Robin Hood, History, and Neo-Atheists (Copan)

Neo-atheists argue that God is immoral, unjust, blood-thirsty, hateful, and sexist (etc. etc.). What do Christians do in light of such accusations?

“Third, the New Atheists aren’t willing to own up to atrocities committed in the name of atheism by Stalin, Pol Pot, or Mao Zedong, yet they expect Christians to own up to all the barbarous acts performed in Jesus’ name.  …I think the reason it’s difficult, if not impossible, for New Atheists to acknowledge immorality in the name of atheism is because it would take much wind out of their sails when criticizing religion.”

 

Some people have “issues” with aspects of the Old Testament.  In the OT you find stories of stoning, incest, polygamy, bloody warfare, and so forth.  Neo-atheists try to make hay out of these OT stories and argue that God is immoral, unjust, blood-thirsty, hateful, and sexist (etc. etc.).  What do Christians do in light of such accusations?  Paul Copan gives some helps for Christians in his book Is God a Moral Monster?  I’ve mentioned this book here before, so I won’t give all the details again.  But I do want to quote a section that I’ve highlighted more than once, a section where Copan assess the anti-Christian arguments of many Neo-atheists.  I’ll summarize the first and third point, and spend a bit more time on the second point:

First, for all their emphasis on cool-headed, scientific rationality, Neo-atheists express themselves not just passionately but angrily. …Michael Novak, author of the thought-provoking book ‘No One Sees God,’ comments about the Neo-atheists’ writings that there’s ‘an odd defensiveness about all these books – as though they were a sign not of victory but desperation.”

Second, the Neo-atheists’ arguments against God are surprisingly flimsy, often resembling the simplistic village atheist far more than the credentialed academician.  The Neo-atheists are often profoundly ignorant of what they criticize, and they typically receive the greatest laughs and cheers from the philosophically and theologically challenged.  True, they effectively utilize a combination of emotion and verbal rhetoric, but they aren’t known for logically carrying thoughts through from beginning to end. …I’ve observed that while these men do have expertise in certain fields…, they turn out to be fairly disappointing when arguing against God’s existence or Christian doctrine.  And a quick check of Dawkins’ documentation reveals a lot more time spent on Google than at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library.

“…Rodney Stark puts it this way: ‘To expect to learn anything about important theological problems from Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett is like expecting to learn about medieval history from someone who had only read ‘Robin Hood.””

Third, the New Atheists aren’t willing to own up to atrocities committed in the name of atheism by Stalin, Pol Pot, or Mao Zedong, yet they expect Christians to own up to all the barbarous acts performed in Jesus’ name.  …I think the reason it’s difficult, if not impossible, for New Atheists to acknowledge immorality in the name of atheism is because it would take much wind out of their sails when criticizing religion.”

I appreciate these three points – and I recommend reading them in full.  They’re found in the first chapter of Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan.

Rev. Shane Lems is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Hammond, Wis. This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.