The atheist fundamentalists have been working overtime as of late. Not only did Jill Singer pen another zinger in the Herald Sun (January 8), but the militant missionary for atheism, Pamela Bone, also had an article in the Australian (January 9). Both articles were full of the usual froth and bubble.
Singer’s piece was a vitriolic attack on myself, generating way more heat than light.
She continues to be well out of her depth. For example, she makes this incredible remark: “Apart from the fact that decently run secular state systems alleviate the need, the Red Cross is the world’s largest and oldest international humanitarian relief organisation: it was set up in 1863 and has nought to do with religion.” Nought? The International Red Cross of course was started by Jean Henry Dunant, a devout Swiss Calvinist. Clara Burton, founder of the American Red Cross, was deeply religious. Even the words ‘cross’ or ‘crescent’ should have alerted Ms Singer to their obvious religious roots.
Organisations like the Salvation Army, the Brotherhood of St. Lawrence, World Vision, Catholic Social Services, the YMCA, the YWCA, Compassion International, and Food for the Hungry all have clear Christian origins and most maintain their Christian identification today. Thus Ms Singer’s remarks are as uninformed as they are disingenuous.
But her whole piece is just more of the same. Venom oozes out of every sentence, with little or no clear thinking and evidence. The whole tenor of her article suggests that she really has just one thought in mind: “How dare you challenge me and my atheism!” It was of course she who started this fight, by deliberately attacking the faith of millions and using one of the holiest days of the year to do so. And my article was not an attack on her, as she contends. Much of what I wrote concerned the militant anti-theism of Richard Dawkins. The fact that she is so upset by it all may suggest that for all her strident misotheism, deep down inside she is having a few niggling doubts, which perhaps she needs to come to terms with.
Indeed, that may be the real heart of the issue. Ms Singer confesses to a Christian upbringing, which she has clearly rejected big time. I do not know what negative experiences she may have had, but she really needs to deal with her hatred and bitterness, instead of lashing out at those who allow for more than her goo-to-you materialism.
Ms Bone’s piece is slightly less nasty in tone, but similar in its wispy-eyed humanism. It is also filled with some pretty ugly accusations. Consider this gem: “Yes, worldwide, religion is growing because religious people tend to have many children: children who are then indoctrinated with the beliefs of their parents (some call this child abuse).” Thanks Ms Bone for accusing perhaps 90 per cent of the world’s population of being child abusers. And of course her children are free from such abuse? Evidently humanistic indoctrination is not indoctrination.
Or consider this howler: “Everything good in religion can be had without religion.” Everything? These are just some of the ‘goods’ that Christianity has to offer: forgiveness of sins, unconditional love and acceptance with God, a clean conscience, and eternal life. How does secular humanism give us that?
And as a thorough-going philosophical naturalist, how can she even talk about good? As her hero Richard Dawkins reminds us, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” (River Out Of Eden, 1995)
Borrowed Spiritual Capital
Bone makes the same mistake that others did when they attacked me over an earlier comment I made. I had written in my critique of Singer’s original piece these words, “But for billions of human beings, non-material things like truth, beauty, justice, love, and even God are very meaningful realities, which the narrow world of atheism will never fully enjoy nor understand.”
That comment got all kinds of people foaming at the mouth. ‘How dare you claim I cannot love, or appreciate beauty.’ Of course what I said was they are unable to “fully enjoy or appreciate” these things. What did I mean by that? Those who are scientific reductionists, who believe that only matter matters, have no rational basis for claiming such things even exist. As materialists, they cannot offer a coherent explanation for such non-material entities. The metaphysical or the supernatural world just does not fit into their worldview.
These people are simply living off of borrowed spiritual capital. These nonmaterial things are pinched by the secularists from theistic worldviews. They do not belong in their worldview, and are not explicable by it. And for that reason, they cannot be fully enjoyed as well, not as they were intended by God.
But that is not to say that secularists or atheists may not appreciate, desire or benefit from such things. Nor that they are incapable of doing ‘good’ things. The only reason any goodness happens is because of the goodness of God in the first place. Despite their protests, non-believers are still made in God’s image, and they still live in God’s world. Thus, because of God’s grace, they can do good things. This is what theologians refer to as “common grace”. Even non-believers participate in, and receive blessings from, the creator whom they deny. Or as Jesus put it, God causes his sun to shine on the good and the evil, and his rain to fall on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45).
The doctrine of original sin does not suggest that people are as bad as they can possibly be, or that they are incapable of doing any good. It just means that every aspect of humanity is affected by the fall, and without God’s help and grace, humans will simply descend into more darkness and selfishness.
So atheists can certainly acknowledge that such non-material things exist, but they are then being inconsistent with their own non-theistic presuppositions, while being consistent with who they are as God’s image-bearers.
Atheist Hate Speech
Another issue raised by the various misotheist tirades is worth exploring. Many of their writings are quite savage and nasty. ‘Hate-filled’ would not be a bad description of some of their polemics. We might refer to this as atheist hate speech.
Secularists are often going on about how the Bible is hate speech, and how the words of religious fanatics are not just words. They claim that their speech often translates into action; that hate-filled ideas lead to hate-filled actions.
OK, so why do they not apply this reasoning to themselves? Do they really believe that all their anti-theistic hate speech will just remain verbal? Are they seriously denying that some people will read this vilifying material and go out and engage in acts of violence? Why the double standards here?
If religious fundamentalists are capable of provoking violent actions by their words, surely atheist fundamentalists are capable of doing just the same. And we have seen it happen before. Preceding Krystalnacht and the Nazi reign of terror, there was plenty of anti-Semitic speech in circulation. Virulent anti-Semitic writings, along with stirring speeches by Hitler before the outbreak of the Second War, provided the verbal grounds for later violent actions.
And as I mentioned elsewhere, the French Revolution is a great example of how the ideas of militant secularism were translated into ugly actions. The writings of the French despisers of religion like Voltaire and Diderot certainly contributed to the secularist rage later witnessed on the streets of Paris and elsewhere. They in part laid the foundation for the desecration of churches and the many clergy being sent to the guillotine.
Indeed, it seems a good case can be made, for example, that Ms Singer’s recent outbursts violate Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. There is little question about Ms Singer’s intolerance toward those with religious convictions, nor that she seemed to go out of her way to vilify them.
This is, nonetheless, a democracy. So the missionaries for atheism are free to write their anti-religious gospels. But one would like to see a lot less venom and hatred, and a lot more sound argument and rational debate coming from their camp. Much of what we have seen lately tells us more about the psychology of the atheists, than about the truth of their worldviews.