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The Challenge of the New Atheism

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What is unreasonable is the ruling out the existence of anything beyond the natural world, such as God, before any empirical investigation. But this is precisely what the New Atheists do when faced with the particular claims of Christianity.

Denial of the existence of God-or atheism-is by no means novel. There were atheists as far back as the first millennia b.c. King David referred to such people who, despite the manifest evidence in creation, acted like and even convinced themselves that there was no God as outright fools (Pss. 8:3, 10:4, 14:1). The Greeks had their share of atheists too. The Epicurean philosopher Philodemus (c. 110-35 b.c.) went so far as to identify three different types of atheism found in Hellenistic thought. There were those who were unsure whether any deity existed (we would call them agnostics), those who explicitly and publicly denied it, and those who, although keeping up appear-ances of religiosity, implicitly advocated atheism in their speeches or writings.

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1 [ Back ] Alister McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World (New York: Doubleday, 2004), p. 279.
2 [ Back ] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), p. 5.
3 [ Back ] Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Freedom (New York: W. W. Norton, 2004), p. 130.
4 [ Back ] Harris, p. 227.
5 [ Back ] Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve, 2007), p. 8.
6 [ Back ] Dawkins, pp. 113-159.
7 [ Back ] William Lane Craig, "Theistic Critiques of Atheism," The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, ed. Michael Martin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 69.
8 [ Back ] Dawkins, p. 77.
9 [ Back ] Harris, pp. 52-53.
10 [ Back ] Harris, p. 151.
11 [ Back ] Hitchens, p. 282.
12 [ Back ] Phillip E. Johnson, "Evolution as Dogma: The Establishment of Naturalism," Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing, ed. William A. Dembski (Wilmington, Delaware: ISI, 2004), p. 27.
13 [ Back ] Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (New York: Penguin, 2006), p. 338.

Adam S. Francisco is assistant professor of history at Concordia College (Bronxville, New York).

Issue: "The New Atheism" March/April 2008 Vol. 17 No. 2 Page number(s): 24-27

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