Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The New Atheism is a leap of faith

There's a great article in the New York Times about the rise of atheism's popularity. The article offers a thoughtful response which in essence says that all world views are faith based. Whether you're a scientist or a pastor, an atheist, believer, or agnostic, all begin their journey with certain presuppositions. At some point, based on how they digest their data, leaps of faith are taken and a 'belief system' is in place. The author of the article rightly points out that advocates for the new atheism say, regarding the unanswered questions that remain in the worldview (such as evidence that altruistic behavior is inherently compatible with natural selection and 'survival of the fittest'), "we'll find the evidence soon."

Of course, such a statement is, if nothing else, a bold leap of faith, rivaling the Christian who says "the secret things belong to God" as a way of declaring that all will become clear when we see Christ face to face. Faith leaps are everywhere - even among the atheists.

The question isn't: "Will I live by faith or by evidence?" The reality is that all of us blend the two in establishing our worldview. The question is: "What evidence is most compelling in inviting a leap of faith." This question is approached in different ways by different people, but my own sense of things leads me this:

The Bible's view of reality, it's unfolding story of redemption, it's explanation of both the beauty and tragedy of this world, corresponds to reality better than any other options out there.

Unpacking that statement would require a whole book, but for now, I'll just toss it out there. And IF it's true, than history is headed in the direction of a universe filled with justice, beauty, intimacy, reconciliation, hope, and deep gladness and joy. My own movement towards this direction if philosophical. If you want the scientists move in this direction, you can find it here.

But wherever we land, know that we've landed by an interplay of a faith response to the evidence that is all around us. May all of us have the courage to swallow the red pill and look at things as honestly as possible.

We'll have a seminar about the new atheism at our church this coming February. Hope you can make it!


At 17/11/07 13:29, Blogger Lee said...

There's an interesting seven-part series that I read recently about how Dawkins got Pwned. It's long and a bit rambly and feels like it has a few political theory detours from it's original thesis, but the argument is basically thus:

"He is pwned because he is serving the interests of a tradition called Universalism, a nontheistic sect of Christianity which is currently the planet's dominant religion. And Professor Dawkins has not done his homework on Universalism. As we've seen, he's accepted orthodox Universalist interpretations of major aspects of reality - if anthropology and history count as "major" - in exactly the same way that his favorite strawmen accept theistic metaphysics: by declaring it true until proven false. He appears to be quite unaware of how creepy this is."

Or, basically, Richard Dawkins (and other New Atheists) unwittingly have subscribed to a "new religion", Universalism. Universalism is a descendant of Christianity and inherits most of it's traits, with the notable exception of the existence of God.

Now, that's to use Dawkins' own language - the author is himself an "atheist" but roundly denounces New Atheism's claim that it is in fact an infallible, reason- and evidence- based worldview. The first four and the last half of the fifth parts are probably the best reading, before the author starts wandering down hypothetical ahistories.

At 19/11/07 05:04, Blogger Roy said...

Both Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, I suppose two of the most well known "new atheists", have both stated that they understand that atheism is a leap of faith. I'm not sure it is honest or accurate to say that atheism's claims are exactly the same as say the person who is dying of cancer but claims all the way to their last breath that Jesus healed them. The atheism of Dawkins and Harris says that, in LIGHT of the evidence they have, they believe that more than likely there is no God. However, the believer seems to say that, in SPITE of the evidence they have, there is a God. It seems like a disservice and a cop-out to me to say that the journey to both of those destinations is the same.

And I'm not sure I agree that the Bible offers us a particular view of reality. It certainly isn't consistent but maybe THAT is the view of our reality.

Look forward to Feb's seminar.


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