In Defense of “Old” Atheism
John Loftus says that I have gotten old and so I favor an old, outmoded atheism and I should get with the new, hip, aggressive, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners atheism:
Loftus’ Debunking Christianity site has an ad for foods that fight dementia. I guess that was meant for me! Actually, I am 63. Is Loftus that much younger? I guess he would say that he is younger in sprit and not bogged down in such old-fogey notions as charity towards opponents, respect for other scholars–even those with whom you have fundamental disagreements, and not letting sarcasm, ad hominem, and straw man substitute for rational argument. Loftus recommends all such tactics, since the purported evils of religion justify the use of any rhetorical devices that undermine the insidious belief in God. Actually, I am indeed old enough to recall the year 1968 and the rhetoric of that era: “Off the pigs! Hey, Hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” Reason is pointless when you are fighting insensate evil. To the barricades!
BTW, I do think that ridicule is sometimes justified when directed at the truly ridiculous–e.g. the Ken Hams of the world. But you have to handle ridicule very carefully, like dynamite, or it will go off and hurt innocent people. But how do you treat people who offer you rational arguments and demonstrate that they are willing to listen to your arguments? Do you shove a pie in their faces? I guess Loftus thinks that my supposition is absurd since no theist is capable of rational argument. In his book, they are all foaming fanatics, defending a fantasy so pernicious and absurd as to preclude patience or even politeness. People like me, Graham Oppy, the late, great Michael Martin, Herman Philipse, J.L. Schellenberg, Eric Wielenberg, Adolf Grunbaum, Robin Le Poidevin, Colin Howson, and others are just wasting our time trying to engage in rational critique of theism. You might as well try citing The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals to a misbehaving two-year-old.
My worry is that Loftus and the “new atheists” may get their way. There will be no rational discourse, and only a shouting match. The trouble is that my bet is that the religious people will be able to shout a lot louder.