Reasonable Doubt

Whilst reading this re-post on RichardDawkins.net of In Defense of God, a Publishers Weekly article, I found myself asking two questions:

  1. What is a “new atheist”? and,
  2. Why do the religious apologists to which the article refers consider atheism as heralding an end of reason?

I don’t accept that there is such a thing as a “new atheist”. There have always been people who do not believe in god (be he/she/it Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Norse, Greek, Roman, or King of the Potato People). There always will be people who do not believe in a god, despite the actions of crusaders, inquisitors, missionaries, evangelicals and apologists. But then perhaps that is why modern atheists are thought of as “new”, because they are still here in spite of these attempts at conversion.

Maybe today’s atheists are also thought of as “new” because they are more visible and prepared to be more outspoken in expressing their lack of belief and in their criticism of established dogma. Perhaps they are “new” because modern society allows them to speak openly. In the past those who have openly spoken against religion have been subject to torture and execution. At other times they have been locked away despite recent admissions that the church responsible was wrong. In such an atmosphere is it any wonder that those who did not share the beliefs of an oppressive majority were reluctant to speak out.

But for me, there’s nothing new at all about today’s atheists – we’re just the next generation.

As to my second question, well, those who see atheism as being a threat to reason are themselves more of a threat to reason. They are the ones who sit with hands over their ears chanting, “Na-na-na. I can’t hear you. I’m not listening.” when presented with a view that differs from theirs. Not very reasonable and not very open. And, I suspect, not completely secure in their belief.

In my experience atheists are generally free-thinking and open even if some are terribly scathing of what they (and I) see as irrational. Many, including myself, have arrived at an atheistic perspective after much thought and, dare I say, reasoned consideration of the evidence. It was never enough for me to accept that I had to believe because the bible told me so. It was also never enough to accept what someone else had concluded was reasonable for them. I had to ask questions and work things out to my own satisfaction.

So am I unreasonable? Am I a threat to reason? Only if I shut my eyes, plug my ears, and turn off my brain.

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One thought on “Reasonable Doubt

  1. I would agree. It is more about atheists marketing themselves, using the internet, and coming together on secular issues perhaps more than ever before.

    It does help to have “the four horse men”.

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