Saturday, December 27, 2008

Robert Sibley on "Why Faith Matters."

Robert Sibley, writing for the Ottawa Citizen asks "Why Faith Matters." In it, he takes on the new atheism, promulgated by the likes of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and others. He makes the following observation about the new movement:

By all appearances atheism is deeply embedded in the contemporary mind. Modern philosophy, natural science and psychology are, more often than not, atheistic in outlook. So, too, are many of our social and political institutions. It is a virtual taboo for a Canadian politician to refer to his or her religious faith in public life. The school system teaches students about sex and drugs, but classroom prayers have largely been cancelled.

Mr. Sibley's central tenet, one that I have long thought to be true, is that it is the upbringing of these new atheists rather than their science that has shaped who they currently are. About the new atheism's take on religion, he writes:

It would take an encyclopedia to fully analyze the new atheists' attack on religion. It is perhaps sufficient here to note that while their arguments have proven popular in terms of book sales and media attention, their grasp of theology, philosophy and, in some cases, science has been criticized as superficial.

"The treatment of religion in these tracts consists mostly of breezy overgeneralizations that leave out almost everything that theologians would want to highlight in their own contemporary discussion of God," says John Haught, a professor at Georgetown University. "Rather, the new atheism is so theologically unchallenging. Its engagement with theology lies at about the same level of reflection on faith that one can find in contemporary creationist and fundamentalist literature." In other words, the militant atheists are no better than the religious fundamentalists they attack in terms of theological substance.

Touche. While evolution poses some problems for certain readings of the Bible, it does not for many others. Read the whole thing.


  1. bobxxxx10:22 PM

    I think Robert Sibley is saying the atheists who attack religion know very little about theology.

    So what? Theology is the most worthless subject ever invented. Theology is a bunch of words about nothing. Theology is based on the childish idea there's an invisible god fairy performing magic tricks. It's all bullshit.

  2. I've read this charge of the new atheists being naive about religion many times, but I haven't seen any specifics about how they are naive.

    This charge seems to be leveled when the new atheists don't show the proper respect to religious pronouncements, so is really not a matter of being naive, but just being unwilling to let a religion statement go unjustified.