by Harley Voogd
A new worldview which exists in the west these days is something called New Atheism. The main proponents are Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, and others like them.
New Atheists tend to believe that their worldview was created in a vacuum — that, in and of itself, it formed from nothingness and exists as a stand-alone philosophy on life.
Atheism is nothing new. Simple atheism has been around probably as long as simple religion has been around. But New Atheism is something different. It is a completely reactionary phenomenon.
New Atheism is a reaction to Christianity; it can not exist without Christianity; it carries with it many of the attributes of Christianity.
We can look at three attributes of New Atheism…
- Morality — New Atheists are very moral. They want fairness and equality. They care about the under-dog.
- Hope for a better future — New Atheists believe that, through natural evolution and social programs, life can and will get better for humanity.
- Evangelism — New Atheists believe that all must adopt their worldview in order to “save mankind.”
These three attributes can only be found previously in Christianity (and before that, Judaism). In no other religion will you find the moral concern for people that you find in Christianity. In no other religion will you find the concept of life getting better on a linear timeline. No other religion evangelizes.*
There is a belief that the world drastically changed in the 18th century. To some extent that may be true. But to the New Atheist, the 18th century is when humanity’s eyes were finally opened to the truth. The darkness of the past was swept away by the shining lights of science and reason. For the Christian, the darkness of the world was swept away two thousand years ago with the advent of Jesus Christ.
In the days of Jesus, when a new king came to power, heralds (called euaggelistēs in Greek, or evangelist in English) would proclaim this good news (or euaggelion in Greek) to all the people.** It was good news if you previously supported this king. It might not have been good news if you opposed him. But, if you had opposed him, you were give a chance to turn away (repent) from your previous allegiances and commit your loyalty to the new king.
New Atheists believe that the event of the euaggelion occurred in the 18th century, and are very frustrated at the fact that not everyone has pledged their allegiance to the new prevailing order.
With the euaggelion comes a hope for a better future. In Christianity, the belief is that, because Jesus is now king, the world will be restored to a state of purity with freedom, love, and eternal life.
The New Atheists also believe that humanity is progressing to a better existence, and that this will be brought about by our continued evolution, both in the natural sense and the social sense. The problem with this is that there is no reason to believe that humans will evolve into anything better than what we are currently. Suppose some natural disaster happens, limiting the food supply, drastically changing the environment, and only the physically strongest and those who have no problem with killing survive? What would humanity evolve into then? Back to apes?
Most of the world’s religions in the past, and the present, view time as cyclical. Life just keeps on going with no change, around and around forever. Only in Judaism and Christianity will you find a hope for a better future coming to pass on a linear timeline. This idea is now found in New Atheism.
Westerners love Buddhism. They love the peace and the meditation practices and whatnot. But all you have to do is spend some time living in a Buddhist country and you’ll see what it really is. Buddhists suppress emotion, they don’t control it, they suppress it — and as a result, there can be some unexplained, unpredictable violent outbursts. Buddhists do not help the poor. The poor are poor because of karma. They deserve it. To try to relieve them from poverty is to go against karmic fate. This is the morality of Buddhism. Only in Christianity and Judaism will you find a moral duty to help the poor, the under-dog, and the suffering.
New Atheists hold to the very same moral structure that Christians do, they just don’t know where they got it from.
As we can see above, New Atheism is defined by Christianity. All of its main attributes come from Christianity. New Atheism would not have arisen in a Buddhist culture. It is entirely a reaction to Christianity.
Another misconception of New Atheism is the belief that Christianity, and all other religions, are an attempt to explain the natural world, and now that we have science to do that, there’s no reason for anyone to continue to hold on to religion. But no religious people throughout human history saw their religious beliefs in this way. In fact, not all religions, Buddhism for example, even believe in a creator.
So where did New Atheism come from? As I write above, it came from within Christianity itself. Who were the fathers? It was all those who, while still believing in God, figured that they could explain God with reason. They brought God, who is outside our universe, and pulled Him into our world, into a lab, and tried to study and define Him. They took reason itself off of the foundation of God, gave it its own foundation, and from there began to critique God. That was the birth on New Atheism.
It’s like a man, being born blind, taking the whole visible world, with all its colours, and limiting it to his own confining senses. If he doesn’t know he’s blind, he won’t know he’s doing anything wrong. Taking reason off of the foundation of God is like gouging our own eyes out, and then erasing our memories of anything we once saw.
I, as a Christian, of course cannot help but criticize New Atheism, but there are atheists who do so as well:
The Atheist Delusion by John Gray
The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins by John Gray
Know Nothing: The True History of Atheism by Michael Robbins
* Muslims do not evangelize. The definition of the word implies “good news” and that’s not what Muslims proclaim. Muslims proselytize. Christians proselytize too, but only in conjunction with evangelism.
** The Greek words euaggelion and euaggelistēs both have the prefix eu (pronounced ‘you’) which means “joyful.” The second part of the word, aggelion (pronounced ‘ang-ghelion’) means messenger or message and is where the English word “angel” comes from.