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Modern-day atheists among best-selling authors, unite around core beliefscomment (0)

January 30, 2014

By Kristen Padilla

What’s the difference between the new atheist and the old atheist?” asked Robert Stewart, professor of philosophy and theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS). “The new atheists are still living and the old atheists are dead, for the most part.”

After the laughter subsided, Stewart, who also holds the Greer-Heard chair of faith and culture at NOBTS, quickly moved everyone into the matter at hand, “The New Atheist,” which was the title of his lecture at the SALT Apologetics Conference at First Baptist Church, Montgomery, on Jan. 18.

“The new atheists, in particular are best-selling authors, cited and championed on the Internet,” he said. Some of these well-known atheists are Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Steven Weinber.

What these new atheists seem to have in common with one another are three core beliefs, Stewart explained.

First, new atheists believe “science and religion are mutually exclusive ways of looking at life. In short, religion and science are at war,” he said.

Second, “Faith is a superstitious blind leap based on the denial of evidence.” 

This is a belief that Dawkins repeatedly echoes, Stewart said, quoting Dawkins as saying, “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”

Third, “Religion is inherently evil. The world would be better off without religion.”

Stewart pointed out a quote from Weinber: “With or without religions, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

New atheists also have four common characteristic practices.

1. “They have a superficial knowledge of the Bible,” Stewart said. 

2. “They are theological novices. 

“Now it’s hard to be a theological expert without being a biblical expert without having read the Bible and understanding it fairly well,” Stewart said. “It annoys me to no end how frequently Richard Dawkins will say publicly how Christianity is well represented by Westboro Baptist Church (known for its picketing at military funerals).” 

3. “They are primarily irreligious, especially anti-Christian and anti-Muslim,” Stewart said. 

4. “They are materialists.

“They believe that all the realities that exist are material realities,” he said. “If something exists it exists physically and can be known by the scientific method.”

Because of these beliefs and characteristics, people often ask, “Does science of Darwin disprove God?” Stewart’s answer is “no.” One of a long list of historically, believing scientists is Francis Collins, who is most responsible for the Human Genome Project, which mapped and sequenced all human DNA. 

“For quite a while in my 20s I was a pretty obnoxious atheist,” Collins said. “At the age of 27, after a good deal of intellectual debating with myself about the plausibility of faith, and particularly with strong influence from C.S. Lewis, I became convinced that this was a decision I wanted to make, and I became by choice a Christian, a serious Christian.”

A second question often asked is, “Does religion poison everything?” Again, Stewart said, “No.” He quoted Friar Thomas Crean from his book, “God is No Delusion,” a response to Dawkins’ “The God Delusion.”

“That in the name of religion, good men may do bad things is no argument against religion, unless crimes of passion are arguments against human love,” Crean wrote. 

At the end of the day, though, “Why am I not a naturalist (or atheist)?” Stewart asked the audience. “A metaphysical naturalist is one that says the only realities that exist are physical things that can be known or discovered by the scientific method.” 

Therefore, naturalism undermines human rationality, human free will, morality and human relationality. It also cannot explain human consciousness and it must appeal to ad hoc solutions, which are solutions you come up with to meet a problem.

“Those are some of the reasons that I’m not an atheist because those are the implications that follow from believing what they believe,” Stewart said. “An atheist can’t live with those implications. An atheist doesn’t live with those implications.”

To hear more of Stewart’s lecture, visit www.youtube.com/user/tacticalfaith.


Practical strategies for talking to atheists


Strategy #1:

Ask them if they freely don’t believe in God.

Ask them if they think they are rational and can reason their way to the truth on important issues.

Ask how certain they are.

Ask them how this can be the case if naturalism, i.e., materialism is true. 

Ask them which they are more certain about — materialism or their own freedom and rationality.

Strategy #2:


Ask them how important this issue is.

Ask them if they believe in investigation and research.

Ask them how they have investigated the question of God.

Ask them if the intensity of their investigation has been proportional to the importance of the issue. 

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