins’ ongoing attempts to re-tool the whole atheist movement by giving atheists a new name: Brights. (I like the name the Bible gives them in Psalm 14:1.) Whatever. Does it really matter to most atheists what they are called? Does the change of the moniker really change the identity or belief? Will putting a positive spin on un-belief really change the general conception of atheists in this world? (Uh, no?) I suspect that some atheists would be content to be called Happy, Beer Drinkers, Liberals, or Red Sox Fans.

But here’s the part of the essay I like the best because it addresses some of those assumptions that people make that really irritate me. Mr D’Souza wrote:

Basically Dawkins is saying if you are religious, then science is your enemy. Either you choose God or you choose science. No wonder that so many Americans say they are opposed to evolution. They believe that evolution is atheism masquerading as science, and Dawkins confirms their suspicions. Indeed Dawkins takes the same position as the most ignorant fundamentalist: you can have Darwin or you can have the Bible but you can’t have both.

Oh, but here, ironically, I agree with Dawkins far more than D’Souza. Fact is, you cannot have both Darwin and the Bible. This is a serious issue and for as much as D’Souza seems to be bright, he has missed the mark here. I might suggest there is a difference between what he refers to as an ‘ignorant fundamentalist’ and a ‘by faith we believe that God made what is seen out of what is unseen evangelical Christian’ who accepts Genesis as an accurate reflection of history, and the foundational substance for evangelical theology. In this case, I agree with Dawkins and, in my opinion, D’Souza loses big time precisely because he seems willing to exclude faith (I could be reading him incorrectly.) He evidently misunderstands the troubling tension that exists between these two fundamentally discordant world-views. I haven’t read enough of D’Souza’s work to know if this is what he thinks, but if I take that last sentence at face value, he has lost me as an audience already because I reject out of hand that faith and reason stand opposed to one another as Darwin and the Bible do.

One cannot have both. I agree with Dawkins 100% on this because the entire premise of Darwinism is that it does not need God, god, a god, Zeus, Thor, Mars, or gods to work (unless, of course, natural selection or selfish genes are divine.) Why would the Darwinist concede to theistic evolution when it would defeat the entire premise to Darwinian evolution? I’ll go ahead and say it for the record: You can’t have both. To my knowledge, Darwin made no concessions or room for the ‘theistic’ in theistic evolution. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

But I understand. There are certain people in the world of churchianity who are terrified to let Genesis stand on its own. They are horrified at the thought of being labeled unthinking rubes who rely on faith in order to believe in fairy-tales. They are terrified to admit to the unbelieving world that they have a simple faith and trust that ‘in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ Here’s what it is: They are so consumed with the idea of silencing the Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ of the world that they have to resort to arguments that lack faith instead of promote it lest they be accused of being little more than those dunderhead, ignorant fundamentalists who actually believe what Scripture says. In their attempts, in other words, to undo the ‘brightness’ of the Brights, they fall into the same error as the Brights by dismissing faith as compatible with reason and relying soley on reason to accomplish their task. It’s not that we (Christians) need Darwin and the Bible to be compatible, that’s not the error because we know they are not, and trying to make them compatible (through things like theistic evolution) does not advance the cause of Christ. (And this is a matter of the Cause of Christ.)

The error he makes, rather, is in assuming there is no compatibility between Faith and Reason, as if they stand in opposition to one another! Nothing could be further from the truth. This is D’Souza’s error. He evidently thinks that those who believe in Genesis do so without Reason, that they rely too much on faith (as if!), and that faith and Reason are incompatible (this was also Stephen Jay Gould’s error in Rocks of Ages.) Christians are not unthinking people, nor are we un-Reasonable people. The very fact that we cling to a book (that contains letters (and numbers), words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and books of varying style and genre) is evidence that we are thinking, Reasoning people. We do not serve a God who is unreasonable either. He tells us: Count the Cost of being a disciple. He says, “Come let us reason together” (Isaiah 1). Frankly, no reasonable person is going to become a disciple without counting the cost.

PT Forsyth wrote,

“If we have any sense of judgment we have much reason to fear. I cannot understand how any one with a sense of judgment can discard the atonement and live without terror. But, if we have the sense of the holy and the faith of judgment, the faith that Christ took God’s judgment on the world, we must be of good cheer. The world is judged for good and all in Christ. The last judgment is by. All our judgments are in its ascending wake” (The Justification of God, 221.)

Thus we come full circle. It is not the Christian who lives in opposition to reason, and it is not faith that stands opposed to reason, it is the atheist: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” Who is opposed to reason but the one who rejects God?

To be sure, I’ll need to read some of D’Souza’s work before I know if this is really how he thinks about us ‘ignorant fundamentalists.’ But for the time being, isn’t it rather ironic that ‘ignorant fundamentalists’ and Richard Dawkins actually agree on something?

jerry

UPDATE: I just came across this: Militant Atheism Gives Rise to Christian Apologetics.

“[I]f people look at science, they will find faith and they will find reason; the two cannot be incompatible and they have one author, namely God,” said Midland theologian Norbert Dickman, who was scheduled to present what the Christian response should be to the rise of the atheist voice at an Illinois church on Tuesday.

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  1. Friends,

    My friend Jon has written a brilliant piece in response to this essay. Click the link above to read his scintillating post on why it is actually the theist who is unreasonable contra my contention that it is the atheist who is unreasonable. Judging from the title of Jon’s post, he thinks I am harassing the atheist. But, if you read carefully, I was actually agreeing with the atheist in this case.

    jerry

  2. Jon

    No, you misunderstand. I’m agreeing with you that Christians aren’t unreasonable. I’m just saying that they don’t have very good reasons when it comes to their religion. The title is tongue-in-cheek, and refers to my own post, not yours.

    As for your post, which I really didn’t address in detail..

    I think you’re misusing terms to create ambiguity. The kind of reasoning that scientists use (well, really, everyone uses it in daily life; somehow it just gets suspended when the topic of religion comes up) is based upon observations which are open to anyone and can be accomplished by anyone.

    Religious propositions don’t (and can’t) use that method. You can’t show me beyond a reasonable doubt that your god is triune. That’s because revealed truths are inherently untestable, otherwise they wouldn’t need to be revealed. If it was obvious that there was a god, and that the god was triune, then we wouldn’t need to be told. We would already know it. And if we already knew it, we wouldn’t need to have faith.

    I don’t need religious faith to believe that if I throw a rock, it will fall to the ground. That’s obvious to anyone who’s ever thrown a rock. You can redefine the term faith and make it a more general word, but that doesn’t help your argument. The two sentences, “I have faith the rock will fall to the ground,” and “I have faith that God exists” are not, whatever you try to argue, the same kind of faith. One is experimentally obvious; just throw a rock. The other requires an extraordinary trust in other people. Specifically, it requires trust that the people who claim all of these things about spirits and gods know what they’re talking about. That’s the kind of faith I suspect D’Sousza is talking about. And it has nothing to do with common sense, common reasoning, or rationality. It’s something you believe in spite of those things.

  3. Jon,

    I don’t disagree with you that the reasons you posted are bad reasons for ‘believing.’ However, and where I think you are wrong, is that these are THE reasons why Christians believe what they believe.

    Actually, our belief is based on the historical Resurrection and Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth at the hands of the Romans and at the behest of the Jewish leadership of the time. My belief is not based in fantasy, and, contrary to your assertion, faith is not a mindless leap without evidence of fact. The resurrection is a not open to scrutiny because it is actually quite historical and attested to by eyewitnesses–people who had no reason whatsoever to invent such things. They ended up being persecuted and, often, killed for their tenacious belief in the Resurrection. I cannot imagine going to the death for something I didn’t believe in, could you?

    And if the Crucifixion and Resurrection are historical, and if Jesus attested that, while he was still alive, the Scriptures (OT in particular) are historically true, then there is no reason whatsoever to doubt. Jon, your dis-belief is not because of a lack of historical evidence but because you don’t want to believe. That’s all.

    Thanks for stopping by, it’s always a treat.

    your friend,
    jerry

  4. Jon

    Actually, our belief is based on the historical Resurrection and Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth at the hands of the Romans and at the behest of the Jewish leadership of the time.

    LOL. Historical.

    …people who had no reason whatsoever to invent such things.

    Who had no reason to invent it? Jesus’ disciples, who wrote the Biblical texts? Yeah, they had absolutely no reason to invent such things.

    Except that they already believed them.

    It’s utterly astonishing that that’s a compelling argument to you. The Bible is true because it says it’s true in the Bible. Please tell me you see the problem there…

    They ended up being persecuted and, often, killed for their tenacious belief in the Resurrection. I cannot imagine going to the death for something I didn’t believe in, could you?

    This rhetoric is utterly fallacious. Seriously, look at the logical fallacy page I linked to you in your other post.

    First of all, I didn’t claim that those who died for believing in the resurrection were liars. That’s a straw man. They probably did believe it. They were deluded by a compelling and convincing person. Just look at any psychic TV show, and you’ll see how easy it is to do that. Just watch a magic act, and you’ll see how easy it is to do that. Place a skilled “psychic” or magician in the back-end of rural Palestine two thousand years ago, and imagine how easy it would be for them to convince uneducated, superstitious people of various falsehoods.

    Secondly, suffering for a belief doesn’t justify that belief. The 9-11 Truthers, who think the U.S. government destroyed the WTC towers, suffer a lot of ridicule for their beliefs. They call it persecution. Does that justify that particular conspiracy theory? Uh uh. No.

  5. Jon,

    For someone who claims not to read my blog, you sure do have a lot to say about my blog.

    You have committed the fallacy of ‘appeal to ridicule.’

    jerry

  6. Jon

    You have committed the fallacy of ‘appeal to ridicule.’

    And purposefully so.

  7. Mike McCants

    “I might suggest there is a difference between what he refers to as an ‘ignorant fundamentalist’ and a ‘by faith we believe that God made what is seen out of what is unseen evangelical Christian’ who accepts Genesis as an accurate reflection of history, and the foundational substance for evangelical theology.”

    Of course I cannot discern a difference.

  1. 1 Blogging Tip #241: Concede, then Harass « Sum 1 to N

    […] November 13th, 2007 Are theists unreasonable and unthinking? […]




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