A critique of the “New Atheists” by the “Village Atheist”

Whether or not you agree with the label “new atheists,” I’m sure you know that it refers to a handful of very vocal writers who are proposing among other things that religion is the real root of all evil. This morning I ran across this insightful article on the City Journal website by Theodore Dalrymple, who refers to himself in the article as “the village atheist.” In the article, entitled “What the New Atheists Don’t See,” Dalrymple discusses his thoughts on the “epidemic rash of books” by these “new atheist” authors. And, he’s not at all impressed by what he has seen:

The curious thing about these books is that the authors often appear to think that they are saying something new and brave. They imagine themselves to be like the intrepid explorer Sir Richard Burton, who in 1853 disguised himself as a Muslim merchant, went to Mecca, and then wrote a book about his unprecedented feat. The public appears to agree, for the neo-atheist books have sold by the hundred thousand. Yet with the possible exception of Dennett’s, they advance no argument that I, the village atheist, could not have made by the age of 14 (Saint Anselm’s ontological argument for God’s existence gave me the greatest difficulty, but I had taken Hume to heart on the weakness of the argument from design).

Dalrymple deals with several of the authors, giving quite general thoughts on their arguments and overall positions, in general feeling that at the very least, they are being quite myopic in their approach:

The thinness of the new atheism is evident in its approach to our civilization, which until recently was religious to its core. To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy.

“Thinness,” I think, is very appropriate as he goes on to explain what, in his opinion, the new atheism is missing, and where it is failing. Of course, Dalrymple is not arguing for the existence of God – he, however, does point out that there is an obvious depth in at least the Christian religion that is missing in the new atheism.

On the other hand, in this article at least, he does not provide support for any other type of atheism, but I recognize that was not his point here. Overall, it’s a well-written, thought-provoking look at the recent flood of atheist literature from a fellow atheist.

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