Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Gunning for God – Why The New Atheists Are Missing the Target. John Lennox, Lion-Hudson, 2011

John Lennox is a careful and precise writer albeit pedestrian and lacking dynamism. A good rhetorician.  Most of this post features quotes from Lennox which stuck out to me at the time of reading. Keep in mind his book is a Christian missionary piece so he does have a strong emphasis on Christianity - something which I managed to navigate past and take the useful nuggets on offer.

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The main concerns of the book are with arguments to with morality and the alleged dangers of religion. It’s a book which is the product of public engagement with Atheists (by the Christian apologist, John Lennox) – not a product of passive analysis.
New Atheists
New Atheists are not just content on denying the existence of God but they are more anti-theist and anti-theism characterised by a total lack of respect for religion. New Atheists are not a representation of all Atheists
New Atheists argue religions are the problem, listing in lurid detail the tragic history of horror and evil associated with religion. The solution, according to the New Atheists (NA) is to get rid of religion. Their stated goal is to weaken the hold of religion on society. A process of secularisation. The NA’s leading figures are looking to replace religion as the arbiters of what humans should believe – enthroning science as supreme.
More people are more comfortable in making the negative claim that they don’t believe in God than making a positive statement that they are Atheists.
Atheism: disbelief in or denial of the existence of God OED
Science and God
Big Bang model of the universe confirm Biblical and Quranic teachings of the Universe having a beginning. A theist (Georges Lemaitre 1894-1966)  had the idea which led to the current widely accepted Big Bang model of the origin of he Universe.
“God is the creator of the bits of the universe which we do understand and those bits we don’t understand”
Sir Isaac Newton hoped science would help persuade the thinking man to believe in God.
“The world of strict naturalism in which clever mathematical laws all by themselves bring the universe into existence, is pure (science) fiction”
Allan Sandage, widely regarded as the father of modern astronomy (discoverer of the quasars and winner of the Crafoord Prize, astronomy’s equivalent of the Nobel), is in no doubt about his answer: “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence – why there is something rather than nothing.” [Gunning For God - John Lennox]

Multiverse: the idea that there are many universes that anything that can happen will happen. Thus it’s not surprising we have a universe like ours (i.e. one which appears to be designed/finely tuned). The Multiverse concept does not rule God out – God can create as many universes as he wants. Multiverse concept is speculation (no evidence). There’s no purely scientific reason to believe in an ensemble of universes. Believing in God is the more rational option.

New Atheism sits ill with rationality and science
“faith conceived as belief that lacks warrant is very different from faith conceived as belief that has warrant”
Evidence based faith. Little tidbits of evidence which all add up. Accumulation.
If human cognitive faculties were the product of unguided natural processes then how can one have confidence in any belief – including atheism.
Monotheism and violence?
Yet blaming monotheism for most wars in history is a widespread popular view, as German philosopher and theologian Klaus Muller observes: “The thesis that there is a connection between  monotheism and intolerance has been for a long time regarded as common sense even in prominent philosophical textbooks.” This thesis does not stand up to serious scrutiny. Religious persecution and intolerance are anything but peculiar to monotheistic cultures, as anyone with any grasp of world history should know. 69
There has been persistent violence against religion – in the French Revolution, in the Spanish Civil War, in the Soviet Union, in China. In three of these instances the extirpation of religion  was part of a program to reshape society by excluding certain forms of thought, by creating an absence of belief. Neither sanity nor happiness appears to have been served by these efforts. [Marilynne Robinson] 84
Morality and Atheism

Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were cruel heads of officially Atheistic states.
Atheism does not provide an intellectual foundation to moral evaluations. Can you get moral absolutes without religion? Cannot have timeless values without invoking God.
If God does not exist, everything is permissible [Fyodor Dostoyevsky]
An atheist is a philosophical naturalist who *believes* there is nothing beyond the natural, physical world
Biologist Marc Hauser suggests morality is hardwired into human nature very much as language appears to be. [This hardwiring view is consistent with the religious view – all humans possess an innate sense of morality]
Evolution has found moral altruism difficult to account for, it makes it more difficult for an individual/race to survive.
New Atheists and Christianity

NA’s moral assessment of Christiantiy is characterised by a lack of balance. They do a hatchet job – they’d complain if the same was done to science. No even handed scholarly analysis, the net result is patent superficiality. An abandonment of thoroughness when examining topics outside of their competence.
Exaggeration hypothesis
“Joshua struck down all the inhabitants with the edge of the sword”. This does not actually mean all. Draws from Nicholas Wolterstorft’s interpretation that this means to score a decisive victory
Problem of evil, Caricatures and Miracles
Dealing with the problem of evil is easier when you believe in an afterlife. God is a God of compensation.
Dismissing ideas by caricature is the hallmark of lazy superficiality. Caricatures can help us pinpoint underlying misunderstandings.
NA’s oppose miracles because they are vehemently convinced they violate the principle of science. If there’s a God who created the universe then surely there is no difficulty believing that he could do special things.
Mockery is not an argument. It is an attitude, and it does no credit to the person who employs it in this connection
Lennox finishes off with the standard crucifixion and resurrection apologetics. Boring and unconvincing.

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