Where are the profound atheists?

On my flight to Orlando, Florida this morning, I enjoyed a collection of essays (In the Aftermath: Provocations and Laments) by David Bentley Hart. Few authors challenge me as much as Hart.

Early in the book, Hart laments a lack of “reflective and brilliant atheists” as one of the “innumerable evidences of late modern culture’s lack of spiritual depth.” I agree.

Whenever I’ve written about the militant brand of atheism represented by men like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and the late Christopher Hitchens, much of the response (as with the writings of these men) can be  characterized (as Hart noted) by “historical illiteracy, theatrical indignation, and subfusc moralizing.” 

“The entire tribe of the new atheists is a disappointment. A reflective and brilliant atheist is a man much to be admired, if he truly demonstrated an understanding of what it is he is rejecting; and an atheist genuinely willing to accept the full implications of his convictions (Nietzche being a nonpareil example) should not be reviled for those convictions. But it seems obvious that among the innumerable evidences of late modern culture’s lack of spiritual depths one must include its manifest impotence to produce profound atheists. Instead the best it seems we can hope for today are dreary purveyors of historical illiteracy, theatrical indignation, subfusc moralizing, and the sort of illogical confusions that Richard Dawkins has brought to a level of almost transcendent perfection” (xii, In the Aftermath: Provocations and Laments, David Bentley Hart).

If you doubt Hart’s concerns, read his book: Atheist Delusions

See also:

Steve Cornell

5 comments on “Where are the profound atheists?

  1. “militant brand of atheism”
    The very use of this term shows your intent in this article. There is no evidence of atheists being violent or physically aggressive in any way. The use of term “militant” is therefore very misleading and shows a lack of reflection on your part.

    Hart’s invocation of Neitzsche as a “True Atheist” is typical of Christian apologists discussing this topic. Atheists in the 21st century have no need for the sense of loss that Neitzsche feels on losing God (in the 19th century). Many of us have never believed in God. To us, God is NOT dead…He was never alive. Why should we feel a sense of loss for something that we believe to be a fairy tale?

    The true implications of the death of God are irrelevant in a world in which God was always a fallacy. Atheists in this position have always been separate from God. We do not feel oppressed by a diety in the way that Neitzsche did. The relief caused by His death only exists for those who once believed.

  2. Thank you. I see what you mean about potential misunderstanding. I certainly do not wish for anyone to read my use of militancy as implying anything militaristic or terroristic . I mean it more in the hard line sense of being aggressively combative against faith. Surely you would agree that the men I mentioned fit this mold. They are evangelists (or missionaries) for atheism but the brand comes off as a fundamentalist kind. The kind of atheism you advocate should not lead to any great need to be combative against God. Yet the notion that “God was always a fallacy” is certainly a propositional statement of personal opinion — nothing more or less. I am sure you do not hold it as an absolute truth binding on all people.

    • From the point of view of an Atheist, “God was always a fallacy” is a propositional statement. However it is a statement that has been tested and found true due to the lack of evidence for the existence of such a being. Even after thousands of years of inspection there is still no acceptable evidence or agreement about even the most simple properties of such a being. I do not expect others to think the way I do, but lets be honest about the state of the proposition of God’s existence. Even the most staunch Christian will, after enough study, have to admit that they have no tangible evidence that their God exists. They must rely on faith.

      An atheist that is public about their beliefs is simply a person stating their position.on a common human thought process / social belief. Why is it “militant” or evangelical to state that this is how we feel? Is a Christian that states their beliefs about Christ being militant? if so perhaps you a should ascribe the term “Militant Christian” to any person that discusses their position on Christ, or perhaps “militant islamist”.to any Muslim who believes Christ was simply another prophet and not THE prophet.

      Stating that you disagree with a viewpoint is neither militant nor evangelical.

      • Actually, I think it takes more faith to believe that everything that exists does so by chance rather than by intelligent design. If i always believe in a designer behind design, why when it comes to something as complex as the human body would I abandon this rational way of thinking for something so utterly silly as humans existing by accident instead of design? Yes, the greatest faith needed is on the part of atheism not belief in a Creator. I could go on all day talking about the problem of goodness in a world with evil… and the will of man…. At the end of the day, I find the notion that there is no God so irrationally untenable as to belong to the absurd. I don’t suggest that this leads as clearly to a particular deity among the pantheon offered by religions but I have many strong and compelling reasons to accept the Christian narrative as most plausible and rational.

        As to militancy, you really don’t need to listen or read much to catch the angry rantings of the men I mention. They write as those with a major ax to grind — interestingly and suspiciously —mostly against Christianity.

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