I usually don’t write personal things on my blog, but I have to say that I have been tickled pink by the fact that out there in the wide world of the internet blogosphere I have been, more than once, labelled an atheist. I can’t help but smile with some glee at the irony of this label. I can see the daily traffic that my blog receives, and have the ability to tell how various people have stumbled onto the blog – more than once, I have observed, that atheists have stumbled onto my blog through some other website which directed them to me as though I were an Atheist blogger. Today, the irony hit me again as one of my blog posts defending the coherence of the doctrine that heaven involves free will without occasioning any sin has been included in a list of skeptical blog posts refuting the idea of free will, which can be found here. I was also cited on the relatively popular “the Unfriendly Atheist” blog (not to be confused with the more popular ‘Friendly Atheist’ blog) here. That particular post, Atheistic Polytheism, is perhaps the first of my posts which earned me this label, as I saw it included in various ‘free thinking’ or ‘skepticism’ feeds online. I suspect it was because some original (lazy) reader read part of that post and presumed that it carried the tone of the new Atheists insofar as it insinuated that Atheism has some intellectual superiority to other word views (which, if anything, was precisely the opposite of what the post was intended to insinuate) that I was first labelled as an Atheistic blogger. I will grant that nobody has said of me directly that I am an Atheistic blogger, nor that my blog is Atheistic, but when one reads through the material on blogs such as the unfriendly atheist blogroll, it seems obvious that I have been counted among those who obstinately reject religious perspectives. However it happened, it seems that I have earned, in the eyes of some unscrupulous and unsuspecting Atheists, the right to have it presumed of me that I toe the line of typical Atheistic views. Thus, in a post where the title includes the words ‘free will’, I have been cited as refuting free will, even though the post is a defense of free will. In fact, I have half a mind to think that this post itself, due to the title, will be referenced somewhere online as being some Atheistic response to being labelled an Atheist!
Just this past Tuesday Dr. Craig’s Reasonable Faith Podcast featured its latest episode, the titled of which is ‘does the web lead to scepticism?‘ – to which I can’t help but answer: certainly not if the secular web continues to direct people to Christian apologists as though they were atheists! Don’t anyone get me wrong, I am not lamenting this mislabeling; on the contrary, I find this confusion to be OUT-standing!
I think the novelty and humor of this circumstance will be difficult for me to wear down, but I would like to say a few words by way of reflection on this situation. I think this situation reflects something interesting about the state of affairs on the secular web and in the visible online sub-culture of the western world. First, it demonstrates a presumption among atheists of rhetorical and dialectical superiority on the part of the person who has the intellectual courage to propose that Atheism is true, and Religion comparably indefensible. The rhetorical dismissal of Theism by Atheists today typically involves the persuasive invocation of what can only be described as naked enlightenment prejudice which involves more insinuation than argument, and more brow beating than careful analysis. The basic trend of this dialectic has been to promote a form of rhetorical violence in the name of a secular crusade against religious philosophy. Thus it is characterized by the evocative polemic diatribes consisting of what I am tempted to call ideological war-mongering, conversationally intolerant, rhetorical bouts of verbal diarrhea typifying the voice of Atheism and secular humanism in our culture today. As a result, the flippant dismissal of religious Theism is often patterned off of the form of certain ‘paradigm objections’. For example, when an Atheist says “The Christian and I are not so far apart, after all, since both he and I reject the vast majority of deities which have been believed to exist; I just go one further than him by also denying existence to the one deity he happens to believe is exceptional” or some variety of that same rhetorical objection, the Atheist is reflecting the fact that she has no desire to enter into serious conversation about philosophical theology. The Atheist who uses this language has, I suspect, no interest in what responses can be offered, but only an interest in dissuading people from religious observance. The brilliance of this kind of shallow rhetoric is that it allows the Atheist to present in few words what it would take her Theistic interlocutor many more words to unpack and expose as simply a categorical confusion. Thus, it is because of this ‘usefulness’ (and not, of course, because of soundness), that it is typically used by the New Atheists today. We are so used to hearing something along those lines from Atheists that we begin to simply associate the New Atheism with such-like short rhetorical zingers. Thus, when a blogger writes something like:
It seems to me that Atheism is simply the opposite of Theism, Theism being the belief that God exists. Obviously, for this to be meaningful, we need to define what we mean by God. No one religion or theology can have a monopoly on the word by definition, or else all members of all other religions could be called ‘atheists’. God, clearly, is defined appropriately (though perhaps not exhaustively) as the Ultimate Reality, that than which nothing greater could be conceived – that which has all of the great-making properties maximally, exists such that it cannot not exist, etc etc. Take somebody’s view to qualify as ‘atheistic’ just in case they do not positively affirm that this ‘God’ exists.
Given this definition, it is striking just how many religious people are atheists. Buddhists and some schools of Hinduism, along with Mormons.
The language is taken to fit the pattern of Atheistic polemics, and without paying any heed to the point of the entire post, the lazy reader may mistakenly assume that the author is herself/himself an Atheist.
This laziness is symptomatic of a much more profound problem to which I will now, as a closing point, draw attention. The facile dismissal of Christianity as a philosophy which, though it ought to be considered at least on a par with Naturalism, is thought to be inferior to Naturalism, is far too slick. The treatments of Christianity in such books as The God Delusion are simply intended to strip Religion, particularly Christianity, of its intellectual credibility in the eyes of the public, and not to professionally and responsibly offer arguments against it which can be taken seriously by those intelligent persons who believe it to be true. In a future post I hope to develop an informal argument intended to evaporate the presumption that Christianity is less credulous than Naturalism. For now, I only note in passing that the cause of my being labelled an Atheist is lazy readers, and the popularity of lazier rhetorical one-liners, both of which indicate that there is a profound problem with the dialectic between Christianity and Naturalism in the culture wars today.