I saw a news report this morning in which Kevin Sorbo was interviewed. He briefly discussed his role in the movie “God’s Not Dead,” in which he plays a university professor who opposes a
Christian student. He noted that the movie has been immensely popular, and that the end credits include recent court cases in which legal action has been taken to protect believers from discrimination by secular peers and colleagues.
I started thinking about the portrayal of believers by militant secularists. This picture is often grossly inaccurate and should border on, if not actually cross over into, libel. For instance, taking the work of the new atheists as a reference point (which does not represent the opinions of all unbelievers), we may define Christianity as the following:
A religious worldview in which participants have been infected by a mind virus. Because of their commitment to a fanciful, fictitious, and bloodthirsty deity, adherents are inherently intolerant, divisive, violent, and delusional. Such a perspective naturally appeals only to those of limited intelligence and deficient analytical abilities. Because of the anti-intellectual and anti-scientific tendencies of these people, their beliefs must be eliminated if mankind is going to continue to make technological, medical, and scientific progress. Those members who attempt to advocate the violence inherent in religion may even need to be terminated by lethal force for the sake of humanity.
Anyone familiar with works of the new atheists can immediately think of prominent passages in their works on which statements in the above paragraph are based. Some of them seem extreme – so much so that those unfamiliar with their work may assume that they have been misrepresented. I assure you, they have not been. In his book God is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens frequently uses the word “stupid” to refer to Christianity and anything connected to it. Sam Harris and seems to prefer the term “ignorant.” Dawkins is notorious for his statement that anyone questioning evolution is “ignorant, stupid, or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).” Elsewhere he has said that such individuals are “pig-ignorant.” Then again, the title of his book The God Delusion pretty much says it all. In his book The End of Faith, Harris infamously made the statement that we should ask the question whether anyone promoting violence should be silenced preemptively – and forcibly, if need be (for which he received criticism not only from believers but from fellow atheists as well).
Let’s assume for a moment that the new atheists are right and that the description of Christianity above is indeed accurate. Is this really the kind of worldview that would be responsible for the beautiful music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Joseph Haydn, and Igor Stravinsky? For the great literary works of Geoffrey Chaucer, John Bunyan, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkein? For the great scientific achievements of Coppernicus, Galileo, Blaise Paschal, Robert Boyle, and Werner Heisenberg?
Furthermore, if Christianity advocates slavery, why did Anglican William Wilberforce and others crusade to end it? If believers are so intolerant that they should be willing to murder those who disagree (as Dawkins once said in a lecture at the Salt Institute), why are there so many Christian pacifists? If America is so massively Christian, and Christianity is anti-intellectual and anti-scientific, why is the United States not among the most backward nations on the planet? Or any of the European nations, for that matter? If Christianity is so misogynistic, how was it able to elevate the status of women in the Roman Empire and beyond? And finally, if Christianity is so intolerant, why does the Bible include such things as the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which Jesus deliberately selects a hero that will confront the bigoted ethnic beliefs of his audience?
Our militant neighbors really haven’t done a very good job of reading the Bible or understanding the basics of Christianity. In truth, Christians oppose the same Christianity that the new atheists do. They both denounce the same God. They agree that the Bible that Dawkins and other decry is a dangerous book indeed.
The problem is that the new atheists have presented a caricature of the things they oppose without taking the time to learn much about them. They seem to have little interest in entering into dialogue with their religious counterparts. I wish they would. I think everyone would profit.