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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mailvox: defending the New Atheism

Travis brings up what he considers to be five good points made by the New Atheists:

My premise is that the new atheists do have some good points that hold warrant and should make any Christian scratch their head. Now I will not claim these points show that one should become an atheist. All the new atheists have done for me is make me question my beliefs and have me lean towards accepting agnosticism, I certainly haven't felt any tug to become an atheist. Okay, enough already, here are the points.

1. Biblical Ethics are below par at best. The Christian must believe in objective morality, for God is the source of morality. If God is the source of objective morality why do we see ethical commands justifying rape and the harsh treatment of foreign slaves? If Biblical ethics is the objective standard than Wilbeforce was a sinner for trying to eliminate slavery, for the Bible certainly does not decree the abolition of slavery? If we take a progressive approach to scripture we all could still certainly agree that the movement toward a better ethical system could have certainly moved faster.

Sam Harris brings this up in "Letter to a Christian Nation"

2. "Over 99 percent of the species that ever walked, flew, or slithered upon this earth are now extinct....When we look at the natural world, we see extraordinary complexity, but we do not see optimal design....The truth is that, while there are now around three hundred and fifty thousand known species of beetles, God appears to have an even greater fondness for viruses. Biologists estimate that there are at least ten strains of viruses for every species of animal on earth." Sam Harris

Which viewpoint makes more sense in accounting for this: Unguided evolution or the God of Christianity?

3. "It is safe to say that almost every person living in New Orleans at the moment Hurrican Katrina struck shared your belief in an omnipotent, omniscient, and compassionate God. But what was God doing while Katrina laid waste to their city? Surely He heard the parayers of those elderly men and women who fled the rising waters for the safety of their attics, only to be slowly drowned."

Sam Harris, "Letter to a Christian Nation" Now obvious you can go the Douglas Wilson route and say atheists do not have a basis for objective morality. This is true, but the Christian does have objective morality and the Christian makes objective claims. Two of them being, God is all powerful and all loving. Given these two attributes why do we see so much senseless suffering? The atheist need not believe that evil exists in order to point out the unlikelyhood that there is not an all powerful and all loving God in the world we are living in. Isn't it hard to see a moral justification in permitting childhood cancer? Again, which worldview fits the best explanation of what we see around us?

4. "If God answers prayers why wouldn't He occasionally heal a deserving amputee? And why wouldn't people of faith expect prayer to work in such cases?"

Sam Harris, "Letter to a Christian Nation".

5. If abortion is wrong why is God the #1 abortion doctor? Sam Harris brings this up and Douglas Wilson's response is basically "God gives and takes away." It is what the Bible says but which worldview makes the most sense given the large number of miscarriages?

Considering this is pretty long already I hope you are okay if I just give you five. I thought this would be quite enough for now. Is that okay?

Five is certainly sufficient, so long as Travis is willing to admit that a successful refutation of all five will leave us back where we started, which was my assertion that the New Atheists do not have any effective arguments to offer. That's why I specifically requested the 10 arguments that Travis believed were the best they had to offer and these are the five upon which he's settled. I will certainly respond to all five, in full, which isn't a problem since with the exceptions of questions 2 and 4, I have addressed them in TIA. However, at Bethyada's request, I will give everyone here an opportunity to have a crack at them before I post my reply tomorrow. Don't expect Travis to respond to them, however, he asked for MY answers and so isn't obliged to respond to anyone else's.

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