Thanks to the New Atheists
I would like to take this opportunity to officially thank the New Atheists. By “New Atheists,” I am referring to Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great) Sam Harris (Letter to a Christian Nation), and all the other recent atheists and agnostics who have been so viciously criticizing the Christian faith. Given that I am an evangelical Christian, you may be thinking, “Why on Earth would you want to thank them?” Let me explain.
Many of you are familiar with William Dembski, one of the leading architects for the intelligent design movement (my co-author for Understanding Intelligent Design). In 1988, he finished what he thought was his last graduate degree in mathematics from MIT. What struck him so significantly was how readily his colleagues regarded Christianity as passé. They completely dismissed it as lacking intellectual vitality and did not even consider it worth engaging. They certainly didn’t think it was dangerous and in need of eradication (as the New Atheists do).
As a Christian committed to the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus, the easy dismissal of Christianity troubled him. How could they simply dismiss Christianity with hardly a second thought? Dembski decided to pursue further studies in philosophy and theology, which, of course, helped prepare him for his contribution to the ID movement. Although unheard of just a few decades ago, ID has now grown internationally and pressed Western intellectuals to seriously entertain the idea that the universe is the product of design, not chance.
To be sure, many intellectuals vehemently reject Christianity. But here is the good part: they can no longer ignore it. This suggests that the naturalistic worldview that has for so long dominated Western culture is crumbling and Christianity is again on the table for discussion. The discussion is certainly not always friendly. In fact, Dawkins has become famous partly for his venomous attacks on Christianity. In The God Delusion he says the Christian God:
…is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction. Jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic-cleanser; a misogynistic homophobic racist, infanticidal, genodical, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” (p. 31).
Like Dawkins, many Western intellectuals now treat Christianity with open contempt. But (ironically) this is progress. The dead are no longer remembered. The living are ridiculed and despised. While the arguments of the New Atheists certainly need to be rebutted (by the way, there is nothing actually new about them except their attitude), we should be gratified by their need to refute Christianity. If Christianity was not making progress, these books would be unnecessary. Christianity is making powerful intellectual inroads, even at the highest levels of academia. We have a way to go, but things are moving in the right direction. My thanks to the New Atheists for pointing this out.