Introduction: On the shoulders of Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, and H.L. Mencken stands a new group of God-haters, the New Atheist Movement. The adherents include Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens, among others. These are men who are bent on abolishing traditional religion. They claim that other forms of religion have only been hindrances to the progress of man, and that the so-called immorality of other religions has slowed the progress of civilization. By citing the failures of religious adherents, the Atheist draws attention away from himself. He then tries to convince the world that Atheism is necessary for a healthy society in spite of everything that we know from history and science. This is how the Atheist reinvents a square wheel.
Atheist Morality: The first question is whether it is possible for an Atheist to define morality. The ancient Chinese author Zhuangzi was among the first to pose the question, “Is there really such a thing as goodness or isn’t there?”[i] Bertrand Russell wrote in Religion and Science, originally published in 1935, that ethics can be inferred by science.[ii] Hitchens wrote in god Is Not Great, originally published in 2007, that ethics and morals are independent of faith, and that “religion is—because it claims a special divine exemption for its practices and beliefs—not just amoral but immoral.”[iii] Sam Harris then recycled all these ideas in The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, originally published in 2010.[iv] This has been perhaps the hardest question for the Atheist for two reasons.
The first reason is that the Atheist has no inspired text or set of rules. In April of 2011, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris spoke at Oxford on the topic of science-based morality. There, Harris admits that he is actually concerned on the matter, saying that he shares the fear that words like good and evil could actually lack meaning without a divine reference.[v] He then cites common sense as his source for science-based morality.
However, in his book Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension, physicist Michio Kaku warns his readers that he is therein making some seemingly ridiculous scientific propositions. Before delivering these radical ideas, he attempts to forewarn us in the preface about a problematic stumbling block that he calls “common sense.” “Scientific revolutions,” he held, “almost by definition, defy common sense.”[vi]
Common sense told the Mesopotamians that the sun rises from a tunnel that goes through the center of the earth. Common sense told us that foreign peoples were inferior. And common sense told us that Keynesian economics was societal suicide. However, the observations of Copernicus suggested that the earth revolves around the sun. The research of Jared Diamond showed us in Guns, Germs, and Steel that primitive tribes are culturally restrained due to factors of the environment rather than intelligence. And the ignorance of President Hoover, by impersonating a kind of American-corporate-male version of Marie Antoinette, proved that John Maynard Keynes was actually quite right, while the alternative theory drove unemployment upwards of 22%. While common sense can help us replace a doorknob, sometimes it makes us ignorant of the universe, racist, and poor.
The second reason is that, even if the Atheist does invent some song-and-dance to prove morality through science, he has centuries of history to explain. Hitchens and Dawkins admit this problem in their books, with Hitchens saying that “[t]he point deserves a detailed reply.”[vii]
Specifically, they mention only Hitler and Stalin, as if those are the only two blemishes in the history of Atheism. Anyway, rather than answer for the millions who died under Atheist rule, they avoid their burden of proof by mentioning those who died under the rule of men who claimed to belong to some other religion during other time periods. In The God Delusion, Dawkins’ argues that there’s no proof that those two dictators acted as they did because of their Atheism, and a country full of Lutherans should have been able to stop Hitler.[viii]
After failing to answer how morality can be determined apart from a deity, the Atheist then prematurely tries to console us, as if we have no choice but to join his ranks. In order to rally support for this cause, Hitchens tries to persuade the godly people from their faith, explaining that he too has had to deal with a similar dilemma when he had to forgo a failed notion, acting as if he can feel the pain of having to admit a mistake. He writes, “For a good part of my life, I had a share in this idea that I have not yet quite abandoned….Marxism.”[ix] Hitchens tells his readers that it’s good to forget failed notions, but only after admitting that he still clings to a fragment of Marxist-Leninist thought in his old age. Upon admitting this partial retreat, Hitchens then goes so far as to say that the world should “banish all religions,” and that “it has become necessary to know the enemy, and to prepare to fight.” He states in the climax of his book, “Above all, we are in need of a renewed Enlightenment, which will base itself on the proposition that the proper study of mankind is man, and woman.”[x]
Dear God, Help Me Love My Enemies: All of this is ironic. The Atheist claims to be the high moral arbiter of the universe based on common sense. He claims that other religions are immoral because they help people justify immoral actions, just like Nietzsche, who saw good as evil and evil as good. Rather than explain how the Atheist could be responsible for the most heinous crimes against humanity, he focuses instead on the deviant behavior of adherents to other religions, and tyrannically argues that other faiths need to be abolished because they’re tyrannical.
History indeed does deserve a detailed reply. But we don’t need to be told we’re going to get a detailed reply only to have the Atheist change the issue. For example, Dawkins takes all of the Atheist tragedies of history, narrows them down to two men, talks about one of them, and then blames the Lutherans for not stopping him. It’s a typical Atheist dodge.
And I don’t know what history books Dawkins is reading because it’s not a secret that these dictators ruled from an Atheist worldview. It started with Nietzsche in Germany, and with Marx in the Soviet Union and China. Nietzsche was an Atheist who hated the Jews for, as he saw it, inventing a Judeo-Christian morality that went contrary to his paranoid, common sense understanding of such things. Hitler adopted Nietzsche’s philosophy by putting Nietzsche’s words into practice, that all men are not equal. He attempted to rid Europe of Jews, create a “higher man,” and then reinvent morality. Millions died.
Meanwhile, Marxism started with the presumption that there is no God, and man can be the master of his own universe and lord of his own nature, to paraphrase Engels. Stalin and Mao adhered to this worldview. The hypothetical was put into practice, exactly as described in the Communist Manifesto. Again, millions died.
Dawkins hears all this and then comes to the conclusion that these bad men acted in spite of their Atheism. He’s the one with the delusion. As for the bold statement that the Christians should have stopped Hitler the Atheist, thankfully, the Christians did stop Hitler. These heroes came from a place called America, and another place called England, and another called France. These Christians then proceeded to defeat Communism in South Korea. They would have defeated Communism in the Soviet Union and China too, but there was no need because it destroyed itself in those two regions. Now the ex-Communists are copying our model.
Hitchens’ attempt at persuading his readers to Atheism starts with a feigned compassion, as if he knows how it feels to abandon a lost idea. For him, it was Marxism. But then he admits that he hasn’t really abandoned the idea, which is interesting for two reasons. First, it shows how Atheists are incapable of abandoning Marxism, because Marxism is just a practical extension of Atheism. It’s funny how Atheism has to stay a hypothetical, because once it’s actually put into practice, it fails. The Atheist has a hard time reconciling that problem. Second, he argues that we have to forget our Christianity completely. However, after saying he has abandoned his Marxism, he then admits that he can’t really abandon it. According to the dictionary, that’s called hypocrisy.
Additionally, he wants to banish religion, as he understands it. Perhaps he has never heard of the Great Persecution of ancient Rome. Or perhaps he has, and he’s content with such a result. French revolutionary Atheists also tried this idea during dechristianization. It didn’t work too well. We don’t need another Cult of the Supreme Being. If Hitchens wants a renewed Enlightenment, he can keep it. I like my head where God deemed it best, attached to my neck. God knows where Hitchens and Dawkins keep their heads.
The Atheist today is no different from the Atheist of any historical period. We’ve already seen how the Atheist leaders of history sought to remove religion in order to achieve societal harmony. They did this because they adhered to the same idea as Harris—where man can make morality. They did this because they adhered to the same idea as Hitchens—that Christianity should be outlawed. And they did this because they adhered to the same idea as Dawkins—that everyone but the Atheist should be held accountable for their actions. It’s the same old story of self-righteousness. It’s a new Tower of Babel. We’ll be nice and blame their shortcomings on amnesia.
Bad Science and Miracles: The next issue is whether the Atheist truly holds the beacon of scientific light as he purports. According to Webster, one definition of science is “knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws [especially] as obtained and tested through [the] scientific method.” One definition for miracle is “an extremely outstanding or unusual event.” In short, science is about reproducible events, and miracles are about non-reproducible events.
Regarding questions of how we can understand the world, reality, and a creator, Stephen Hawking gives an opinion in The Grand Design. “Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.”[xi] Dawkins writes, “Atheists do not have faith.”[xii] Sam Harris adds, “And science and religion—being antithetical ways of thinking about the same reality—will never come to terms.”[xiii]
In 2003, Atheist writer Daniel Dennett wrote an article for the New York Times called The Bright Stuff.[xiv] Therein, he tried to rally people to refer to Atheists as “brights” in order to commandeer the word for the Atheist agenda, similarly to how homosexuals commandeered the word “gay.” “A bright is a person with a naturalist as opposed to a supernaturalist world view” [sic], he wrote. Although he later claimed that it was not his intention to imply that “non-brights” were dim,[xv] the idea that Atheism equals naturalism presumes that somehow Atheists are uninhibited by preconceived notions. As above-mentioned, even Nietzsche admitted that “there is no such thing as science ‘without any presuppositions.’” And Dawkins concedes, “What matters is not whether God is disprovable (he isn’t) but whether his existence is probable.”[xvi]
Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku presents a balanced approach to science and miracles in his book Hyperspace. On the topic of science and religion, he differentiates between what he calls the God of Order and the God of Miracles. He explains that, when most scientists refer to God, they are referring to the God of Order. But, when pastors and Christians refer to God, they are referring to the God of Miracles. That’s why debaters are often “talking past each other.”
For example, the work of a scientist is the study of reproducible events. Through the scientific method, the scientist formulates a hypothesis and conducts an experiment. If the results of the experiment can be reproduced multiple times with the same results, a theory is formed. Conversely, when most theologians refer to God, they are referring to the God of Miracles. When God parted the Red Sea for the Israelites, flooded the earth, and created the universe, those were miracles—events that are unpredictable—hypotheses that no scientist can ever test in a lab. “Miracles,” Kaku writes, “by definition, are not reproducible. They happen only once in a lifetime, if at all.
Therefore, the God of Miracles is, in some sense, beyond what we know as science.” Kaku then adds, “This is not to say that miracles cannot happen, only that they are outside what is commonly called science.”[xvii] Kaku then gets philosophical, writing, “The God of Miracles has one powerful advantage over the God of Order. The God of Miracles explains the mythology of our purpose in the universe; on this question, the God of Order is silent.”[xviii]
To Each His Own: Claiming that physicists rather than philosophers should bear the torch of discovery in physics is reasonable. However, the Atheist, like Hawking, acts as if his is the only group of physicists capable of handling such a quest, as if he is unbridled by any preconceived notions. Everyone subscribes to beliefs and faith in some fashion. We have already discussed the Big Bang Hypothesis. Whether God or nothing created the universe, it was a miracle, or “an extremely outstanding or unusual event.”
Some people subscribe to the improbable notion that a higher power created the universe. Others subscribe to the improbable notion that nothing created the universe. Both hypotheses require faith. The Atheist, like Dawkins, believes that nothing created something. Personally, I don’t have as much faith as the Atheist, and find it hard to believe that nothing created something, and the entire universe is an accident. But to each his own.
One of the standard gimmicks of the Atheist is elitism. Dawkins can say that “Atheists do not have faith” all day long. And Dennett can call himself a “bright.” But this is just an air of presumption that the Atheist’s mythology is somehow not mythology.
Atheists Are Pagans: The final issue is whether there is a difference between Atheism and paganism. Richard Dawkins’ said, “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.”[xix] When the Atheist goes “one god further,” he elects himself moral arbiter of the universe.
Daniel Dennett riffs on paganism in Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. Therein, he argues that man precedes religion, not unlike Sartre, the Existentialist who saw existence before essence. Dennett mentions how Hindus kill each other over disagreement on whether Shiva or Vishnu created the universe, how Zulus sometimes sacrifice goats during a woman’s pregnancy in order to ensure a healthy baby is born, and how the Jivaro of Ecuador believe that shrinking the head of a victim will prevent the victim’s soul from seeking revenge on the killer.[xx]
Zero & Many: We have already seen what happens when man goes “one god further,” and makes himself God. During the Roman Empire, this model of religion led to a vile absence of morality because the morality was reflective of the men who made their own religion. Polybius knew that wise men must rule from a higher power in order to maintain law and order, even if rulers were personally Atheists. Julius Caesar, a de facto Atheist, maintained appearances because he knew that citing man-centered Atheism would have led to lawlessness. But this vile form of paganism devolved into terror by the time Tiberius took the throne. Foreshadowing the future of Atheist dictatorships, Tiberius abolished foreign religions, just as Hitchens would propose centuries later. On Nero’s religious convictions, Suetonius tells us that Nero despised all religions, except his Atheism. Domitian, like Dawkins, went “one god further,” and referred to himself as “Our Lord God.” Aurelius’ personal dictum was, “Every man’s mind is god.” Those who disagreed were sentenced to death. It would become a period in history that scholars would aptly label “The Great Persecution.”
There are over seven billion people in the world today, and the Atheist would permit each to play the role of God. When the Atheist goes “one god further,” he makes himself, essentially, God. Should the Atheist win by abolishing all other religions, then everyone would thereby make themselves God. But there are now well over seven billion people in the world. Over seven billion Atheists would equal over seven billion gods. Consider how many of those billions would contradict each other. Such would be mass delusion.
Concerning Dennett’s argument, he seems so sure of himself when he looks at paganism and tribal cults who shrink their victim’s heads, and pretends that such adherences are on par with something like Protestantism, the faith by which America and Scandinavia was founded. On the contrary, because pagan faiths are based on man’s imagination, such is probative of what man is capable of doing when left to his own devices. While he makes generalizations across all of what he personally sees as religious, history shows that paganism is the product of Atheism. That’s because Atheism subtracts God, leaving room for the individual to fill the void with a man-made god, whether it’s to find some sort of moral compass, to create a sense of security, or to give meaning to life.
Dennett needs to ask himself whether there’s actually a difference between the modern trend, where man invents himself as a god, and the ancient trend, where man invents another as a god, because both give the same results. Dennett sees paganism as religion outside of Atheism. But paganism is really Atheism with man-made gods and practices, or, a sect of Atheism. People like Dawkins and Dennett point fingers while wearing blinders, making mistaken reversals about the paganism that they are unknowingly promoting.
So the New Atheist Movement is not really new at all. It’s more of a recycling of old ideas that have never worked in the past. Like Dawkins, the tyrannical emperors of Rome went “one god further.” Historically, the best way to cure this way of thinking is for Atheists to gain control of society and ruin life for everyone. After mass genocide and cannibalism, people generally learn that Atheism is not right for them. But the New Atheist Movement has amnesia.
Atheism is similar to paganism insofar as both create their own godlike status by inventing gods and then believing them to be real, immediately forgetting how they were invented. At least, we should all be moved by such a deep adherence to this faith called Atheism, which is a faith not unlike paganism. Paganism has many false gods, as does Atheism. Both are religions with zero and many gods at the same time. Both start with the individual’s personal whim, and end when those whims prove fatal. Within Atheism’s own framework, this religion contradicts itself.
 Dear God, please forgive me for my scatological humor.
[i] Book of Zhuangzi at 114.
[ii] Bertrand Russell, Religion and Science, 223 (Oxford University Press) (1997).
[iii] Christopher Hitchens, god Is Not Great, 52 (Twelve) (2009).
[iv] Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, (Free Press) (2010).
[v] Sam Harris & Richard Dawkins, Who Says Science Has Nothing to Say About Morality? (The Sheldonian Theatre, University of Oxford) (Apr. 12, 2011), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeJrcVhtzYo.
[vi] Michio Kaku, Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension, Preface (Anchor Books) (1995).
[vii] god Is Not Great at 230.
[viii] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 308-16 (First Mariner Books) (2008).
[ix] god Is Not Great at 153.
[x] Id. at 283.
[xi] Steven Hawking, The Grand Design, 5 (Bantam Books) (2010).
[xii] The God Delusion at 74.
[xiii] The Moral Landscape at 10.
[xiv] Daniel C. Dennett, The Bright Stuff, The New York Times (July 12, 2003), http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/12/opinion/the-bright-stuff.html.
[xv] Daniel C. Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, 21 (Penguin Books) (2007).
[xvi] The God Delusion at 77.
[xvii] Hyperspace at 331.
[xviii] Id. at 332.
[xix] The God Delusion at Inside Cover.
[xx] Breaking the Spell at 97-8 (Penguin Books) (2007).