The New Atheism – 03 November 2007 — The “New Atheism” – Barry Duke and David Marshall Debate
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Description of Episode
- Full Title: Unbelievable? 3 Nov 2007 – The New Atheism – 03 November 2007 — The “New Atheism” – Barry Duke and David Marshall Debate
Christianity is under attack as never before by a wave of militant atheists, led by Richard Dawkins. Atheist Barry Duke is all in favour of it, while Christian David Marshall’s book “The Truth behind the new Atheism” rejects it. They join Justin on the show as he asks whether Christianity is really as bad as the New Atheists are making out.
- Justin Brierley – Christian Moderator
- David Marshall – Christian
- Barry Duke – Atheist
- Gordon Livesey – Atheist
Barry – There is nothing new about the atheism. What is new is the response. This is partly because of 9/11. This event made people realize what some people would do for their religion. And partly because of the perception that the US was hijacked by a fundamentalist and given power through the neo-cons.
David – Critical of evolution on social development of religion. Dennett believes that if you can explain religion then you can “explain it away”.
Me – What is the difference between explaining something and explaining it away? I’d say this is just model-comparison with different words. When you have something, like a UFO sighting, and then someone explains it with mundane events, like a trick of the lights, that is typically described as explaining it away – you’ve replaced an extraordinary explanation with one that is more plausible. This is what Dennett typically does – he demonstrates a more plausible description of how certain religious behaviors and experiences can arise from more mundane phenomena. In this way, explaining it is explaining it “away”. It’s just that people who believe the extraordinary explanation don’t like the mundane explanation, so the term “explaining away” has negative connotations for them.
Justin – Religion more harm than good? That attitude seems to be new. Also, this “militant atheism“. Is it just against fundamentalism?
Me – When I hear the term “militant atheist” I can’t help but think of this cartoon. If you campare what you think of with the term “Miltant Islamist” with “Militant Atheist”, it is quite clear there is a double-standard at work. The only “militant” part of atheists, even the most dogmatic ones, is that they have forceful arguments.
Barry – No. There is a general feeling that enough is enough or we will get railroaded by religion in government, education, etc… The new atheists want to galvanize those people who are effectively non-believers, bring them to the stand and we can then effect political change.
David – It’s ironic not to have religion in the marketplace of ideas or in education. The university was a religious idea itself. Christianity has informed society mostly for the good. Separation of church and state is a Christian idea.
Me – I believe he is referring to Mark 12:17 – “Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.”. There is a long way from that to “separation of church and state”. If the separation was truly was a Christian idea, then I’d expect a totally different European history from 0 AD to 1700 AD! What a ridiculous claim.
Barry – Slavery was supported by Christians and then brought down by some Christians.
David – Slavery is a natural idea and has been part of nearly all civilizations. Christians have undermined slavery from early on, not directly but indirectly. Beginning in the fourth century slaves were set free so that by the eleventh century there were areas of western Europe free of slaves. This was not imposed on the rest of society. Sixty percent of anti-slave organizers were Christian pastors.
Me – It is faint praise indeed that the best you can say about the Christian stance on slavery, historically, is that some slaves were freed so that 700 years later (!!!) some small areas in the world, that didn’t feel that they needed slaves anymore, didn’t have slaves. Again, the Bible is quite clear on its perspective with respect to slavery – it either commands it or condones it, both Old and New Testament. There is never even a hint of condemnation for the practice.
Gordon – Concerns about Intelligent Design (ID) in the classroom
David – The ID people just want to have an open forum to discuss their ideas and that it is legitimate to question scientific ideas, even parts of evolution. That ID isn’t a problem most of the time, the issues often exaggerated. I don’t see it as standing in the way of any science or progress currently.
Me- David’s view of ID is completely at odds with the facts on the ground about the movement. The clearest description of this was the Judges ruling in the Dover PA case. Here ID had a chance to present its best arguments to a jury, and was found wanting at every level. From the Wikipedia page: “The ruling concluded that intelligent design is not science, and permanently barred the board from “maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID.”” The full ruling showed the ID proponents for what they are: a group of people who do not shirk from lying and distortions to achieve their religious-motivated goals.
Justin. Do you believe that raising a child as religious is child abuse?
Barry. There are rare cases where this is definitely a problem. In my own case I was beaten in South Africa for not participating in Christian rituals.
Gordon. My daughteer is six years old, and was upset one day when she was told off by a teacher. She said “We all have to say grace, and I didn’t say it.” Then the lady in the lunch room pushed her head down and said “Say your prayers!”
David. Entirely on Barry and Gordon’s side. However, in the US it has been shown that going to church makes people in ghettos less likely in crime. Yes, there are people who use Christianity to abuse people, but this goes against what the gospels say.
Me – I certainly would not call all religious education “child abuse”. Corporal punishment (Biblically motivated, or otherwise), yes. Psychological torture (Biblically motivated, or otherwise), yes. Raising a child to call themselves Christian, not. As for the benefits, I am interested in the truth. I imagine that the reduced-crime benefits described would come from any kind of group membership, regardless of its religious or secular affiliation. It does not speak to the specific truth of Christianity.