The New Village Atheists

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  • The New Village Atheists

  • - 06/16/2009
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Recently I was in China and, while there, I was talking to the Director of the Institute of World Religions, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and in many ways he’s informing key leaders within the Chinese government on how to relate to religion. I felt, quite frankly, that he was far more thoughtful in his conduct and remarks than the kinds of people we are now encountering. These people in the West we would refer to as The New Village Atheists.

Whether or not you support Barack Obama and his policies or his politics, I would say in like fashion that it’s hard not to be impressed by his forthrightness with respect to religious convictions. He says that “to say that men and women should not inject their personal morality into public policy debates is a practical absurdity.” [1] Now I would agree with that, but what he gives with one hand he takes with the other, because on the one hand he voices respect for religious convictions and personal morality, but with the other hand he substantially undermines the foundation on which they are grounded. I’ve mentioned this before, but in his “Call To Renewal” keynote address to religious leaders, Obama asks the following questions, “Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is okay and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?” [2]

While I applaud Obama’s injection of religious dialogue into public policy debates, I am obviously appalled by the manner in which he mischaracterizes and marginalizes the Bible in the process. Nowhere does the Bible suggest slavery is ok. Nor does the Bible suggest stoning your child is ok.

It is worth noting that Obama’s mischaracterizations are eerily similar to those voiced by President Bartlett in the once wildly popular television series The West Wing. In fact it sounds an awful lot like that he spent a great deal of his time listening to President Bartlett, and now it sounds like he’s parroting President Bartlett. Not only so, but his mischaracterizations are comparable to those now being voiced by a crass new breed of anti-theists who make similar charges, albeit in a far more strident and expanded fashion.

One of those is Christopher Hitchens, contributing editor to Vanity Fair. In God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, he goes so far as to say that “the Bible contains a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride price and for indiscriminate massacre.” [3]

There is also Richard Dawkins who vacuously asserts that “a designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity, because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right. God presents an infinite regress from which he cannot help us to escape.” Thus, says Dawkins, “The whole argument turns on the familiar question, ‘Who made God?’” [4]

Not to be outdone, Bart Ehrman, who is in my neck of woods as Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, makes a plethora of accusations against the Bible and it’s authors. Ehrman deems the very manuscripts persevering the New Testament to be flawed, reasoning that we do not have the original autographs but possess only copies of copies centuries removed from the originals, which contain errors in “thousands of places” such that “there are more differences among our manuscripts than there were words in the New Testament.” [5] Thus, Ehrman concludes, “Just as human scribes had copied, and changed, the texts of scripture, so too had human authors originally written the texts of scripture. This was a human book from beginning to end.” [6] Thus to say as I have many times on the Bible Answer Man that the Bible is divine rather than human in origin is, according to Ehrman, just dead wrong.

Punmeister Bill Maher gets in on the act by effectively characterizing people who hold to the authority of Scripture as those who, for all intents and purposes, have lost their brains somewhere in the narthex of a church. A major reason why Christianity is so dangerous according to Maher is “it stops people from thinking.” [7] Displaying a breathtaking form of idiosyncratic fundamentalism from the left, Maher asserts that the Bible, “was not meant to be history. It was not meant to be literal. They were parables. People read it back then and read into it something that was not literal. We’re the dummies who read it literally.” [8]

Maher doesn’t have the foggiest notion of what it means to read the Bible literally. Christians don’t say that we read something in a wooden literal sense, but we say that you read it in the sense in which it’s intended. The notion that the Bible is all parabolic displays an ignorant assessment of the most widely read book in the history of the human race. Just a cursory reading through the Bible shows that it is a rich treasury replete with all kinds of genres.

Unfortunately, Maher is still not done. The notion of an afterlife is just plain “dumb.” Says Maher, “Some human beings, whose brain was no better than theirs, told them he knew what happens when you die. And it’s pretty silly to believe what some other human tells you when he tells you he knows what happens when you die.” [9]

Obama, Hitchens, Dawkins, Ehrman, and Maher are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg and that’s the problem. Today you have professors, political sages, and public personalities increasingly raising doubts in the minds of millions regarding the validity of a biblical worldview. Left unchallenged, their smoke screens reek havoc on Christianity by stumbling seekers and galvanizing skeptics against “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).

In an age in which internet fallacies travel half-way around the world before truth has had a chance to put it’s boots on, it is ever more crucial to know what you believe and why you believe it.

All of this to say that we have developed a great new resource for you to use called, Confronting The New Village Atheists: Are Christians Really ”Ignorant,” “Stupid,” “Brainwashed,” Or “Insane”? To get your copy log unto our Website at www.equip.org or call us at 1-888-700-0274.

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[1] Barack Obama Website, News and Speeches: Call to Renewal Keynote Address” (http://www.barackobama.com/2006/06/28/call_to_renewal_keynote_address.php). Accessed March, 24, 2009.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Christopher Hitchens, god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve, 2007), 102.

[4] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), 109.

[5] Bart. D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus The Story Behind Who Changed The Bible and Why (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), 10.

[6] Ibid., 12

[7] Bill Maher on CNN Larry King Live, January 28, 2004.

[8] Bill Maher on ABC, Politically Incorrect, January 24, 2002.

[9] Bill Maher on CNN Larry King Live, January 28, 2004.

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