Having posted my original article Arguing with Atheists on Saturday, I avoided social media on the Lords Day, and returned to find, much as I expected, the normal reactions that one gets when one touches the sacred cows of the New Fundamentalist Atheism. It would be too tiresome to list all the abuse and insults but suffice it to say that the main points of my article were empirically proven by the reaction! Thanks to all my NFA friends who wrote in and provided me with proof of my contentions. And to Douglas McLellan who provided the most thought out and reasonable response.
Before we go on to part two lets recap some of the main points I wanted to make – with some of the responses which prove them.
1) NFAs are not interested in asking questions in order to find out information, they ask only to accuse.
2) NFAs believe that their position is the only intelligent and rational position and that anyone who disagrees therefore cannot be intelligent and rational. There is no discussion! “Again, David, you simply miss the point. Atheism (or other non-supernatural positions) is more rational – by definition – than any position based on superstitions (beliefs about supernatural things). It just is. You keep trying to make this a discussion, but it’s not.”
3) NFAs think that they are the only tolerant ones and anyone who does not see this should not be tolerated.
4) NFAs use the same Internet memes and post them as though they were original brilliant thought out rational points. And then they demand that you answer them immediately. I got several messages from people basically crying ‘answer me now, you idiot..I’m waiting…..I’m still waiting’ As though they really were waiting for an answer. Of course when you do answer they just get upset and go on to another round of invective or different questions/accusations.
5) NFAs don’t believe there is no God. They just don’t believe there is a God (I’ll leave you to work out the difference!). ‘Somanygods’ ignored virtually all the points because he wanted to argue that atheists are not people who believe there is no God, they are people who don’t think there is enough evidence for God, and therefore they don’t believe. It seems that modern day atheists not only want to rewrite the dictionary for Christians, they also want to rewrite it for themselves. If you don’t know there is a God, you are an agnostic. If you believe there is no God, you are an atheist. Most children manage to grasp that concept. I suspect that most adult atheists instinctively realise the logical weakness of their position and so resort to this kind of sophistry.
6) NFAs say there is no evidence for God, but seem unable to say what evidence they would accept.
7) NFAs know nothing about Christian theology so they just make up what Christians believe and then spend time arguing against themselves.
8) NFAs repeat the same doctrines over and over again.
9) The New Atheist Fundamentalism is not primarily about intellect and reason, but rather about emotion and an irrational hatred of anything religious. Ironically Garry Otton, an officer bearer of the SSS, demonstrated this when, in response to being presented with the abusive messages he permits and encourages, he suggested that some members of SS were not exactly the sharpest. “No, they are not all university graduates and they have different ways of expressing their feelings. But intelligent or not, there is a pretty universal disgust for religious extremism of any kind.” Apparently Garry agrees that the level of abuse indicates an emotional reaction and a lack of intellectual capacity! I wonder if he would post this on the SS page! By the way when Garry uses the phrase ‘religious extremism’ it means any religion that dares to question his fundamental beliefs.
10) NFAs don’t like it when you critique their faith and get very upset if you dare to challenge them. This is apparently not very nice nor ‘Christian’.
I now want to turn to the one response that was well written, thought out, and insofar as it is possible for atheism, made some sense. This was by Douglas McLellan, the new chairman of the Scottish Secular Society – who is in grave danger of making it appear reasonable (at least he would be if he could control its FB page!).
Douglas McLellan Blog I won’t respond to everything in it but I will make the following observations.
No Positive Beliefs – “Atheism, by the definition accepted by most atheists, has no positive beliefs intrinsic to it, and thereby no doctrine. It is only defined as a lack of belief in any of the many gods found in holy books throughout the world. There is no set of people who can be considered “more atheist” than the mainstream or moderate belief and hence there is no distinction between a “fundamentalist” and any other kind of atheist.” I am grateful to Douglas for proving my point that atheists think they don’t have any positive beliefs. Ironically he clearly demonstrates the falsity of that when he goes on to elaborate some of his own atheistic beliefs. There are different types of atheist. The ones I am writing about here are the more fundamentalist type.
Anger – Whilst Douglas attempts to deny that he also attributes to me a motive in using the term that is not true. Apparently its because I am ‘angry’ and want to introduce emotion into the debate. This is completely made up. I use the term because it is true and because it distinguishes the softer atheist/agnostic from the emotional angry atheist who every time you touch one of their beliefs immediately shouts we don’t have any beliefs! I feel no anger at all…just sorrow.
Atheist States – Douglas then goes on to say that I am using a debating trick by pointing out that the only atheistic states in the world have been oppressive ones. Usually atheists say you are using a trick when they can’t answer you (because again they want to discredit your case by questioning your morality!). But it’s not a trick…it’s the truth.
Secular States – Douglas then tries to cite ‘secular’ states such as the USA, Australia and France. Yet he conveniently forgets that the only secular states that have existed like that, are those that have been founded on Christian principles. It is Christianity that teaches the separation of Church and State. Fundamentalist religion like Islam sees them as being the same. As does fundamentalist atheism – which seeks to replace the role of God with the Almighty, all-powerful State.
Tolerance – “An organisation that he helps lead called SOLAS-CPC tweeted, just after the Paris attack, that Paganism is the biggest threat to the West and to Christian values. Not sure where the tolerance is there David.” Again this is not too difficult to answer. Firstly let me point out that Douglas’s organisation regularly posts on its FB page items that tell us that all religions are a threat. This may be a difficult concept for the NFA’s to grasp but yes Christianity did bring the West out of pagan darkness, and it would be a threat to our Christian values if we were to return to that. It is difficult to see why Douglas cannot see the obvious logical truth in that. But then the pagans were never great on logic either, so perhaps a return to our pagan past would suit atheists and pagans!
Abuse – Then to my point about the NFAs being abusive online, Douglas plays the tit of tat card, or what I call the ‘na, na, na, na, na….you do it too”. It is an obvious truism that there will always be people on the Internet of whatever persuasion who behave in an intolerant and abusive manner. But the point that Douglas is missing is that this seems to be a particular problem for the NFA’s – which is why so many atheists are desperately trying to distance themselves from Richard Dawkins advice to mock and ridicule the religious whenever you can.
Planned Parenthood – He talks about the ‘delight of Christians who were happy at the recent Planned Parenthood attack”. This is a strange example. I know of no Christian who would be happy at that insane attack. We feel sorrow over the death of any person. The difference between the NFA and us is that we feel sorrow for the millions killed in the womb as well, whereas the NFA seem to exult in the deaths of these babies. Have you seen the sickening t-shirts proudly proclaiming ‘I had an abortion?’. Incidentally I have noticed that for people who have no ‘doctrine’ they all seem to think the same thing about many issues, including abortion. Is that a) because it is the obvious truth or b) because the groupthink is in so deep that they just believe it is the obvious truth? (except of course they don’t believe it is the obvious truth because they don’t have any beliefs…its just the truth!).
Somanygods – And then we come on to the point about somanygods. “Some religions are monotheistic and others polytheistic. The issue is that each religion claims to be the correct one and they cant all be correct.” That’s not the issue. I agree with that statement. The issue is the NFA which says because there are different religions, none of them can be right. This is not a logical or reasonable position, and yet is continually presented as some kind of fact! The only religious position that is correct is the NFA one!
What is an Atheist? For evangelicals, an atheist is anyone who lives as if there were no God. It is not fundamentally about belief, for you see they have been taught that everyone believes in God. That’s just simply wrong. An atheist is someone who believes that there is no God. There are plenty people who say they believe in God or who are not sure, but are not Christians. If Douglas actually spoke to Christians and asked us what we thought, instead of relying on ‘Godless in Dixie’ he might be able to comment more accurately. It is for this reason I spend a great deal of time reading books by atheists, not books about them. I would suggest that NFAs should do the same for Christians.
Defining Faith – David then argues that the definition of faith has been shorn of its association with religion towards the end of the 20th century Again this is just simply false. In fact it is the very opposite of what I said. Faith at the beginning of the 20th Century has become entirely associated with religion. My position is the old one, that everyone has faith. I can’t believe that Douglas managed to miss the point that was being made – that the NFA definition of faith has now become ‘belief in spite of, or contrary to the evidence’, whereas the old definition was as he point out, ‘trust’. `So rather than my Alice-in-Wonderland treatment, I was just sticking with the historical use.
Naturalism – Douglas then goes on to say that my saying atheists are naturalists is a ‘strawman’ argument before going on to admit that he is a naturalist, ironically undermining his own case. I have yet to come across an atheist who is not a naturalist. Perhaps Douglas can provide examples?
Free Will – Douglas then goes on to admit my point that atheists in general find it difficult to believe in free will. He admits that he does not, which immediately begs the question, if free will does not exist, then Douglas is not an atheist because it is a rationally chosen position of his own free will, but rather is just a result of his own brain processes and chemical reactions. Which then immediately calls into question everything he says. Why should his random chemical reactions lead us into truth? Indeed can there be truth?
Evidence – And again I am grateful for Douglas confirming what I wrote – that NFAs who demand evidence actually would not accept any evidence. “I have seen and read enough science fiction and seen how we have developed as a species over the last 200 years to know that mere “miracles” of those described in the Bible and the miracles claimed in the name of God since will not persuade me. I would think that instead there were some kind of alien with ulterior motives rather than a god.
Jesus’s Return – I also wonder how religious people would react if Jesus returned. For me, (notwithstanding my high levels of evidence required) this would be both a slight problem (in that I now have an after life to worry about) but I would also sit back and get some popcorn ready. This shows a crass misunderstanding and a dreadful arrogance. It’s the daftest remark in what otherwise was a more or less sensible response. Christ’s return on judgement day won’t be about popcorn. It will be about repentance, remorse, sorrow and anger. As for me – I expect there to be many surprises and for Jesus to let me see that I have got many things wrong….but thankfully my trust is not in myself, but in Him.
Morality – Once again Douglas agrees with me about morality. At least to a point. If there is a failure of atheist morality then it is the same failure of religious morality – human beings. The difference between an atheist and an evangelical on this point though is how this can be made better. This is spot on. I think that human beings need to be changed. And ultimately only Christ can do that.
Who does the Checking? David fears an unchecked humanity free of religion yet unchecked religion has provided no better moral structure. Again I agree totally. The question is – who does the checking? My argument is God and his Word, working through human agencies. Douglas argues that there is no check upon humanity. We just make up our own rules as we go along.
Authority for Morality? David states that to believe in God is to have a moral absolute authority to appeal to. Again though, it is mankind that does the appealing. Hence there was authority for slavery, the crusades, the inquisition, the burning of people at the stake. When evangelical Christians call for their Gods moral authority I have to say I don’t want any of that brought back. We have enough problems with ISIS and their claims of divine moral authority. Douglas avoids answering where the morality comes from – and because he can’t answer he lumps together all religions as being the same. I disagree that the bible gives authority for slavery, the crusades, the inquisition, and burning people at the stake. I go with the morality of Jesus Christ. Where do the NFAs get their authority for morality from?
Privatisation of Faith – I have no problem with what David believes in. I have no problem in there being a Free Church of Scotland. Or indeed any other denomination or faith. My problem, my fear, is the intense desire for those of an evangelical bent to have a world that suits them and suits them alone. I could of course make the same charge against the NFAs. Of course they don’t have a problem with any faith or denomination – as long as you keep it private, don’t let it interfere with any one else, and that is has nothing to do with any aspect of public life. They don’t of course say this about their atheistic secular faith – where they demand that all society must be governed by their principles alone. And because they don’t believe in an authority outside the State (unlike Christianity which does have a secular/church divide), there is a far more absolutist totalitarian faith than biblical Christianity.
SSM – We have seen religious opposition to same sex marriage but not a single person says that David must go against his faith to conduct one. Yet David not only rejects same sex marriage for him and his faith (as is his unequivocal right), he sought to deny it to those who did want it. To me, that is frightening. To me, telling other people that they cannot having something that other people have, merely because I don’t agree with it, is a hatred of certain human beings. To some people this appears as a sensible point. But unless you are an absolute libertarian (an impossible position in practice) it is difficult to see how it has any logical rationale. Let’s examine this. Does Douglas and the SSS believe that polygamy should be allowed? Do they believe that two brothers should be allowed to marry? If they don’t then exactly the same argument applies. They are telling some people they cannot have something that other people have, they are seeking to deny it those who want it. They don’t have to marry their brothers, so why deny it to others? I have yet to hear any satisfactory answer to this. Douglas, over to you!
A Challenge to Debate – After all, its what underpinned the morality of slavery for so long? And still does for ISIS. Yes, it’s a hatred that stems from the instructed love in a religious text, but it causes harm, it causes pain and it causes distress. To think that is a Glorious message is frightening. And it is why evangelical Christians must be debated. Not insulted, not ignored, not name called. But challenged, not about their faith, but their desire for people who do not share their beliefs to have to live by them. This again illustrates the illogicality of the NFA position. Apparently if you are opposed to SSM you are equivalent to ISIS, support slavery and live on hatred! It would be wonderful if Douglas and his SS colleagues would be prepared to debate. I have offered them many times. But they don’t. They just ridicule and name call. I hope that Douglas, as the new chairperson, will change this and will take up the challenge. Instead of demonising Christians why not debate us? My suspicion is that they won’t or can’t because immediately the narrative they use to demonise us would be proved false.
Atheist Intolerance – One thing we will of course immediately point out is that they actually are the ones who demand that people who do not share their beliefs must live by them. After all it is not the Christians who demand that atheists must all go to Christian schools – it is the atheistic secularists who demand that everyone must be educated in schools that reflect their views. It is not the Christians who are demanding that atheists must bake cakes with messages on them that they disagree with.
Obnoxious Critiques – Challenged, not about their religion, but their obnoxious “critiques” (read insult and hatred) of other religious. It is possible for all of humanity to live happy, moral lives together where we follow different faiths and ideologies. Where we are all equal in the eyes of the law. That is the point of debating evangelicals. Interesting that the chairman of an organisation that consistently abuses, mocks and attacks religions speaks of obnoxious ‘critiques’. I have never personally and have rarely seen any evangelical Christian abuse the Catholic faith as much as SS (a church full of child abusers or those who cover up child abusers), never mind what they say about evangelical Christians, republicans, anyone against abortion, Muslims (although they are more careful here – I wonder why?!).
Atheist Faith- You will note here the ‘faith’ that Douglas has. All humans can live happy, moral lives together where we follow different faiths and ideologies? It’s such a Disneyesque statement that ignores questions such as what is happiness? And who decides what is moral? (And it is empirically proven wrong by the SS FB page where you can see the kind of treatment offered to those who don’t buy into the secularist nirvana).
Equal in the Eyes of the Law – I agree that we should all be equal in the eyes of the law. But in the atheistic secularist version, where the state is God, this means that some will be more equal than others.
Hatred And if you don’t buy into this secularist version of ‘equality’ then beware. My own experience of the NFA’s is that there is an irrational hatred of Christianity which quickly moves beyond the kind of discussion and engagement that I believe Douglas and others like him genuinely want (and for what its worth I don’t include Douglas in this group). They hate Christ and his people so much that they will seek to silence us.
This is my experience.
First they mock and abuse. Enough said about that.
Secondly they misrepresent or deliberately lie about you. Another member of the SS executive wrote in response to Douglas’s article “It is indeed the desire to force everyone to live by a certain set of religious rules, regardless of whether they share that religion, which makes evangelicals so toxic. They do Not contend merely to spread their faith and convert, but to enforce it.” That is simply an out and out lie. By definition an evangelical is someone who believes the Gospel and follows Christ. The Christ who told us not only that we should not seek to force people to believe, but that we could not. Unless people are born again they cannot even see the kingdom of God, never mind enter it! But sadly it is this kind of ignorance which leads to the sort of prejudice and fear that goes on to the next step.
Thirdly they attack your character and sanity – Garry Otton of the SSS, suggested to the readers of the UK Unbelievable FB page that I was a sociopath who had been psychologically damaged by being brought up in an abusive Christian home where I was not allowed to watch TV, listen to the radio, or sit at a table with non-believers! None of this is true – but then the concept of truth does not seem to have a high currency amongst some of the NFAs. This is not the first time this has happened. There have been consistent attempts to smear my character and question my sanity….it usually goes along the lines of ‘I have spoken to professional people who are worried about him”. Although it is hurtful, in some ways I don’t mind being accused of being insane. I am in good company – they accused Christ and they accused Paul. “24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defence. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable.” (Romans 26).
Finally they use ‘the law’. People who in theory have been ‘freedom loving rebels’ seeking to defy the law so that ‘equality’ can be obtained, morph into the strongest ‘law and order’ advocates. ‘It’s the law’ goes up the cry. And again, because they do not trust any internal law, or law of God, they like to make lots of laws, just to ensure that their views are enforced. Concepts of hate speech will be used to silence those who dare to disagree with their absolutist morals. Again I have personal experience of this. I have been threatened several times and one day I do expect to be taken to court for just teaching the Bible.
That is why we have to challenge the fundamentalism of this new atheism, and ensure that we continue to have the freedom to proclaim and live the Gospel of Christ. Not just for our own sakes, but for the benefit of all the people. Even our Atheist friends. As Peter Hitchens puts it. “The worst place to be an atheist is in an atheist country, the best place to be one, is in a Christian country’.