Tag Archives: Dawkins

Reclaiming the Middle

I’ve written several comments on the modern popular movement of atheists, which, if it is not running out of steam, is at least in need of new leadership. Christopher Hitchens has died. Richard Dawkins refuses to debate his primary challenger, as well as (I assume) anyone described by the reasons he gave for his refusal. Dennet and Harris seem also to be waning in their public exposure.

I do hope that this will herald a return to thoughtfulness and courtesy on the part of the majority of atheists (special thanks to those of you who never left). But it does seem to be the case that, whenever it is that the energy of this movement is spent, religion will still be here. Christianity (like any major religion) has faced many beatings over many generations, and shows no signs of a mortal wound.

My hope is, then, that the (very necessary) criticism the church receives will, likewise, herald a growth in reflection and empathy. I’m starting to see a movement in the church which promotes the serious study of logic and apologetics – that recognizes that our intellectual sloth has been far too great.

I don’t think it is too unrealistic to hope that the silent middle is beginning to reassert itself, letting militant religious groups and militant atheist groups alike know that we are not interested in labeling either side as villains. Rather, we believe that learning to live together with respect and love is paramount.

I should hope that we take this to heart. I’m sure that fundamentalism of all kinds will be forever with us, but I do hope we find a way to make their voice relative to their actual population. To that end, I would definitely be pleased to see a compassionate and reflective voice begin to overshadow the emotive sound-byte debates I’ve seen across the internet.

Tolerance and Postmodernism

Richard Dawkins is openly intolerant. When it comes to religion, he claims to be intolerant, not only of extremists, but of moderates who are tolerant of extremists. Many, like Dawkins, believe that those who are in the right confront those who are wrong.

There is definitely a place for confrontation in any society, but, years ago, I hardly thought this would be the nature of the challenge to Christianity.

Rather, the loudest voice opposing religion was an accusation of intolerance. I am here speaking of the postmodern claim that those who feel they know the absolute truth will tend to oppress those who believe differently.

The trouble, then, is not that this idea has been rejected by the current opponents to belief, but that it has been accepted. The false dichotomy between a refusal to make claims and an angry judgment is a destructive one.

Neither polite dismissal nor angry judgment acknowledges that others are saying anything of content – that their perspectives should be given fair and respectful consideration. Both approaches refuse to really engage with the idea that an opponent might be speaking truth. The former simply ends the conversation, and the latter promotes a shouting match, often using the term “fairyology” to support the anti-intellectual statement that one not need to actually understand a position in order to argue against it.

To disagree respectfully, then, is not to engage in verbal conflict. It is to affirm that truth exists, and that at least part of that truth is the goodness of mutual respect and understanding.