Wednesday, August 02, 2017

An Atheist Leaves the Intolerance of New Atheism

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Bolles Harbor on Lake Erie, Monroe

In both my undergraduate and graduate work in philosophy I had some teachers who were atheists. All but one were kind to me and supportive of me.

Not one of them mocked me because I believed in God, and in Jesus. None of them had insulting cartoons of Jesus on their office walls.

I am so grateful for that. They actually engaged me in civil dialogue. And, a couple of them told me my work was good and supported me in going for, and finishing, my PhD.

They were so different from the old "New Atheists." Who, for some psychological reasons, felt the need to belittle theists. And, to be moral judges of all. Their followers feel the same. (Perhaps here lies a reason?)

Thankfully, not all atheists follow this abusive strategy. Phil Torres appears to be one who does not. See his recent article in Salon - "From the Enlightenment to the Dark Ages: How "new atheism" slid into the alt-right." Torres writes: "A movement supposedly committed to science and reason has decayed into racism, misogyny and intolerance. I'm done."

New atheists see themselves as champions of reason, while supremely intolerant of theists like myself who think differently. Torres states:

"As a philosopher — someone who cares deeply about intellectual honesty, verifiable evidence, critical thinking and moral thoughtfulness — I now find myself in direct opposition with many new atheist leaders. That is, I see my own advocacy for science, critical thought and basic morality as standing in direct opposition to their positions."

Intolerance is uninterested in reason and evidence. "You should always work hard to understand a position before you level harsh criticisms at it. Otherwise you’ll end up looking like a fool to those “in the know.”" (Emphasis Torres.)

Torres writes this principle, taught in basic logic courses, because new atheists and their offspring are often guilty of judging without understanding. Torres provides many examples in his essay.

He continues:

"Words that now come to mind when I think of new atheism are “un-nuanced,” “heavy-handed,” “unjustifiably confident” and “resistant to evidence” — not to mention, on the whole, “misogynist” and “racist.”...

This is heartbreaking, because humanity needs thoughtful, careful, nuanced, scientifically minded thinkers more now than ever before."

I'm with Torres on that last point. He reminds me of some of my atheist philosophy professors, who were not intolerant of me when I expressed my developing worldview, and wondered about theirs.