Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Quick Thought Toward the New Atheism and the Reason Rally

by Rob Lundberg, Director 
Fredericksburg Apologetics Project

A couple of years ago, I was speaking in one of the break out session speakers at an apologetics conference in Chesapeake, VA.  The topic my talk was “Who Really Holds the Crutch?  Christianity or Atheism?” (You can find the general summation of the talk here)  While at the conference I had the privilege of meeting the infamous John Loftus, who would be debating David Wood that evening.    I also had the chance to meet my Facebook antagonist, who seems to have dropped off the circuit.

After completing my talk during the “Crutch” talk, we entered into the Q and A session, where I was called to task by a visiting atheist who took issue of my definition of atheism.   The definition I used was from the article on “atheism and agnosticism,” the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  In the article written by J. J. C. Smart on the subject of "atheism and agnosticism he states the classical definition of atheism as “the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.”

Many of those embracing this “new atheism” do not like this definition.  Whether it is those who would be considered as my antagonists on the local Fredericksburg, "hot seat" board under “Religion” or my wife’s cousin, the definition of classical atheism is not a welcome one.  With the coming of the Reason Rally in a few days, many of the folks rallying around the new atheism embrace a different definition of "atheism" than the classical definition.

 I would like to venture into the definition that the new atheists use in the attempt to show themselves  reasonable than one holding to a reasonable faith in Christianity.  The problem is that the new atheist's skirting of the classical definition fails rather miserably. First off let’s deal with some of the definition of atheism.   If we look at the word and break it down,  the alpha privative of negation (a - "no") and the root theos meaning "God," combined together, leads you to "the negation of theism, vis-a-vis, "the denial of the existence of God."  So if atheism is the absolute denial of the existence of God, or as Etienne Bourne defines atheism, “the absolute denial of the Absolute,” why do they try to redefine it?

Perhaps the classical definition gives too much of a negative connotation to the word atheism.  Think of it, someone saying that there is no God.  What would you think about that claim that God does not exist.  Whether we want to admit it, every person has a moral framework inside them that was put there by the God who created them, whether one wants to believe it or not.  It is not an intellectual step to disavow God, but a moral one.  The problem is that one has a moral framework, but is it a good one?

The new atheists, by claiming atheism being "a lack of belief" in God want to try and claim an "intellectual" high ground with this softer definition.  Try as they may, it is not a good definition, because it  proves nothing.  This is the same definition  my questioner threw down at the Q and A:

Questioner: "I don't like your definition of atheism." 
Response: "What is your understanding of the definition of atheism?"
Questioner:  "Atheism is a lack of belief in the existence of God."
Response:  "Why are you not a pantheist or something else, you obviously believe in something."

Indeed this is the case. The new atheist groupies do believe in something.  Reason.  Science.  Evolution.  The latest book written by Dawkins, Harris, the late Christopher Hitchens, Dennet, Shermer, Meyers or someone else.

But if we look long and hard enough, without turning to a response to the aforementioned three (reason, science, or evolution), just looking at the definition of a "lack of belief" does not prove their brand of atheism as true.  Let me explain.

If I say that I have a lack of belief that something does not exist, it does not mean that that which I do not believe in is non-existent.  That which I am denying very well could exist, but I am just stating that I have a lack of belief that it does.  This is not atheism and if one wants to claim that it is atheism, they need to get honest with the real definition and "buck up."

So the Christian does not need to be worried when an adherent of the new atheism says, "atheism is a lack of belief in God."  Just tell them so what.  Your definition does not prove God's non-existence no matter how vitriolic you want to be and no matter how vehement you want to prove your point.  God very well could exist, and there are reasonable proofs that would conclude it reasonable to believe than not to believe in the existence of God.

So looking at science, and reason and the definition of the new kind of atheism is all the new atheist has in their clip.  But there are things that science cannot prove; evolution is just a theory with many holes in it.  And reason?  Calling thinking Christians names is not reasonable.  Claiming that scientific facts will eventually come and what they believe about God's non-existence will be true.  Well we are waiting on that something we may not see in our lifetime.  Take all this and then the definition of a lack of belief, which seeks to skirt the classical definition and what you have is one big meaningless system of mush that is inconsistent with reality.  And as an adherent to the new atheism attending the Reason Rally you really believe that?   How reasonable is that? 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reason Rally Supporter Not Very 'Reasonable' Inviting Christian Fringe Group

The more and more I think about the premises of those spearheading the Reason Rally, the more I find them to be most unreasonable.   Not too long ago I had two postings concerning comments made by an atheist on my blog, who was parroting P. Z. Meyers with statements like, we are being obnoxious, arrogant, along with a whole bunch of other rhetorical insinuations about making plans to go to the Reason Rally.  Those of us blogging on the rally have opened up and extended invitations to any atheist who wants to grace the door of our respective churches holding what is called an Atheist at Church Day.

Just in the last couple of days we have seen the next wave of illogical rhetoric hitting the web.  This time it is an ardent supporter of the Reason Rally (Jim Klawon) showing his skill in emotional rhetoric and unreasonable nonsense.  The vehicle is inviting a group like Westboro Baptist Church to the Reason Rally.

Amid all the responses from our 'coalition' of apologetics bloggers (e.g., True Reason.org, Ratio Christi, Thinking Christian, Deeper Waters, Reasons for God, along with this and other blogs), we are somewhat amazed and scratching our heads, trying to figure out where the "reason" is in Klawon's invitation to Westboro Baptist Church (here is the letter of invite from the Center for Inquiry).  

For those who have not followed the events, let me give a little history behind the events of the Reason Rally up to this point:  

  1. The premise of the Reason Rally is supposedly to show the nation that atheism/secularism is reasonable.
  2. TrueReason.org responds by declaring its intent to come to the rally to reason with atheists.
  3. Atheists respond with mocking and outrage and demand to be allowed into Christian churches (example).
  4. TrueReason.org responds with an initiative to invite atheists and skeptics to churches.
  5. Many atheists respond by indicating that they don't want to go to church (example).
  6. TrueReason.org publishes a book demonstrating that though the “New Atheists” claim to be the defenders of reason, they’re not very good at it.
  7. The rally organizers invite the Westboro Baptists to the rally. Westboro is known for its angry demonstrations and un-Christian and un-reasonable responses to cultural issues. (Source:Ratio Christi, Let's Set Up Our Own Straw men posting)

We now come to the events of #7, and I have to ask, "where in the world is the 'reason' in Klawon's invitation to a  hyper-fringe group of fundamentalists, claiming to be a genuine representation of Christianity?  The Westboro Baptist Church has been in the media at "rights" marches, military funerals and other events stating their view of the Bible.  Let me say that though they may believe the Bible, and "preach the Bible", the action of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, peace, patience, joy, kindness, and self control is missing; and is therefore NOT a good representation of Christianity.  In fact, it sounds like Westboro has cut out Galatians 5:22-23 from their Bibles!

This said, the atheists, being charged up by this invitation, are once again demonstrating the folly of their reasoning skills.  through the committing of a couple of informal fallacies in logic (the study of sound critical thinking and reasoning).  Let me illustrate these fallacies coming from those promoting "reason" from an atheistic perspective:

1.  The Straw Man fallacy:   The straw man fallacy is an informal fallacy that is based upon the misrepresentation of an opponent's position.  It has nothing to do with the argument being made, but doing everything to misrepresent the opponent.  How is this fleshed out with Jim Klawon inviting Westboro Baptist Church?

Klawon invites a fringe group, professing to be Christians but known for their hateful demonstrations.  This group professes Christianity and Klawon's strategy appears to create this illusion for people toward lumping all Christians under the temperament of the likes of Westboro Baptist Church.  Some of us on the side of faith and reason have called this a diversion and a distraction.  To say the least it makes life interesting for us on the side of truth and logical thinking.

There is another fallacy that is crawling around in the straw of the atheist straw man and that is what is called the fallacy of the excluded middle term.

2.  The Excluded Middle fallacy:  This is also known as a faulty dilemma, or a false dichotomy where one argues for "sameness" when there are some things in common between two entities (i.e., religions or religious leaders), but those two entities do not share all (the main) things in common    Here are a couple of syllogisms to give you a taste for this kind argument:

Premise 1:  David Koresh had  huge following.
Premise 2:  Jesus had a huge following.
Conclusion:  Therefore they are the same.
Analysis:   Just because there are parts of the both religious leaders having a huge following, it does not mean that they are all the same.

here is another. . .

Premise 1:  Hinduism is polytheistic
Premise 2:  Mormonism is polytheistic
Conclusion:  Therefore they are the same.
Analysis:   Just because there are parts of the both that are same does not mean that they are all the same.

Do you see the problem here?  This is how the new atheism is arguing when Mr. Klawon invites a fringe "Christian" group to say, "we are opening up the invite to 'all Christians'."  Really?  Let's follow this now because I am smelling more than just "stinky red fish."  It is reductio ad absurdum (reduced to absurdity).  Here is how Klawon's rationale for inviting Westboro Baptist Church is not even congruent.

Premise 1:  The "reasonable skeptic," Klawon, thinking (whether ignorantly or maliciously) that Westboro Baptist Church is a true representation of Christianity, invites them to the rally as a kind gesture, "celebrating  diversity, logic, acceptance and reason."

Premise 2:  The ministries aligned with True Reason are Christian groups.  Some are from Baptist churches, Bible churches, evangelical and mainline churches all of which profess to be Bible believing Christian groups.

Premise 3:  All these groups profess to be "Christian" in their beliefs. 

Conclusion: Therefore they are the same.

Analysis:   Just because one says that one is a Christian, it does not mean that they are a Christian as defined within the bounds of Scripture.  This is not to be judgemental.  It is to say that when you look at the bottle, the contents of bottle must match the label.  There are certain beliefs that meet the historical Christian faith, (biblical views God, man, salvation, damnation, Christ, eternity etc etc.).   If a group does not meet those biblical beliefs nor demonstrate the fruit of those beliefs, I believe that we should question it.  Just because you are Christian does not mean that it truly the case unless the contents of one's faith match the biblical criteria.


Conclusion.

Is the Reason Rally and the demonstration of reason from atheists truly reasonable?  Absolutely not!  It is totally illogical!  It is a poor demonstration of reason and is nothing more than menial rhetoric that holds no water.  I, along with my colleagues, are seeing an unbroken principle emerging here; one that I have seen in many a discussion on the internet with local atheists.  The problem that many of the new atheists share is that they are very weak in their reasoning skills.  Every time they do or say something against the Christian faith, they display this hypocrisy toward reason.  It may be that this is not always the case; one could only hope.  So far in my experiences there have been very few (counting on one hand) exceptions.  This appears the greatest chink in their armor, seeking to put reason as their strength, only coming short every time.   I along with others would like to say that we are ready to meet them at the point of reason every time, in order to show that Christianity is a most reasonable faith.


More from those writing on this event toward the Reason Rally

Reason Rally Organizer to Reasoning Christians: We Want No Dialogue, Tom Gilson
The Reason Rally and the Westboro Invitation, Carson Weitnauer
The Reason Rally in a Pickle, Tom Gilson
The Reason Rally's Brilliant Maneuver, Tom Gilson
Let's Set Up Our Own Straw Men, Rick Schenker
Coalition to Offer 'Christian Response' at Reason Rally to Engage Non-Believers, The Christian Post
Deeper Waters: Westboro Baptist Church, Nick Peters

Monday, March 12, 2012

Christians Respond to the Extreme Claims of the Reason Rally


posted by Caitlin Bendall, Ratio Christi

Authors of new book highlight irrationality of atheists' claim to be defenders of reason
Charlotte, NC, March 12, 2012 -- Leading atheist Richard Dawkins has said, “The time has come for people of reason to say: Enough is enough!  Religious faith discourages independent thought, it's divisive and it's dangerous.” Today, Christian thinkers from around the world announce the publication of the Patheos Press ebook “True Reason: Christian Responses to the Challenge of Atheism.
Featuring chapters by Dr. William Lane Craig, Sean McDowell, and eleven other Christian scholars and thinkers, “True Reason” presents a well-reasoned rejoinder to the arrogance of the New Atheists and their upcoming “Reason Rally.” The book:
  • Demonstrates New Atheist leaders’ consistent failure in the use of reasoning.
  • Explains how the Christian faith and good reasoning work well together.
  • Clarifies the reasonability of Christian practice now and throughout history.
“This is a book to encourage, inform, and equip Christian believers. It's also bound to raise controversy,” said general editor Tom Gilson. “The careful reasoning of this book will deliver a tremendous challenge to the New Atheists as they prepare for their ‘Reason’ Rally in Washington. And it will benefit Christians long after that, by equipping them for challenges to the faith that are bound to keep on coming,” added Gilson.
“True Reason” is co-edited by Gilson, a ministry strategist and author working jointly with Campus Crusade for Christ and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and Carson Weitnauer, director of Telos Ministries, a campus ministry that reaches the intellectual elite at Boston area universities including Harvard.
The book is being released in conjunction with an initiative to bring dozens of thoughtful Christians to the Reason Rally, to create an obvious contrast between the Reason Rally and True Reason. The Reason Rally takes place on the National Mall in Washington D.C. on March 24, 2012, with headline speakers including Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, and Adam Savage of Mythbusters, and the rock band Bad Religion.
The united Christian outreach to the Reason Rally is being led by: Ratio ChristiThinkingChristian.net,Reasons for God, The Apologetics Bloggers Alliance, and The Christian Apologetics Alliance.

Blogs related to the True Reason book:

Editor's Note:  Once I have completed the reading of this book, I will be posting my review.   So far, I appreciate what the contributors have set forth.   

Coalition to Offer 'Christian Response' at Reason Rally to Engage Non-Believers

By Stoyan Zaimov
Christian Post Reporter

March 6, 2012
(Posted in the Christian Post, N. America section, Sunday March 11, 2012)

A number of Christian organizations will attend the Reason Rally on March 24 in Washington, D.C,
and engage in what they call "reasonable discussion" with atheists at the event, promising that their only aim is to "share Christ person to person as opportunity arises."

The Reason Rally is being heralded as the biggest gathering of atheist speakers and celebrities to ever come together, and will include presenters such as Richard Dawkins, Dr. PZ Myers, Adam Savage, James Randi, Dr. Elizabeth Cornwell, and Gretta Christina among others. The rally will be focused on encouraging atheists to "come out of the closet" about their non-belief and stand up for fellow non-believers.

A number of Christian organizations, however, such as Ratio Christi, ThinkingChristian.net, Reasons for God, the Apologetics Bloggers Alliance and the Christian Apologetics Alliance, are putting together a "Christian response" to the event. They insist that it is not a counter-demonstration and that they do not wish to gather in large groups, but instead want to engage with atheists willing to talk to them. The coalition of Christian groups will also share copies of a mini-book version of Reason Really, a soon-to-be-published ebook addressing atheist-Christian relationships and the logistical reason found within faith, CrossExamined.org reported.  Click here to read the rest of the article.

If you are interested in more information on the Christian presence at the Reason Rally, contact us by email at stand4truthapologetics@gmail.com.