Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fun Time with Atheists

The current atheist fanboy to come along in recent days is Sam Harris. He has written a well received book entitled Letters to a Christian Nation. Many atheists have deluded themselves into believing Mr. Harris is a formidable foe of theism, Christian theism specifically. I am not sure why that think this. Perhaps it is his attractive good looks, or that fact he speaks with a confident and articulate sass that makes him come across as to knowing what he is talking about.

In reality, there is nothing really new with anything Mr. Harris has presented against Christian theism that hasn't been soundly refuted 200 years ago. Honestly. He picked up an old dusty, tattered and torn 1820 edition of the Arguments for Atheists Against Christian Theism that was previously owned by Betrand Russell, stripped off the cover, had it rebound with his name written on it and is running it play by play. If I didn't know better, I would say that Mr. Harris plagiarized Chaz Bufe's, 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity. Really, there is nothing new here and I am surprised any Christian is working himself up into a lather over this guy.

None the less, Doug Wilson has written a series of critiques of Mr. Harris's book that are well worth the time it takes to print them off and the hour or so it will take to read them in one evening. I used to read Wilson with more regularity, but that is when Credenda Agenda was free and delivered to your house. I forgot how witty and insightful he can be. For example, the first article has one of his best comments against Harris:

At the conclusion of your Note to the Reader, you make an opening move in what I suppose is your part of your larger strategy of demolishing the "intellectual pretensions of Christianity." You begin by noting that the intellectual pretensions of the Christian faith are certainly widespread. "If our worldview were put to a vote, notions of 'intelligent design' would defeat the science of biology by nearly three to one" (p. x). I do not share the same faith you apparently do in the abilities of pollsters to measure this sort of thing, but let us grant this as a distinct possibility. You believe that the pervasiveness of certain Christian doctrines (on the end of the world) constitutes "a moral and intellectual emergency" (p. xii). You speak in terms of "us and them," so allow me to do the same thing for a moment. You all have had nearly complete control of the education establishment for over a century and a half. You have the accrediting agencies, you have the government schools, you have the vast majority of colleges and universities; you are the educational establishment. And yet your complaint here reminds me of the indignant father, who said, "I taught him everything I know and he's still stupid!" At what point should a committed secularist take responsibility for the state of education in America? Perhaps the problem is not in the students?

Aggravatingly, the last article in the series is posted at the top of the page, so you'll have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the list to find the first one. Don't let that deter you, though. I am curious to know if Harris has even bothered to read any of this. It would certainly make for a terrific debate if Wilson could take him on.



Blogger John Rush said...

Well, I'm not lathered up, but I think we need to address Harris because he is hitting a pop-cultural nerve. I hear people unthinkingly stating arguments that I know must have come from Harris or from his crowd. His arguments may not be new, but they have been repackaged and delivered to a willing audience.

So, maybe we--who are in positions of helping peoples' faith--should break a light sweat.

Good post.


7:45 AM, November 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know much about Sam Harris' work (yet) but any reasonably intelligent person can point out the obvious flaws and contradictions in Richard Dawkins' arguments.

1:41 PM, November 30, 2006  

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