An Atheist on the New Atheists


| 11/26/2007 5:06:08 PM


While many faith-based responses to antireligious rants by Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great), Sam Harris (The End of Faith), Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), et al. have been published, some of the more interesting critiques have come from fellow atheists. Theodore Dalrymple—an atheist and a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute—has a lively and thoughtful piece in the institute’s City Journal.

Dalrymple’s basic, but crucial observation is that this latest spate of antireligious book lack originality. “[They] imagine themselves to be like the intrepid explorer Sir Richard Burton, who in 1853 disguised himself as a Muslim merchant, went to Mecca, and then wrote a book about his unprecedented feat,” he writes. “They advance no argument that I, the village atheist, could not have made by the age of 14.”

The piece also criticizes these writers’ deeply condescending attitudes toward people of faith, as well as their selective use of evidence in support of a foregone conclusion (“First you decide what you hate, and then you gather evidence for its hatefulness”).

Dalrymple is at his best when challenging the new atheists on their own intellectual consistency, questioning, for instance, Dawkins’ wisdom in suggesting “a new set of Ten Commandments for atheists…without considering odd the idea that atheists require commandments at all, let alone precisely ten of them.”

At times, the prose is as self-important as, well . . . Christopher Hitchens. And there’s enough gratuitous name-dropping to make even a young graduate student blush. Still, it’s a sharply written and argued piece.



See also the Berlin weekly Jungleworld’s interview with Mitchell Cohen—reprinted in Dissent­—in which Cohen, another atheist, offers some useful context for the debate. —Steve Thorngate

Ligeia_3
11/28/2007 9:17:12 PM

The 'piece' is brilliantly written http://elleocwent.multiply.com/


Ligeia_4
11/28/2007 9:17:12 PM

The 'piece' is brilliantly written http://elleocwent.multiply.com/




Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!




Facebook Instagram Twitter