Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Those Sensitive Fundamentalists

Jul 29, 2008

Fundamentalists can be a sensitive lot. When their faith-based worldview is challenged, they can become quite ornery and defensive. When it is pointed out that their religion has little to do with evidence, and much to do with stubbornly held-to dogma, they simply dig in all the more, redoubling their efforts to promote their gospel.

Now before some believers become quite concerned about where I am heading with all this, let me point out that the fundamentalists that I have in mind here are not of the theistic camp. In fact, I speak here of atheist fundamentalists. For the new militant apostles of atheism display many aspects of fundamentalism.

Now of course the term originally had quite a positive understanding, before it was recently hijacked by secularists. Fundamentalists were Christians who issued a series of booklets called The Fundamentals, which laid out basic, or fundamental, Christian doctrines at a time when they were fast being abandoned.

That took place just over a century ago. But the term has since taken on quite a pejorative connotation, with it being used of any person who is totally committed to his or her religious beliefs. Thus the secular media is quite happy to throw the term around in reckless fashion, applying it to Islamic suicide bombers, as well as to born-again Christians who love Jesus with all their heart.

But militant atheism has all the hallmarks of a religion, with its revered texts (eg., The God Delusion), worshipped leaders who can do no wrong (Dawkins, et. al.), a concept of sin and deception (belief in God), evangelistic crusades (to rid the world of religion), and so on. It is not unexpected therefore that we have plenty of atheist fundamentalists in our midst.

And my experience in dealing with atheists has been just that. They can be every bit as intolerant, dogmatic, blinded by their faith, and zealous to persecute non-believers (those who reject their naturalism and reductionism) as any religious zealot can be. And for many, their blind faith makes them impervious to any evidence to the contrary.

I have come to know the intolerance of the new atheist crusaders first hand. When I dared a few years ago to write a critique of The God Delusion, I was deluged by angry atheists who were indignant that I could do such a thing as challenge their religious creed. Many of their comments were simply not fit to print.

Indeed, they seemed to be especially incensed that I dared to speak out against the high priest of atheism, the prophet Dawkins. You see, one can evidently be guilty of blasphemy against these atheist leaders. They do not take kindly to criticism or challenges. Indeed, Richard Dawkins seems to be quite a sensitive soul (or, sorry, slab of meat – he of course rejects such an idea as a soul).

I soon discovered why so many angry disciples of Dawkins were targeting my website and my review of his holy word: there was a directive on Dawkins’ website encouraging his groupies to come to my site and work me over. It was as if I had personally insulted the head of the Cosa Nostra, and the boys were sent out to teach me a lesson.

So instead of this being a case of spontaneous generation (atheists who just happened to come upon my site by chance), it was in fact part of what can only be described as Intelligent Design (part of a personal, purposed, planned campaign).

Others have had similar experiences when daring to cross Dawkins. Dinesh D’Souza for example, has debated most of the high priests of atheism, including Shermer, Dennett, Singer and Hitchens. Yet Dawkins has always refused to debate him.

Yet a very interesting debate did just recently eventuate. But Dawkins was not aware of whom his sparring partner would be at first, and he was not very happy to learn it was D’Souza. I let him continue the story:

“Imagine my surprise when a television producer for al-Jazeera (yes, that al-Jazeera) called to say that Richard Dawkins has agreed to appear with me on the Riz Khan show, broadcast to more than 20 million viewers worldwide. Al-Jazeera had asked me several weeks earlier to come on the show and debate the War on Terror, and I had told them I’d rather debate a leading atheist. They found Dawkins.”

Upon learning that it was D’Souza, Dawkins started making all kinds of demands and conditions before the debate could proceed: “he called the producer and said he would only appear on the show if he and I were interviewed in separate segments, and moreover, he had to go second. I suppose he was worried that if he went first I might be able to rebut some of his statements. He insisted on a format in which he could rebut what I said but I couldn’t rebut what he said.”

You can now see the debate on YouTube. But let me mention one topic and how it unfolded: “I argued that it is reasonable to ask scientifically about the cause of the universe. Effects require causes, so what is the cause for which the universe is the effect? It seems unreasonable in the extreme to say that even though nature had a beginning, somehow nature is the cause of itself. So God is the name we give to the supernatural being that is the cause of nature as a whole.”

“In his segment that followed, Dawkins responded this way: ‘This leaves open the question of where did the creator come from?’ Since the creator is this ‘great big complicated thing,’ what good does it do to invoke one complex thing to explain another? ‘If you postulate a designer you haven’t explained anything.’ Basically what Dawkins is saying is that there is no point in using complex explanation A to account for complex phenomenon B if you cannot account for A.”

“This is a fallacy. We can see this by applying the logic to evolution itself. The logic of evolution is a ‘great big complicated thing’ with all its elements of replication, natural selection, mutations, genetic drift, and so on. Yet it is invoked to explain another complicated thing: the exquisite fit between living creatures and their surroundings.”

“How reasonable would it be to argue: ‘We are invoking one complicated thing, namely evolution, to explain another, namely living things. Yet this leaves open the question of where evolution came from. We have no idea how and why evolution originally started. Since we cannot account for evolution, our explanation is useless. Simply to postulate evolution is to explain nothing.’ This is precisely Dawkins’s argument regarding God, and here we can see how it boomerangs on evolution!”

“But consider the argument itself more closely. Is it really true that Complex Explanation A for Complex Phenomenon B only works if we can give a full account of A? Actually it is not true. Gravity may account for why objects fall at a certain pace, but this does not require that we give an account for where gravity comes from or why it exists in the first place. If we find various signs of intelligent life on another planet we can conclude that there are aliens on that planet without having any idea of who created them or where they came from. In summary, the best explanation for something does not require that we also provide an explanation for the explanation.”

D’Souza concludes, “The problem I think for Dawkins is that his trademark snorts and sneers only work against weak opponents who do not do much more than hurl Bible verses at their opponents. When he is confronted with history, philosophy, and logic, Dawkins seems to have very little to say. And perhaps this explains his peculiar insistence that I be given no chance whatever to respond to his statements on the Riz Khan show.”

Quite right. Given the number of fellow atheists who blasted Dawkins for the embarrassment his The God Delusion caused, it would be sensible for him to stay away from the big boys in theism, and instead take on the more lightweight contenders.

But don’t expect any changes soon. The true believers of atheism will keep flailing away, regardless of how unconvincing or ineffective their arguments turn out to be. Better to fight to the death for the faith, evidently, than to give in to the other side.

[1403 words]

5 Responses to Those Sensitive Fundamentalists

  • Good one Bill, but what about those other religious fundamentalists we hear a lot about these days – the true believers of man-made global-warming? 😉

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Ewan,
    Here, here! These too are starting to get very sensitive and nervous, as well as venomous, as the evidence against the whole GW scenario steadily mounts, and an increasing number of of qualified scientists jump ship on the whole thing.

    But then, it’s not really about science at all: it never has been. It was cooked up by the far left back in the early 1990s, after the collapse of Communism. Where to now with no Communist monolith by which to attack Western capitalism, lifestyle, corporations etc?

    And even no it’s not about science: it is a political agenda. Look at the rhetoric from the likes of Tim Flannery: he wants global totalitarian government to enforce climate rectitude so as to save the planet! It always has been about this sort of thing: a global crisis needs a global solution, which in turn needs a global government. I have not been into conspiracy theories in the past, nor into lurid prophetic speculation, but I fear we are witnessing the advent of the final antichrist with this whole push, given the rhetoric which now accompanies it. And the phenomenon of militant atheism may well be part of the same scenario.

    Murray Adamthwaite

  • Bill
    Just brilliant. The argument puts into perspective our own lives. One life in billions on this earth today. An earth that has been around for an unimaginable number of years with countless billions of people.
    Yet our God sent His only son to die and raise from the dead to overcome the sin of all mankind. To prove that for all time His life conquers sin and death and that His followers need not be afraid- afraid of criticisms from Dawkins or other non believers.
    We pray for Dawkins and his fellow travellers because Jesus taught us to preach the gospel to every creature. He also told us that some would reject His teaching. We know that so we are not perturbed but we contimue to seek to persuade others of the promise of another life after this and for which this life is but a trial.
    A trial means we have to out up with things we would as humans prefer not to have to indergo but there is a reason for suffering and that may only be known today to God but we know through seeing the sufferengs of Jesus and from His tweaching that he is the Way and that by following His example ( which included suffering) that we can go the Father.
    Keep up th good fight Bill even though there are times where you suffer for what youi are doing.
    David Grace

  • I wonder how many atheists had a great relationship with their father? And as a result seek for comfort elsewhere: in the atheistic intellectual world view. But end up worshipping at the altar of Gaia.
    Greg Brien

  • Thanks Greg

    Actually in 2000 Paul Vitz wrote a book on just that issue, called Faith of the Fatherless. He argued that many well known atheists in fact had absent or abusive fathers. See my review of this book here:

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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