"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Without God, Gall is Permitted

Click the title for the article by publisher Sam Schulman, who alludes to Dostoievski's famous dictum: "If God is dead, all is permitted."

I have said rather little about "the new atheism" on this blog because, as Schulman says:

What is new about the new atheists? It's not their arguments. Spend as much time as you like with a pile of the recent anti-religion books, but you won't encounter a single point you didn't hear in your freshman dormitory. It's their tone that is novel. Belief, in their eyes, is not just misguided but contemptible, the product of provincial minds, the mark of people who need to be told how to think and how to vote--both of which, the new atheists assure us, they do in lockstep with the pope and Jerry Falwell.

Why bother rebutting arguments that have been rebutted a thousand times before, when it's obvious that one is dealing with the basest contempt? Mostly, believers just need to let this new crowd be; the best argument against what they're peddling is the way they peddle it. In that respect, they are unlike the 19th- and early-20th-century atheists, some of whom were charming and noble.

Give me Hume, Voltaire, Matthew Arnold, even George Bernard Shaw. Defending the faith from the likes of them was a worthy pleasure. The new atheists only say "
that they are addressing believers. Rationalists all, can they believe that believers would be swayed by such contumely and condescension? They seem instead to be preaching to people exactly like themselves--a remarkably incurious elite."

Preaching to the choir is not limited to the clergy, and is no more interesting when the clerisy does it.

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