Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Do You Prefer Hard-Core or Soft-Core?

A few hours after posting yesterday's blog entry, I read the following from Richard John Neuhaus in the May 2008 issue of First Things. It addresses the issue of "intellectually respectable" atheism versus the fuzzy logic of the so-called "new atheists."

Marx, Freud, and, above all, Nietzsche are atheists for whom one can have a measure of intellectual respect. They, says John F. Haught in his book God and the New Atheism, understood that when God and religion are eliminated life does not go on as usual. Haught calls them the hard-core atheists. It’s quite a different matter with the new crop of soft-core atheists. Haught writes: “Dawkins declares that the biblical God is a monster, Harris that God is evil, Hitchens that God is not great. But without some fixed sense of rightness how can one distinguish what is monstrous, evil or ‘not great’ from its opposite? In order to make such value judgments one must assume, as the hard-core atheists are honest enough to acknowledge, that there exists somewhere, in some mode of being, a realm of rightness that does not owe its existence completely to human invention, Darwinian selection or social construction. And if we allow the hard-core atheists into our discussion, we can draw this conclusion: If absolute values exist, then God exists. But if God does not exist, then neither do absolute values, and one should not issue moral judgments as though they do. Belief in God or the practice of religion is not necessary in order for people to be highly moral beings. We can agree with soft-core atheists on this point. But the real question, which comes not from me but from the hard-core atheists, is: Can you rationally justify your unconditional adherence to timeless values without implicitly invoking the existence of God?”
I had my own web conversation with some atheists regarding this topic about a year ago, as you may remember from an earlier post.

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