Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The New Atheism

The "New Atheism" typical to Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and so on is based on a myopic form of scientism that tends to justify their philosophical, historical and theological ignorance. They tend to make clever arguments given a low level of knowledge which often assumes some progressive Enlightenment myth, so only those who already make the same assumptions will feel validated.

For example, New Atheists seem to assume that the egalitarian values which the West tends to adhere to now developed from and are rooted in the philosophical naturalism that they preach. Yet it only takes a small amount of knowledge of the history of scientific racism and the myopic form of scientism that it was based on to see that they will tend to go back to some form of biologism because that's a type of blindness their philosophy leads to. Western values have to do with the very Judeo-Christian notions of transcendence that New Atheists want to do away with as the equivalent of Dark Age superstitions. Ironically, when it comes to equality they are judging "progress" by doing away with seeing things in a Darwinian way through ideas about natural selection and instead looking down on natural processes from a vantage point that can only be afforded given the Creator based worldview that they hate.

Ultimately they come to the ridiculous position of trying to argue that egalitarianism is somehow naturally rooted in Darwinian thinking while neglecting its "unnatural" historical and textual roots in Christianity and Scripture:
Dawkins even claims that the humanity of women and of other races is “deeply unbiblical,” an error we are only beginning to rise above. Quoting Hartung, “The Bible is a blueprint of in-group morality, complete with instructions of genocide, enslavement of out-groups, and world domination.” Even Jesus, Dawkins argues, “limited his in-group of the saved strictly to Jews.”
Neither man can have read either the Old or New Testaments carefully. [...]
The concept of salvation for all peoples runs through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. The history of Israel is bloody at times, like most histories. And it’s true that God is shown commanding violent acts, which may be why the Jews survived. But the overall plan was always for the good of the nations. This comes to the fore in the New Testament, which is explicitly and dramatically a set of blueprints for blessing all humanity. Anyone who cannot see this may have moved his eyes across but has not really ever read the Bible.
True, the Old Testament does emphasize the Jewish responsibility to look out for other Jews. But there are also many references to caring for, loving, being kind to, or reaching out somehow to non-Jews. “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy” (Psalm 67:4). “Are not you Israelites the same to me as the Cushites? declares the LORD. Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?” (Amos 9:7 NIV). “They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war” (Isaiah 2:4). Keeping Jews from getting killed has always been a tough job. But God’s plan to bless all peoples is a strong balancing counternarrative, which began with the very first Jew, Abraham, and his son, Isaac.
When it comes to the New Testament, the error committed by Hartung and Dawkins is stark indeed. “Jesus limited his in-group of the saved strictly to Jews,” says Dawkins. Hartung credited, or blamed, the apostle
Paul for the universalism of Christianity: “Jesus would have turned over in his grave if he had known that Paul would be taking his plan to the pigs.”
As we will see, Sam Harris says the New Testament was written by people who hated Jews. Hartung and Dawkins say Jesus hated Gentiles. That covers everyone!
Ironically, Dawkins hones in on the phrase “love thy neighbor” to illustrate his belief that Jesus only cared about the “in-group.” But there was a particular moment in history when “neighbor” emphatically stopped meaning “another Jew” and came forever to mean “anyone you meet.” Dawkins should recognize that moment, for he twice uses the term Good Samaritan.
A young Jewish man asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Jesus responded by telling the story of the Good Samaritan, perhaps the most famous story ever.
A Samaritan was not a Jew. He was a despised half-breed. He was an improbable hero for a rabbi in an era when the always nationalistic Jews were chafing under foreign occupation. That is precisely, Funk points out, what made the Good Samaritan so typical a hero in a story by Jesus.2° The sheer absurdity of accusing Jesus, of all people, of “exclusiveness” seems almost inspired (by whom, I leave the reader to consider).
How did we really discover our common humanity?
Aristotle held that “from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.” He even claimed it was better for the “lower sort” to be ruled by masters, since they were “by nature slaves.” Gnostics said some were naturally incapable of being saved from this “lowest region of all matter.” According to the Rig Veda, the four great castes proceeded from the mouth, arms, thighs, and feet of Brahma.
With a few kindly allies such as Confucius, the Bible taught us racial unity. It has always been a theistic dogma that humans are alike in nature and dignity as the image of God. In one of the earliest Old Testament documents, Job said, “If I have denied justice to my menservants and maidservants...what will I do when God confronts me?... Did not he who made me in the womb make them?” (Job 3 1:13-15 NIV). Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Augustine thus rebutted Aristotle: Whatever society may do to us, no one is a slave by nature. There was a great future in that insight. But there was also a great future in the response by Social Darwinist Hermann Klaatch: “The humanitarian nonsense which grants equal rights to all on the premise of the unity of humanity, is to be condemned from the scientific standpoint.”
(The Truth Behind the New Atheism
by David Marshall :106-108)

Despite the victory of Creator based views over naturalism those who believe in Nature based paganism in modern times still seem to tend back towards tribalism and Darwinism, for all their talk of progress. For example: Nobel scientist condemned for 'racist' claims

It's ironic that those who self-define as "enlightened" tend to focus on intelligence without real knowledge of its nature. They have to be blind to the real nature of "intelligence" and sentience given their ridiculous attempts to reduce it to things like natural "selection," yet then they also often assume it as the transcendent measure of all things.

In this case, would Africans be better off with more communities of simple minded people trying to follow the teachings of Christ or highly intelligent warlords warring with each other, struggling over resources with only the fit surviving? There are too many layers of metaphoric idiocy to go through in a mind like Watson's. I note my metaphor because it's not right to use poor "idiots" as a metaphor for the spiritual issue of sin that slithers through all things in this case. It would take too long to catch it by its symbolic tale here, questioning Watson's assumptions is at least a start.

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