Thursday, March 05, 2009

Militant Atheists Stir the Pot

An interesting debate—Hitchens and D’Souza are capable and entertaining—but frustrating, because the debaters fail to tease apart several discrete issues:

Do people inspired by religion or secularism tend to behave virtuously or wickedly?

Does any answer to the above question have any bearing on the existence or non-existence of God?

What are the merits and demerits of the philosophical, logical, scientific and theological arguments for and against the existence of God?

Even if the arguments for the existence of a supreme being prevail, would those successful arguments necessarily have any bearing on the status of the Bible or any other scriptural writing?

The current atheism-religion debate launched by Hitchins, Dawkins, Harris, Dennett and other militant atheists tends to conflate these issues. Much is at stake, and I commend the new breed of atheists for their in-your-face style (lord knows the other side has been in everybody’s face for a long, long time). But clarity isn’t served by rhetoric that veers herky-jerky from morality to theology to cosmology to anthropology, etc., without ever spending enough time in one place to dig in.