Move over Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche…
Make room for the new kids on the block—Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens! These “New Atheists” proclaim God’s non-existence with great fervor. But they’re not saying anything new.
Dawkins declares, “Faith is the great cop out.” Where did we hear this before? Oh, yes, Marx: “Religion is the opium of the people.”
Harris says belief in God is “a sign that something is seriously wrong with your mind.” Not new. Freud said that to put faith in God is “patently infantile.”
Hitchens states, “God did not make man in his own image. Evidently it was the other way about.” Nietzsche said it already: “Is man one of God’s blunders, or is God one of man’s?”
The Bible (oops, sorry atheists) got it right: “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
So what’s different about the New Atheists? They’re just more “in your face.” As Clark Pinnock notes:
These fellows such as Nietzsche and Freud thought more in depth about what atheism entails and could understand what might interest thoughtful people in religion. The new atheism in contrast is disinterested in fair-minded discussions about whether religion might actually have something to contribute to human knowledge. In the new atheism (and it is not really “new”), readers are not expected to understand religion or have any sympathy for it. Instead they are exhorted to detest faith.1
But the New Atheists are actually wimps compared to the old atheists. When Nietzsche declared that God was dead, he understood that if there is no God, there are no morals. The New Atheists are afraid to go that far. They say we can have moral standards without God. But if there is a moral law, there must be a moral lawgiver. Where does our conscience come from, if not from God?
Perhaps the New Atheists are afraid of the anarchy that would result if people practiced atheism the way Nietzsche understood it. If there are no moral standards, then who is to say that Hitler did anything wrong? No one would need to deny the Holocaust. People could just say that the “Final Solution” was morally neutral.
In shying away from Nietzsche’s logical conclusion, the New Atheists are intellectually dishonest. They want to create a moral universe without God. Whose morals will they choose? And why should others follow the morals they select?
The new and old atheists say that only a fool believes in God. But the Hebrew Scriptures say, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’ ” (Psalm 14:1).
The atheists claim that only the ignorant believe in God. But the Scriptures say, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7).
In the late 1800s, Nietzsche predicted that the necessity to believe in God would fade away in the face of science and technological advancement. With God out of the way, we would make a better world. How have we done? Chris Hedges, foreign correspondent for The New York Times, has called the Christian right “fascists.” But he’s just as tough on the New Atheists and their faith in the human race. Here’s his assessment on our progress:
“There is nothing in human nature or in human history that points to the idea that we are moving anywhere. Technology and science, though they are cumulative and have improved, in many ways, the lives of people within the industrialized nations, have also unleashed the most horrific forms of violence and death, and let’s not forget, environmental degradation, in human history.”2
Why is this? Because we have failed to account for the virus with which we are all infected: sin, our propensity to do wrong. Hedges says,
“Not believing in God is not dangerous. Not believing in sin is very dangerous.”3
Sin is what separates us from God. It fouls up our relationships. It causes ugly thoughts. It weighs us down and burdens our conscience. The guilt we try to suppress or rationalize away persists. We feel that the God we say we don’t believe in will punish us for our sins.
Unless sin is dealt with, we’ll never be at peace with ourselves. The Scriptures declare that one man lived a perfect life, qualifying him to be our sin-bearer. He died in our place to pay the penalty, to declare us “not guilty” before God.
By individually acknowledging what Jesus of Nazareth has done for us, we can be reborn and experience internal peace and the security of knowing we will live forever in heaven.
If Nietzsche was right and we don’t need God anymore, what are these New Atheists screaming about? If God is dead, why make such a fuss?
Maybe it’s because they (and we) have an internal knowledge that God made us and “has planted eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Look up at the stars some night (even through the smog), or watch the sunset. Do you think this world is an accident?
If you do, are you willing to bet your life on it? If those of us who have believed in Jesus are wrong, and there is no life after death, we have lost nothing by believing. But if the new and old atheists are wrong, and there is an ultimate judgment, you have everything to lose by not accepting what Jesus has done for you.
If you believed the old atheists, don’t get fooled again.
Where do you want to spend your eternity? With the New Atheists? Or with your Maker?
- Clark Pinnock, “God And The New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, September 1, 2008, http://www.articlearchives.com/society-social-assistance-lifestyle/religion-spirituality/1895338-1.html
- Chris Hedges, interviewed by Charly Wilder for Salon.com, “I Don’t Believe in Atheists,” March 13, 2008, http://www.salon.com/books/int/2008/03/13/chris_hedges/index.html