Thank God for the New Atheists

study-hardSome might not believe me when I say that I’m grateful for the New Atheist movement, but I am. This is not to say that I agree with their position, or even find it reasonable. In this blog, I’ve been hard on them, and they deserve it. The confidence and scorn with which they attack all religion is wildly out of proportion with the (lack of) evidence and logical rigor they provide as support for their claims.

Still, I’ve come to disagree with David Bentley Hart’s sentiments:

The utter inconsequentiality of contemporary atheism is a social and spiritual catastrophe. Something splendid and irreplaceable has taken leave of our culture—some great moral and intellectual capacity that once inspired the more heroic expressions of belief and unbelief alike.

I, too, feel a sense of loss when I think about the shallowness of the modern discussion on religion. But I don’t think the New Atheists can be viewed simply as the most recent chapter in a tale of intellectual regression. They can, just as easily, be seen as the first chapter in the return to a more robust understanding of spirituality.

The church has been wading in shallow intellectual waters for some time. And the New Atheists, for all their sloppiness of thought, their commitment to rhetoric over rationality, and their refusal to understand the subject being discussed, have forced the Church to think.

That is, a group of raging atheists calling Christians moronic, while using arguments that just a little study could overcome, was probably the perfect motivator for Christians to engage their minds in their faith. For the first time in far too long, Christians en masse are starting to take seriously the idea that every Christian should be intellectually engaged.

This has not only meant more intellectual honesty, but also the opening up of an entirely new dimension of faith. I, for one, have been amazed at how much deeper an intellectually engaged faith can go than the basically emotional faith I had as a teenager. I think many are feeling this difference, and hope that many more will follow.

While it was the last thing they intended, the New Atheists have done a lot to bring this change about. They may well have set in motion events which will lead to theism being stereotyped as the intellectual position. Thus, while it wouldn’t be polite to thank them for it, I am grateful for what God is doing through them.

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85 responses to “Thank God for the New Atheists

  • Chris

    As much as I agree with some of the things you say, I can’t help think that all you’ve done in this post is to put up some straw men and knocked them down. There exists 0 verifiable evidences for or against the idea and nature of a god. The most intellectual position is simply “I don’t know”. I understand your disdain for these people, I really do, and I have seen you refute some of their arguments with ease, as you say. But if all arguments against the atheist position were as easily refuted, there would hardly be any of us. At the end of the day you have as much proof for the existence of a god that I do against. Neither one of us has the intellectual high ground here, even though you put that ball strait into the theist’s court, and to claim as much is dishonest. For all the “refutations” I’ve seen on this blog, you don’t show a lot of proof for your position…I guess I could have missed it, so feel free to point me in that direction if I did.

    • katachriston

      Just a thought Chris, but it’s really not about which side has the most evidence or reason, but the engagement of reason itself. To use reason as a tool in the debate at all reflects something, doesn’t it?
      Perhaps it reflects “rules” in the use of reason. We can only communicate in debate format if we agree upon the rules in the first place – not of the debate specifically but of the use of reason, cogency, consistency, etc.. And who, may I ask, initiated those “rules”, the rules of reason or more precisely the laws of logic?
      Seems like at this point we all reflect something hard-wired way, way deep within. The theist believes this hard-wiring unto a consciousness of things like laws of logic reflects something transcendent, universal and law-like about our universe, almost or even unto the impossibility of the contrary.

    • Debilis

      I hope that I’ve not given you the impression that I think Christianity is true simply because the New Atheists don’t have good arguments. I agree that this would be very presumptuous of me.

      As for making arguments of my own, I do need to get to more of that. If you’re interested in something immediately, I defend some of the traditional arguments for theism in the earliest posts in the series on Russell (the first posts are numbered, which should make them easy to find).

      I’ve also started to get to some things in my comments on Alex Rosenberg’s most recent book. I’ll be adding more to that series as time goes on.

      I will add that simply claiming not to know isn’t the undisputedly most intellectual position either. This is because there is no way to go about making daily choices in a way that is truly neutral on these questions. This would mean that agnosticism, by the nature of life, forces one into an inconsistent stance.

      Now, obviously, none of this is to say that all reasonable people will automatically agree with my arguments–or anyone else’s. But I thought that the best way to move past the level of argument which has been popular on the internet is by addressing those points. I thought it would be both unfair and ineffective of me to ignore such popular issues before considering more serious ones.

      • Chris

        Cool…I look forward to some good debates here…I apologize if I seem defensive…lol I guess I didn’t realize you were working up to the more serious arguments. I suppose it’s as you say, the current internet culture of debate. I look forward to taking this journey with you and your readers (of which I suppose I am a part now). I do, however, need to stop spending so much time here and work on my own blog…lol

        • Debilis

          I’ve definitely appreciated the thoughts so far.
          And no, for the record, you haven’t sounded defensive at all. I thought it was a very good point.

  • Chris

    Sorry all arguments for the atheist position were easily refuted…

  • katachriston

    Great and very welcome thoughts in this post. If one is willing to observe things at a broader panorama than our current generation and culure it is clear to see that the community of faith has traditionally occupied the intellectual high ground.
    It’s sad to feel a tinge of hesitancy toward owning this generation of Christian thinkers (or rather non-thinkers) as our fellow intellectual companions. Yet there is hope, as your post suggests, that a corner has been turned or is being turned intellectually, even if it took so dubious a sector as the New Athiests to do it.
    It’s time for the Christian community to grow up and time for the New Athiests to cease playing on the gullibility of our dumbed-down, popular media driven culture.
    They could never have gotten away with what they have in a better day. No way.

  • thesauros

    “But if all arguments against the atheist position were as easily refuted, there would hardly be any of us.”

    that is simply not true. atheists existed long before ANY of what is now considered evidence for atheism existed. to be an atheist is a choice based upon many and varied reasons, none of which originate with evidence.

    • Chris

      None of which originate with evidence? As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog…we have evidence that the Bible isn’t inerrant as is claimed by numerous theologians, fundamentalists, etc, etc…rather than rethink of a way to say this, I’ll just copy and paste from the last time I used it on “Missing a Target as Big as God”:

      “While I can’t say all of it is false (I think we can demonstrate that much), there is much we can’t verify and some things that *are* demonstrably false.[...]I chose to reject the Biblical God on that fact alone. Since most of the holy books of the world make similar claims (not talking about specifics here, just that the claims are unverifiable), I can reject those for much the same reason. Now, because these books are the only options we have for choosing a specific god, I have no reason to suspect that there is actually a god. All religions can’t be right, but they can all be wrong.”

      Once l could dismiss the Biblical Inerrancy claim (which *is* based on evidence), the rest just seemed to fall inline for “many and varied reasons”. For me, even though it can’t know everything, science and philosophy has just bolstered my view that there probably is no god…that’s not to say however, my mind is completely made up on this issue. I think a good argument could be made for God as Big Bang, I just don’t see the point to take it all the way to full on belief at this time, nor do I see how proof of a god could somehow equal Jesus is my savior, especially in light of the Bible not being as “inerrant” as a believer might expect or like.

      In conclusion, I agree with everything you said up until the last six words, especially the part I said…lol Of course, I wasn’t speaking about particular arguments, as not all of them are as solid as we would like. But, if you take the “atheism as the default or null position on the issue of god” side of things, they don’t have to be…the person making the positive claim (the theist) has the burden of proof, not the other way around. Of course if you meet an atheist who actually says there is no god, well he’s in the same boat as you. I see no harm in saying “I don’t know”.

  • Alexander

    I’d like to point out that there is no such thing as a “new” atheist; there’s just atheists, with lots of the same arguments that’s been given before, albeit with updated focus and backing (but essentially no different from any atheist in any other time). The “New” bit is new to us *all*; more communication available, new media, new global world, new challenges, new challenges to humanity as a whole.

    And perhaps, more apt, new popularity, but that’s got nothing to do with the arguments themselves.

    • Debilis

      I definitely agree with you that the arguments haven’t changed.

      But I don’t think it is unreasonable to refer to various groups of atheists. After all, atheism isn’t in itself a worldview, so there is bound to be diversity.

      That being the case, I’m referring to the popular movement of self-itentified atheists who tend to be fans of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, A.C. Greyling, Alex Rosenberg, etc. It doesn’t seem reasonable to think that all atheists are going to agree with these men.

      In fact, I’ve met several atheists who want me to be very clear that the New Atheists do not speak for them–that they often strongly disagree with what these writers say about both religion and atheism. To them, New Atheism is as much an embarrassment as fundamentalist Christianity is to me.

      In the end, I think distinguishing between types of atheists is both more fair-minded and a basic courtesy. I simply see no reason to lump all atheists in with a group which, in my view, represents the worst that atheists currently have on offer.

      • Alexander

        Mayhaps. I’m prodding the “new” moniker, why do we call them “new”? What’s new about them that aren’t new with, say, Chris Halquist or Stephen Law or John Loftus?

    • Debilis

      I actually completely agree that this is a weird name. I’ve never liked it myself.

      I really don’t know what is new about them–at least not in terms of argument. Unfortunately, the only other terms I’ve heard for them are pejorative. So, I feel stuck with this one until they pick a name that they don’t mind being called.

  • Dan O'Brian

    This has been true in my own experience. I and the rest of Christianity have lived off of the intellectual capital of our past fathers for far too long. The New Atheists have jarred many out of their small faith and spurred them on to attaining a greater faith, one that is grounded enough to envelope evidences and the entire material world. For a while it was, and still is to a great degree, the Bible against the world. The problem was that our definition or the world included all of nature as well. God was against the world he created. God said one thing, the creation said another. The Christians went with God, the atheists and so-called heretics went with creation. But, just because we can discern a distinction between the two, however, doesn’t necessitate a separation. We, as Christians, need to stop thinking with the enlightenment’s “either/or” mentality and start thinking in the “both/and” mentality. The New Atheists have done a lot to disabuse us of the “either/or”. Thank God for that. But, there are still many of us who do not get it; so many who are still playing by the materialist’s rules and don’t even know it. So, to all you New Atheists out there, step up your game. Bring the game closer to home. Try to rid us of God. We need more of what you do, so that our spiritual muscles will once again begin to grow.

  • An introduction | Random thoughts

    [...] and when these are questioned they don’t respond. Today I am introducing an apologist, Debilis, who I must say is not guilty of the above crimes and to her credit I must say she engages with [...]

  • Mike

    Do you group atheists all in the same category?
    Do you think of them as unjust people not worth talking to or doing business with?
    What is your true imagination of an atheist?

    My friend on “Random Thoughts” introduced me to your blog and I am interested in having a constructive and rational discussion with you if you may.

    Let me first inteoduce my self. I am an atheist, father of two marvellous kids amd married to a devoted Catholic woman. I do not promote hatred neither racism and I don’t like insulting people or fighting with them. Humans are equal to me no matter what they believe.

    If you feel interested please drop a line, otherwise thank you for at least letting me write here.

    Ciao

    • Debilis

      No, I consider atheists to be a very diverse group of people. I really am only talking about the New Atheists.

      Nor do I consider atheists, even the New Atheists (which are the least intellectually profound of those atheists I’ve met), not worth talking to. I consider all people worth talking to.

      As such, I’d always love a conversation. I’ve met many thoughtful and kind atheists, and am always interested in getting to know more.

      Best to you.

      • Mike

        I don’t know anything about New Atheists. Thanks for bringing this up. I will do some research to widen my knowledge about the argument.

        I get from your reply that you don’t mind debating. And thank you for dropping a line in my blog.

        Sure, all depends on our free time. I guess both have work and family commitments so I won’t think differently if you do not reply to a question/provocative discussion.

        The reason I like discussing with people who believe in God is because I want to know how they think and why they think so, so that I could learn and who knows, maybe change my mind. Atheism is not a religion to me and I sure will change my mind if I am presented with empirical logical convincing answer that I coukd verify along with others.

        Thanks

        • archaeopteryx1

          Mike, I don’t believe you’re going to find that empirical logic you’re looking for – this, in Debilis’ own words: “I was referring to the fact that most who request evidence insist on empirical evidence. It strikes me as very odd that one would demand empirical evidence of the non-emprical.” So, good luck with that –

        • Mike

          Yes I read it and my eyebrows almost jumped out of my head! I personally believe this to be the pillars of logic and scientific discipline. If you cannot prove AND DISPROVE your theory then what is the difference between your theory of a God and the theory of say an African tribe living in the savanna or another tribe living in the Amazon jungle about a god?

          People think that scientists are always running to “prove” their theories, and they discard the most important fact of being a scientist, that is: “Trying to disproof you own claim/theory”

          Besides, if a scientist presents something and it looks like there is no disproof of it at the time being, this does not mean it is correct. ALL scientific theories are continuously under scrutiny. If you Google this, you would find scientists doubting Einstein’s theories trying to disprove him. Scientists trying to disprove Newton and others trying to disprove electromagnetism. These people won’t get rejected from the scientific community, but if you also look at the evidence of what these theories brought to humanity, then the proof is compelling! Electricity and all our electrical devices, cars, aviation systems, navigation, household comfort, airplanes, cell phones, GPS systems… the list is so huge that I cannot write in a book!

        • Debilis

          Well, I can say that I definitely like your approach.
          I hope that I can be as thoughtful, and communicate an equally kind attitude.

          But, yes, time is always the problem. I’ll try to keep up.

  • john zande

    “the shallowness of the modern discussion on religion…”

    I have to ask, what’s shallow about requesting evidence for your particular god?

    • Debilis

      Nothing at all, so long as one is willing to get into a serious discussion about the nature of God and the appropriate concept of evidence.

      Many atheists are completely willing to do this; the New Atheists are much less likely to do so.

    • Debilis

      Mostly, I was referring to the fact that most who request evidence insist on empirical evidence. It strikes me as very odd that one would demand empirical evidence of the non-emprical.

      But evidence is simply any accepted fact which increases the likelihood of a given claim’s being true.

      So long as one sees that, then it is clear that there is evidence for God’s existence. The debate is over whether or not that evidence is sufficient.

      • archaeopteryx1

        RE: “But evidence is simply any accepted fact which increases the likelihood of a given claim’s being true.”

        Accepted by whom, the majority of the scientific community?

        • Debilis

          Generally speaking, accepted by those in the discussion.

          If someone presents evidence that you reject as factual, that would be a sub-point in the debate.

      • john zande

        Hi Debilis
        Seems you’re not talking about evidence, as evidence is empirical. It is measurable. You haven’t given any examples yet, but I’m assuming by your statement that you’re talking about belief and simply calling it “evidence,” which is disingenuous at best. I don’t mean that in any offensive manner. You can’t, however, just change the definition of “evidence” to suit your needs. That said, I would be interested to hear examples of what you’re talking about as I will definitely agree that a suggestion of something’s existence can be made from inferred observation.

    • Debilis

      Greetings!
      I’ve asked quite a few people to give me their definition of evidence (Thank you! You’re the first to actually do it.).

      But there is no empirical evidence of a non-empirical object. This is simply the law of non-contradiction. A thing is not both physical and non-physical.

      But, there does seem to be empirical evidence that there is more than the empirical (the origin of the universe, for instance). Moreover, there is what I would call experiential evidence (such as free will and qualia) which reference something other than the empirical, and are observations, but are not empirical observations.

      • john zande

        I didn’t give you a definition of evidence.

        “no empirical evidence of a non-empirical object”…

        so you’re essentially saying you believe in your god because you want to. You have no evidence to say it exists, no indication in the physical world of anything supernatural going on, and yet it’s somehow real to you because you believe. That’s it. There is no further depth to your claim other than you want your god to be real. I’m afraid to say but that’s not very convincing.

        “there does seem to be empirical evidence that there is more than the empirical(the origin of the universe, for instance)”…

        What’s that supposed to mean? We know quite a lot about quantum vacuums and they’re very busy states. Particles are popping in and out of existence at whim. That does not indicate your god. It indicates particles pop in and out of existence inside quantum vacuums.

        As far as I can see you haven’t advanced any argument here beyond “your faith” Vs. “the total absence of evidence for the gods.”

    • Debilis

      Fair enough. You came the closest to describing what you mean of anyone here. I suppose I’m determined to be grateful for what I get.

      But, no. I didn’t say anything at all about “wanting to”. I don’t accept the notion that all evidence is empirical–and I believe that there are good logical supports for God’s existence. I’ve discussed some of them in previous posts.

      So, claiming that anything which is not empirical is unsupported is to assume the materialism that one should be trying to prove.

      The quantum vacuum is part of the universe. Regardless of the fascinating work that has been done there, part of the universe can’t explain the existence of the universe.

      But, you’re right. I’ve not advanced any arguments for my position on this topic. That was not the point. I was discussing the New Atheists.

      • john zande

        Hi Debilis.

        I can appreciate what you’re trying to say, but in the end you’re not saying anything other than your god can’t be seen, felt, heard, or experienced… but it exists in your mind because someone told you it did and you believe it without a gram of supporting evidence. All you’re doing is substituting the word “Faith” for “Evidence.” That’s very weak apologetics. To advance your argument (without actually providing evidence for your particular god) you’d have to demonstrate why there can’t be an infinite chain of cause and effect. If you can do this then you’ve done what no one else has been able to do in the 3,000 years since the cosmological argument was first thought of.

        “The quantum vacuum is part of the universe. Regardless of the fascinating work that has been done there, part of the universe can’t explain the existence of the universe.”

        A quantum vacuum was what existed BEFORE this universe started expanding… so we know there was never “nothing.” Again, to advance your argument you’d have to demonstrate why there can’t be an infinite chain of cause and effect. Simply stopping the count and inserting “god” because you can’t count to infinity means nothing.

    • Debilis

      I am saying that God can’t be experienced with the senses, yes. I also maintain that there are sources of information that don’t rely on the senses. This is a far cry from “because someone told [me]“.

      I’ve also given reasons, and I’ve yet to receive any reason to think that evidence must be empirical. (I’ve actually written a post on that; I’ll have to put it up next.)

      But there have been many people who have discussed the reasons why there can’t be an infinite chain of cause and effect. There are good reasons to think that infinite numbers of things can’t exist in reality (because it creates logical contradictions).

      Nor can an infinite chain solve the problem anyway. This is like saying that an infinite chain of boxcars can move down a rail without power because each one is pulled by the one in front of it. Contingent reality requires necessary reality.

      But I don’t disagree with the notion that the quantum vacuum existed “before this universe started expanding”. What I disagree with is the notion that the quantum vacuum brought the unexpanded universe (which includes the quantum vacuum) into existence.

      And I’m not simply calling any of this “God”. I’m starting off with the idea that there is more to reality than the physical–as it seemed a reasonable beginning when discussing the issue with atheists. What that something else is would come later.

      • john zande

        “I’m starting off with the idea that there is more to reality than the physical”

        Fine, but you’re not explaining why you have this idea. You haven’t offered anything new, and nothing outside of “faith.” What gives you this idea? Something must be there for you to make the inference?

        “There are good reasons to think that infinite numbers of things can’t exist in reality (because it creates logical contradictions)….”

        What good reasons? You can’t just throw out a wild statement and not explain it. Like I said, that’s terribly weak apologetics. You’re not making any case except confirming that you have faith. What’s illogical about infinity? Nothing that i can see. In fact, infinity makes much more sense than a god. Zero-energy states are not “nothing.”

        Perhaps you should define this god you’re talking about. I mean, really define it, and that might help move this conversation long because you’re going nowhere as it is…

        • archaeopteryx1

          john, RE: “Perhaps you should define this god you’re talking about.” – I have tried repeatedly to get him to do so, but I “believe,” though I have no empirical evidence for, the likelihood is that he deliberately confines his definitions to the nebulous, so as not to give anyone a point they can dispute. A poor refuge indeed.

        • john zande

          Hi Arch… I hope debilis does at least try. He’s just spinning the tires and i’d like the conversation to move forward. A definition will help identify what he means by this non-empirical stuff…

        • archaeopteryx1

          Good luck with that, I’ve given up on him. It’s like trying to debate the wind, it keeps changing direction. I think Alli called that “rope-a-dope” –

        • Debilis

          When we get to talking about God, I’ll be more than happy to go on about that.
          For now, the God of Classical Theism is a good place to start.

        • archaeopteryx1

          I visited your link – this is what I found:

          “Classical theism refers to the form of theism in which God is characterized as the absolutely metaphysically ultimate being (the first, timeless, absolutely simple and sovereign being, who is also devoid of any anthropomorphic qualities), in contrast to other conceptions such as Theistic Personalism, Open Theism and Process Theism.

          Whereas most theists agree that God is, at a minimum, all-knowing, all-powerful, and completely good,[1] classical theists go farther and conceive of God as the ultimate reality, with a broad set of attributes including transcendence (total independence from all else), simplicity (being without parts), immutability, impassibility, timelessness, and incorporeality.[2]

          Classical theism is, historically, the mainstream view in philosophy and is associated with the tradition of writers like Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, St. Anselm, Maimonides, Averroes and Thomas Aquinas.[2] In opposition to this tradition, there are, today, philosophers like Alvin Plantinga (who rejects divine simplicity), Richard Swinburne (who rejects divine timelessness) and William Lane Craig (who reject both divine simplicity and timelessness), who can be viewed as theistic personalists. Since classical theistic ideas are influenced by Greek philosophy and focus on God in the abstract and metaphysical sense, they can be difficult to reconcile with the “near, caring, and compassionate” view of God presented in the religious texts of the main monotheistic religions, particularly the Bible.

          Though you had to borrow it from another source, at least we finally have a definition.

          On the other hand, even you must acknowledge that even Plato and Aristotle never heard of Yahweh.

        • Debilis

          I borrow a great deal of what I say from other sources. I don’t claim to invent all this out of whole cloth.

          But who said anything about Yahweh? I’ve been talking about reasons why materialism fails. Is Plato’s ignorance of Judaism really pertinent to that?

        • archaeopteryx1

          This is more of your “rope-a-dope” – if you don’t mean, Yahweh, exactly who DO you mean? Just possibly, we are going to pin you down to an actual definition, but I’ve little doubt you’ve already determined a way to wiggle out –

        • Debilis

          Right now, I mean something. We’re on step two of the argument, and you seem to be complaining that I haven’t established step eight yet.

          Well no, I haven’t.

          But, if you agree that this is a good reason to think that materialism fails, we can start discussing what that other thing might be.

          It may well be that, after agreeing that there is more than the physical, you’ll turn out to have a devastating argument against my particular view of God. We’ll find out when we get there. But that wouldn’t do the slightest to refute what I’ve said so far–it would only mean that we’d need to look into a different God than mine.

          So, what you’re calling “rope-a-dope” is what I’d call “sticking to the subject”.

      • archaeopteryx1

        RE: “There are good reasons to think that infinite numbers of things can’t exist in reality (because it creates logical contradictions).” – quantum mechanics is rife with what humans would term logical contradictions.

        • Debilis

          No, it isn’t.

          Yes, many of its conclusions are strange, but there is nothing logically contradictory about quantum mechanics.

          Beyond that, if supporting the case for materialism requires directly rejecting logic, we’ve long since left anything like a rational case.

        • archaeopteryx1

          RE: my statement, “quantum mechanics is rife with what humans would term logical contradictions.” And yours, saying, “No, it isn’t.

          So you’re saying that it’s completely logical that one single electron can enter two different openings at exactly the same time? Just asking –

        • Debilis

          If it can be shown that it is not, it wouldn’t be science. Science presupposes logic.

          In fact, co-location is a much less established idea than science documentaries lead people to believe. These shows, after all, are more interested in amazing people with wild claims than making clear distinctions between facts and speculation.

        • archaeopteryx1

          RE: “quantum mechanics is rife with what humans would term logical contradictions”

          Richard Feynman once wrote, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

          The rest of your comment is more word salad – what gave you the impression you had the intellect necessary to start a blog like this anyway?

        • Debilis

          Simply saying I’m wrong and insulting my intelligence doesn’t disprove anything I’ve said.

          Yes, quantum mechanics is full of strange ideas. Yes, it is complex. No, this does not mean it is logically incoherent.

    • Debilis

      Okay, here we go:

      1. Support for my rejection of materialism
      I’ve pointed out that the idea that there is only the physical has not been remotely supported. I’ve mentioned the contingency of physical reality, the existence of qualia, rationality, and consciousness. I’ve pointed out the problem with determinism, and the contradiction it creates for materialists.

      And, in today’s post, I’ve mentioned that the demanding of empirical evidence is a self-contradiction.

      None of this requires “faith”, as you seem to be defining it.

      2. Infinite Chains of Objects
      But, the good reasons why an actual infinite can’t exist is that it creates contradictions, as I said. This is the reason why subtraction and division are not defined in transfinite arithmetic; irrationality abounds here.

      Hilbert’s Hotel is the most famous example, but I personally like the infinite string of thieves example.

      That is, if each member of an infinite line of thieves tries to steal an object, who stole it? None of them can steal it because “the one before” would have stolen it. But, since there is no first thief, the object never gets stolen.

      There are long lists of contradictions like this when infinite numbers are presumed to exist in reality.

      3. The Cause of the Universe
      But I agree that zero-energy states are not nothing. That was exactly my point. As zero-energy states are a part of the universe, they didn’t create the universe.

      I don’t, however, understand the demand of a specific definition for God. I believe in the God of classical theism, but I’ve not been talking about that because I haven’t been talking about God. I’ve been talking (writing) about the fact that materialism is false.

      • archaeopteryx1

        I’ve little doubt you’ve seen this, and chosen to ignore it, but for others who haven’t, here is Dr. Lawrence Krause, physicist, explaining how the Universe arose from nothing, requiring no creator. On many other formats, I could actually present the video here, but WordPress doesn’t offer me that option, so any interested will need to go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EilZ4VY5Vs

        archeopteryx

        • Debilis

          You don’t need to attack me as a person to make points in a debate.

          But I will agree that I’ve heard Krauss discuss this idea. My objection is that he equivocates on the word “nothing”.

          While I’m completely open to the idea that the universe may have fluctuated out of the quantum vacuum, that does not explain the existence of the quantum vacuum–which is just as contingent as anything else in the universe.

        • archaeopteryx1

          RE: “You don’t need to attack me ” – I didn’t, as far as I’m aware of – paranoia much?

          RE: “While I’m completely open to the idea that the universe may have fluctuated out of the quantum vacuum, that does not explain the existence of the quantum vacuum”

          What part of that says, “Yahweh“? Why not Zeus? Odin? The Flying Spaghetti Monster?

        • Debilis

          What part of anything I’ve said on this threat was my arguing for Yahweh, or Zeus, or any other god?

          But, if this is your only complaint against my comment, am I to assume that you agree that Krauss has not explained the origin of the quantum vacuum?

          If so, wouldn’t you agree that he hasn’t answered the question “why is there something, rather than nothing”?

        • archaeopteryx1

          RE: “am I to assume that you agree that Krauss has not explained the origin of the quantum vacuum?” – to the same extent that you’ve explained the origin of your god.

        • Debilis

          Okay, excellent!

          If we’re agreed there, I’ll move on. In fact, today’s post addresses that topic.

        • archaeopteryx1

          Be still, my impatient heart –

  • archaeopteryx1

    When Christians begin thinking intellectually, rather than blindly following like sheep, I can’t imagine the end of Christianity to be far away – I suppose it is I who should be thanking the New Christians.

    pax vobiscum,
    archaeopteryx

    • Debilis

      You are free to that position, of course, but I find it untenable. The declaration that Christianity is incompatible with critical thought is a very bold claim–for which I’ve seen no evidence.

      • archaeopteryx1

        RE: “The declaration that Christianity is incompatible with critical thought is a very bold claim–for which I’ve seen no evidence.”

        Once you’ve provided me with your evidence for an invisible sky-spirit, I’ll send it back to you, then you’ll have all the evidence you need.

        pax vobiscum,
        archaeopteryx

    • Debilis

      As neither I, nor any theist I’ve ever met, believes in “an invisible sky-spirit”, I’m not sure why I should do that.

      But, regarding the God that theists actually believe in, is this a demand for empirical evidence of the non-empirical–or are you aware that we’re discussing metaphysics?

      • archaeopteryx1

        Frankly, I fail to see a difference between your term, “non-empirical,” and mine, “invisible,” but just so we’re on the same page so to speak, possibly it might clarify things if you were to give us your definition of the god for which you maintain evidence exists, at least that way, we won’t be debating apples vs oranges.

    • Debilis

      The quantum vacuum is invisible, but still empirical.
      And, needless to say, “sky-spirit” is more than a bit off.

      But, I’m talking about the God of classical theism: a personal, metaphysical entity which is the cause of physical reality.

  • Fae M

    Interesting Post, I am glad I stumbled upon this page because this is exactly what I have been hoping to find since I began blogging. I look forward to reading more from you.

  • makagutu

    I need help on something, Debilis, how can I know if am an atheist or a New Atheist

    • Debilis

      I’d say that the degree to which you are a fan of/in agreement with the work of the central group (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Greyling, Christina, Rosenberg), you are a New Atheist.

      If you are an atheist, but disagree with them on most things other than atheism, you are not a New Atheist.

      • john zande

        Sorry about jumping here, but Debilis you might like an article i wrote, linked below. It explains my take on the rise of New Atheism.

        http://thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/the-centuries-most-overlooked-story-and-how-it-explains-new-atheism/

      • makagutu

        I don’t disagree with Dawkins on evolution, I don’t disagree with Sam Harris on free will, the late Christopher Hitchens on religion poisoning everything, and of course I don’t disagree with J. Coyne that Islam is a threat to democratic institutions and I agree with all of them that religion treats half the human race as lesser and finally that no book that is claimed to be a word of god is so. Does this now make me a New Atheist or am still an atheist especially since I like Shelley, Joseph Lewis, Camus and Nietzsche?

        • Debilis

          Social groups aren’t black-and-white categories.

          Is someone a hippie if he’s tried pot, but didn’t like it, supports environmentalism, has shoulder-length hair, is not a vegetarian, and wears tie-die 18% of the time?
          I’d say that he is a moderate hippie.

          The end to which one is a New Atheist is the end to which one is in agreement with the positions of these authors. Those who moderately agree are moderately New Atheists. Those who fully and passionately agree are clearly New Atheists.

  • Argus

    Atheism is a movement? Wow!

    Do they have somewhere one can sign up? Badges, tee shirts … books setting out the doctrines? Leaders and wise men to interpret the written word for lay people … ye gods, is atheism now recognised as a competing religion?

    Dammit—there’s only so many sheep to be shorn …

    • Debilis

      No atheism is not a movement. New Atheism is a movement. They have rallies, write polemics, talk about “raising awareness”, and the like.

      Yes, they have badges and tee-shirts. A quick online search will return quite a few hits.

      Yes, they have doctrines, with which many atheists would disagree, (“Science is the only valid source of knowledge”, “Religion is one of the great evils in the world”, etc.)

      Yes, they have leaders and “wise men” (Dawkins, Harris, Greyling, Rosenberg).

      No, atheism is not a religion, but the New Atheists are structured rather like a Church. Dawkins even helped to found a youth camp.

      • archaeopteryx1

        You’re right about one thing, atheism is not a movement – it’s an awakening, from the mindless stupor of millennia of religious indoctrination and mind control, and people are awakening all over the world.

      • makagutu

        What is the other valid source of knowledge, taking science in the broad definition as used by Nietzsche in Gay Science or as referenced somewhere on this blog?
        How is a claim that religion being a source of evil in the world be a doctrine. It is statement supported with fact, it is not doctrine, it follows from what has been observed.
        I don’t know where you get the idea that Dawkins and Co are leaders of atheists, but be as it may, what problem do you have with it and with those who are their fans? I simply just don’t get it.
        How are NA structured like a church? Who is the pope and do they have Sunday offerings? Is there a seminary where they study?

        • Debilis

          If science is taken this broadly, it simply contradicts much of what is said by materialists. Are the metaphysical arguments put forth by philosophers “science”?

          If so, then insisting that science is the source of all knowledge is trivial. The classic arguments for God’s existence would be scientific.

          If not, then philosophy is a source of knowledge that is not scientific.

          I don’t disagree with the idea that many religious people and institutions have done evil. But the idea that it is one of the primary sources of evil in the world, or that it is a source of more evil than good, has not been established. It is simply a claim.

          You don’t consider Dawkins to have following? Or–do you not consider having a following to mean one is a leader? I’ve talked at length about the problems I have with this group (I honestly was trying to cut back, for fear of getting irritating).

          They have meetings, they have leaders who speak to their followers (preach?) about the nature of things.

          And I suppose it goes without saying that, whether or not Dawkins is something of an unofficial Pope (as he’s jokingly been called), not all churches have a Pope.

        • archaeopteryx1

          The first half: word salad.

        • Debilis

          That you didn’t personally find the content in it does not mean it isn’t there.

  • New atheists! Old atheists! | Random thoughts

    […] none of the theists who use these terms have defined who fits into what group and last time I asked Debilis, our resident apologists whose main occupation is to misrepresent atheists, he didn’t give me […]

    • Debilis

      For those that are interested, and stumble across this:

      I have given a definition. The New Atheists are the fans of Dawkins, Krauss, Harris, Grayling, Meyers, et. al.

      In fact, as much as I like Random Thoughts, he’s been misrepresenting me quite a bit lately.

  • Brisancian

    First time to your blog today, after seeing reference to you on RandomThoughts. A couple of observations you made I must find that I agree with:

    “The church has been wading in shallow intellectual waters for some time. And the New Atheists, for all their sloppiness of thought, their commitment to rhetoric over rationality, and their refusal to understand the subject being discussed, have forced the Church to think.”

    Also:

    “For the first time in far too long, Christians en masse are starting to take seriously the idea that every Christian should be intellectually engaged.”

    As a researcher by profession, I have had a thoughtful approach to Christianity for the tenure of my adult life. Escaping from a heretical upbringing at age 19 to a more robust orthodoxy, the road hasn’t been either easy or by inheritance. Yet my investigations in the past always pertained to the study of what the Bible actually taught, as parsed out from the morass of wayward sects and, in my upbringing, cults.

    Only more recently have I turned the razors of research on the preceding question of Christianity’s factuality, of whether the Bible is in fact a Revelation at all.

    What followed was a deconversion, slow, methodical, thorough, and quite painful. You may find interest in the chronicle: http://www.jerichobrisance.com

    Best regards, and I’ll likely be back. :-)

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