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Saturday, December 20, 2014

New Atheists neglect modern cases for God

Editor,

It is perhaps something of a surprise that almost none of the so-called New Atheists have anything to say about arguments for God’s existence. Instead, they tend to focus on the social effects of religion and question whether religious belief is good for society.

One might justifiably doubt that the social impact of an idea is an adequate measure of its truth, especially when there are reasons being offered to think that the idea in question really is true. Namely, the social effects of something do nothing to refute the validity or truth of an argument in its own regard. Many scientific theories — e.g. Darwinism — have certainly had at least some negative social influences, but that is hardly grounds for discrediting the theory and simply ignoring biological evidence in its favor.

So is the case with negative social aspects surrounding religion: examine the evidence/arguments present for theism, not the hypocrisy or egregious actions of adherents, which does nothing to negate the truth of theism.

Perhaps the New Atheists think that the traditional arguments for God’s existence are now passé and so no longer need refutation. If so, they are naïve. Over the last generation there has been increasing interest among professional philosophers, whose business it is deliberate difficult metaphysical questions, in arguments for God’s existence. This resurgence of interest has not escaped the notice of even popular culture.

In 1980, Time Magazine ran a major story entitled, “Modernizing the Case for God,” which described the movement among contemporary philosophers to revamp the traditional arguments for God’s existence. Time marveled:

“In a quiet revolution in thought and argument that hardly anybody could have foreseen only two decades ago, God is making a comeback. Most intriguingly, this is happening not among theologians or ordinary believers, but in the crisp intellectual circles of academic philosophers, where the consensus had long banished the Almighty from fruitful discourse.”

The noted philosopher Roderick Chisholm opined that the reason atheism was so influential in the previous generation is that the brightest philosophers were atheists; but today, he observes, many of the brightest philosophers are theists, using a tough-minded intellectualism in defense of that belief. Top theistic philosophers can be found at Yale, Oxford, Princeton, Notre Dame and USC, to name a few.

Moreover, it seems that the New Atheists, such as Daniel Dennett, the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are blissfully ignorant of this ongoing revolution in Anglo-American philosophy. They, and many young college atheists, are generally out of touch with cutting-edge work in this field.

There are, as many intellectuals believe, good arguments for God’s existence. Namely, many arguments for the God’s existence, which cannot be fully addressed in this letter, are logically valid, their premises are true and their premises are more plausible than their negations. Therefore, insofar as we are rational people, we should embrace their conclusions. Much more remains to be said and has been said. But I trust that enough has been said here to show that the traditional theistic arguments need to be refuted by the New Atheists, not merely the social aspects.

Mac Morin
UNM student