Friday, 15 February 2013

Atheists Versus NEW Atheists

Douglas Murray wrote an interesting piece for The Spectator on "Atheists vs Dawkins". He begins:

"My fellow atheists, it’s time we admitted that religion has some points in its favour."

He goes on to claim that while witnessing figures like Richard Dawkins speak, that it seems illogical to hold what they say as being correct; "Religion was portrayed as a force of unremitting awfulness, a poisoned root from which no good fruit could grow."

Indeed it is often cited how Christianity was largely responsible for the abolition of slavery by individuals such as William Wilberforce and the obvious contribution to American history from Christians such as Martin Luther King. Additionally it was the church that provided the first free medical care and education in the UK.

Murray seems to think it because these New Atheists are obsessed with 'what is true'. This is always an interesting discussion with young people, who often to some degree, also subscribe to this idea.

Genesis is the story of creation, as known to Christians and Jews alike. It is not a historical account, nor is it a scientific account. It is a beautiful piece of poetry, that tells the truth. It is the truth of our purpose and creator.

The way I best explain this, is to read some war poetry. Take this poem; Siegfried Sassoon's 'Suicide in the Trenchs'. It would seem inappropriate to say this poem was not true, however it does not tell me when WW1 began, nor ended, nor how many people were killed...

Murray points out that, "You can be in agreement with Professor Dawkins that Adam did not exist, yet know and feel that the story of Eden speaks profoundly about ourselves."

However, he also point out that New Atheists are unwilling to even begin to consider this notion. Murray says that, " ought most to consider whether what you are pulling down is as wholly valueless as you might temporarily have to pretend it is, and whether you have anything remotely as good to put in its place." (Admitedly, de Botton beleives we do...)

The article continues considering whether or not we have "vessels for truth-carrying in our age.". New Atheists argue the search for truth can be found in poetry and philosophy, but this is rarely the case. The majority still search for truth and answers for the 'Big Questions' through their religion. Murray also suggests that the danger is potentially, "if you keep telling people that they lead meaningless lives in a meaningless universe you might just find yourself with — at best — a vacuous life and a hollow culture?"

To conclude, Murray does offer some kind of vision that means there is not this constant conflict. He suggests that religions must distance themselves from political power and decision that effect non-believers. However he says for atheists they must recognise that "when it comes to discussions of ideas, morality and meaning, religion does have a place... we might at least agree not always and only to deride, laugh at and dismiss as meaningless something which searches sincerely for meaning."

His final though is an important one, "something must be done to prevent believers and non-believers spending yet another century talking past each other."

What do you think? Is Murray correct in his conclusion? Are New Atheists 'as bad' as theists? Do you think things will ever change?

Read full article here:

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