Ever wondered just how to deal with that arrogant, intolerant New Atheist that heckles you so? Maybe you have one for a neighbour, or sadly, one of your family. Maybe you chat around the blogs and forums and keep running into them.
They can be very frustrating, these New Atheists. What with their mocking and what not.
Hi. I’m Rob. I’ve been allowed to use Bruce’s WordPress account to write this post.
I’m not a theologian, but I do like to read a bit of liberal theology from time to time. I love Jim Wallis and I think Obama marks a defining moment in the history of religion. I’ve been an on-and-off again elder at youth group and in my spare time I organise the unregistered charity, Hymns for Neglected Greyhounds.
I’m not a blogger, otherwise I’d have written this somewhere else. (Gee am I glad that Bruce is just an ordinary atheist and not a New Atheist, otherwise I’d never have gotten around to posting this. Perhaps I can coax his defection to liberal theism at a later point. Kidding!)
On with my first post!
How to talk to an arrogant New Atheist
What to do? Well, keep on doing what I’m sure you always do. Hold your head up and take the high road! Don’t lose faith!
Perhaps you don’t believe me. Perhaps because you are humble about your ability to take the high road.
Unlike the New Atheists, humble is a natural calling for us and no doubt we keep underestimating our better qualities.
Given your unwarranted modesty, these believable hypothetical scenarios (based at least in-part on real conversations) are aimed to convince you that you’re already in possession of everything you need to deal with the animus of the New Atheist!
We start out with an ordinary, everyday discussion on politics that in the beginning, any two people, theist or not, could have. But before too long, the arrogance that the New Atheist suffers from makes the discussion take a turn for the worse.
New Atheist: Obama’s cop out on DOMA was a cynical nod to the religious right and homophobes in general.
You: Oh, I do agree to an extent. I don’t underestimate the hurt this will cause or the total lack of refined theology on the part of literalists, but such politics has little to do with my faith.
New Atheist: You don’t have a theological position on gay marriage?
You: I have a theological position on love, but my God is infinitely beyond politics.
New Atheist: The politics of gay marriage has nothing to do with love?
You: I was talking about the secular aspect of marriage, such as state recognition. My god is infinitely beyond the state.
New Atheist: So your god wants your spirituality to have no direct relation to the state?
New Atheist: Your god wants your secular politics kept secular and wants you to be a loving person?
New Atheist: So your god informs your politics?
You: Well, yes.
New Atheist: How can your God inform your politics if your God is infinitely beyond them?
You: Why are you so interested in my religion if you don’t believe in God? You sound like you have an axe to grind.
New Atheist: I’m interested in seeing gay Americans get the same rights as everyone else and the interface of religion in these matters is relevant.
You: My God isn’t stopping gays from getting married.
New Atheist: I didn’t say that, I said…
You: If you would only read some serious theology instead of all that creationist nonsense, then you would understand where I’m coming from.
New Atheist: You want me to be more inquisitive about “serious” theology?
New Atheist: Just a moment ago you suggested I had an axe to grind for asking questions about your religion. I…
You: Look, I’m not going to have this discussion if you keep drawing demeaning inferences about my religion. You and your fellow New Atheists need to realise you live in a pluralistic society that values tolerance. Good day!
New Atheist: Huh?
If by this point, your New Atheist friend hasn’t stopped bothering you and gone off to worship Richard Dawkins, they will no doubt be livid and foaming at the mouth, making all sorts of accusations about how you used a “straw-man” here and there, or how you supposedly kept equivocating. If this happens, then naturally you can assure yourself that they are irrational for making such shameful accusations against a good, tolerant theist.
Keep your head high and wait for them to simmer down. Eventually their egos, inflamed at the drubbing your gave their silly, intolerant notions, will allow them to drop their accusations. Don’t for one second think that they are showing you grace, as much as the thought may appeal to you. These silly accusations only serve to remind them of how irrational they are – something they will want to forget for their own selfish reasons!
Show your grace by allowing them to forget what they accused you of. Don’t hold a grudge! Just be sure to be silent in your forgiveness, otherwise it will remind them of what you are forgiving them for! 😉
Of course, they won’t be able to help themselves – having been brainwashed by a diet made up almost entirely of Dawkins’ criticisms of creationism, all they can do is continue allege your dishonesty! The poor souls.
As bad as it may be for you to be subjected to this continual onslaught, imagine how bad it must be for them to be so easily aggrieved!
They can’t even enjoy God’s universe around them, such is the downside of not accepting His truth. They can’t even stand to see such joy in others!
You: I’m glad I’m able to find joy in the subjective, poetic nature of God’s Universe.
New Atheist: Well, I can find beauty in the subjective as well, but I don’t think that a God is necessary for all this to come about.
You: Ahah! And there’s the problem with your philosophy. You enjoy subjective experience, yet your scientism prohibits you from doing so! Contradiction!
New Atheist: There’s no scientism in my philosophy.
You: Well, maybe – maybe – maybe not for you, but in Dawkins’ and Dennett’s philosophy there is. And they’re more consistent with the New Atheist dogma given that they’ve written it.
New Atheist: Neither Dawkins nor Dennett devalue subjective experience. Subjective experience forms part of the basis for Dennett’s proposed form of free will, and Dawkins is on record as pointing to the how and what of subjective experience as being the ultimate question he’d like to see answered.
You: If they don’t believe in scientism, then why do they both proselytise for science while lambasting subjective experience like religion? Tell me that!
New Atheist: Not all subjective experience necessarily involves God and science is important. Indeed, science is our best effort at explaining the Universe around us.
You: Ahah! Scientism!
New Atheist: I didn’t say…
You: You just said science was better than things such as poetry at explaining the Universe!
New Atheist: Relating, entertaining and communicating are one thing, explaining is another.
You: There are more ways than just science to know things.
New Atheist: But they aren’t all as good as science at explaining the material universe.
You: Now you’re adding philosophical materialism to scientism!
New Atheist: I was only talking about methodological materialism – I made no comment on knowledge outside of the methodology.
You: Because you don’t value other ways of knowing – like art appreciation or the way I know God.
New Atheist: I didn’t say anything about art appreciation, nor did I write it off as invaluable. You are misrepresenting me.
You: Oh, now come the cutting remarks. You couldn’t handle my criticism so now you are accusing me of lying!
New Atheist: I said “misrepresenting”, so you are doing it agai…
You: I don’t have to subject myself to this. You intolerant New Atheists can’t stop yourselves from accusing theists of misrepresentation, totally disreguarding what they actually say as if they can all be bundled together in one group along with creationists. Good day!
New Atheist: You do realise you just accu…
You: I said “Good day!”
New Atheist: Urrrghhh…
That’s the point you must get into your head about these New Atheists, if nothing else. They will continually draw your good faith into question because that’s what they think about all theists – they think we are all liars.
If and when they ever do use the slightly more moderate accusation of “no, I think you are just mistaken”, just remember, this is all very embarrassing for them – they are pretending only to allege error in order to save face in light of their obvious bigotry. It’s not precision of language for the benefit of your understanding – it’s equivocation for the sake of their egos – their bigoted accusations are something they will want to forget for their own selfish reasons!
This is true of all New Atheists.
Sadly, their continual use of spurious accusations of equivocation, misrepresentation lying and flawed argument (none of which they can support because they don’t read serious theologians), coupled with their need to forget these embarrassing mistakes, has a serious side effect. They need to remain in denial to feel good about themselves, denial that prevents them from becoming better, happier people. They are damned to repeat the cycle – a hell of their own creation (I don’t believe in an actual Hell, because I’ve read John Shelby Spong.)
You: You don’t seem happy.
New Atheist: What do you mean?
You: Usually you spend a lot of time questioning my religion, but you haven’t talked about it for a while.
New Atheist: Not with you I haven’t. And I’m not unhappy.
You: There’s no need to get angry.
New Atheist: I’m not angry. I just haven’t been talking with you about religion is all. I don’t want to.
You: I think you’re in denial about your anger.
New Atheist: I think you’re in denial about being a teapot.
New Atheist: *Sigh* It’s a reductio. Accusations of denial aren’t falsifiable and can make for conveniently self-serving argument. Popper wrote about it using Freudian psychoanalysis as an example.
New Atheist: Look, I’m kind of occupied at the moment. If there was a point you were planning on making, could you hurry it up a little?
You: Alright, alright. I’m concerned about your happiness. Why is it that I don’t see you smile anymore?
New Atheist: I still smile.
You: I haven’t seen it.
New Atheist: Argument from personal testimony. Just because you don’t see me…
You: I was worried you would get to this point. Your cynicism is palpable.
New Atheist: Critical thinking isn’t cynicism.
You: It is when it makes you unhappy and misanthropic.
New Atheist: Misan… WHAT???
You: See, I said you were angry. Now you are raising your voice.
New Atheist: I’m gobsmacked. And even if I were angry, it’d be a red herring. A logical fallacy.
You: There’s no need to bring your logical positivism into it as well.
New Atheist: :-O !!!!!1!!
You: It’s because you keep denying your emotional needs that you are so unhappy in the first place. You aren’t a Cyberman.
New Atheist: I never…
You: And even the creationists aren’t silly enough to fail to realise that pure reason leads to social Darwinism and worse. The 20th century is proof of that. Stop hanging out for your rationalist Utopia!
New Atheist: *Facepalm*
You: As much as I love you though, I do have to draw a line. I’ve been patient with your unhappy lifestyle choice, but I won’t stand idle if it comes to sending theists to the gas chambers.
New Atheist: WILL YOU STOP PUTTING F**KING WORDS IN MY MOUTH!?!?!
You: Well now. If you’re going to be like that and accuse me of lying again, well, I don’t have to put up with that now, do I? And I told you that you were angry! Deny it now! I shan’t return to help you until you’ve calmed down. GOOD DAY!
I’ve found it really effective at this point, to walk away with nose angled upward at just above 45 degrees. But be careful to note where the furniture is first – you don’t want to stumble and give your New Atheist friend a convenient “red herring.” Ha ha!
- Walk out on conversations when you are abused by having your better nature questioned.
- Realise that you know the playing field of arguments better because you read serious theology and they don’t.
- Recognise denial of anger in the New Atheist at the earliest possible moment.
- Don’t be afraid to address their scientism, logical positivism or social Darwinism.
- Don’t be fooled when they deny believing any of these things – if one New Atheist does, then they all do. That’s how dogma works.
- Don’t let them get the idea that you are prepared to enable them in their dangerous, Utopian thinking.
- And don’t let your profound modesty blind you to your own virtue – keep taking that high road you’ve been taking!
And that’s how you talk to an arrogant New Atheist.
Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author are his own and are not necessarily shared by any given theist.
[Editor’s Note: Stay tuned next week when Rob will be telling us how to talk jumpers down from the roof while successfully saving their souls before they hit the pavement – Bruce.]
Update (20/07/09): Owing to the success of this post, Rob has agreed to write a second!