This article by Peter Berkowitz, who teaches law at George Mason, and is a "senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution", is no exception. How many lies can you find?
It starts in the smarmiest possible way, taking a cliché from Ecclesiastes to argue that the new wave of atheism books (which Berkowitz calls, unimaginatively, the "new new atheism") is confirmed by "biblical wisdom". This is the equivalent of the traditional response of the theist when an atheist makes a good point: ignore it, and say "God loves you anyway".
Next, Berkowitz sneers at Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and other atheist writers by describing atheism as a "profitable business" --- as if writing books that people want to read is somehow morally objectionable, and as if religious organizations haven't been raking in the tax-exempt cash for years.
We have to wait until the fourth paragraph before we get the first outright lie. Berkowitz claims "... the new new atheism proclaims its hatred of God and organized religion loudly and proudly from the rooftops". The only problem is, atheists don't hate the Christian God or any other god, any more than we hate the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny or Emma Bovary. You can't hate something that doesn't exist, and fictional characters don't inspire hatred the way real dictators do. Atheists might hate how a misguided belief in a deity or deities causes people to misbehave, and we might hate the division that religion causes, and we might hate some institutions of organized religion (and have a good reason to do so), but we don't hate Berkowitz's god.
The fifth paragraph has another lie. Berkowitz claims "[The new new atheists] contend ... we can now know, with finality and certainty, that God does not exist..." Really? Is that really what they say?
Nope. Take Richard Dawkins, for example. In The God Delusion, he makes the point that you can't know with certainty that there is no god. On page 51, for example, Dawkins defines a strong, or category 7, atheist as someone who says "I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung `knows' there is one." He then says "I'd be surprised to meet many people in category 7" and that he does not count himself in this category. He says he is "in category 6, but leaning towards 7 - I am agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden." A category 6 atheist says, according to Dawkins, "I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there."
There is much more to dispute in Berkowitz's piece, but I confess I grow weary at the weak excuses he uses to prop up religion, the straw men he erects to attack Hitchens, and the transparently sneering rhetoric. Hitchens, Berkowitz says, "shows no awareness that his atheism, far from resulting from skeptical inquiry, is the rigidly dogmatic premise from which his inquiries proceed, and that it colors all his observations and determines his conclusions." But modern atheism isn't a dogmatism, since it offers no creed to rigidly adhere to, only a disbelief in the creeds of others. To call this dogmatism is to insist that the barefoot man really does have a secret cobbler he visits on the side.
Berkowitz can't resist implying that his religion would never, ever result in the nasty kind of violence we see emanating from Islam: "today's bestselling atheists suppress crucial distinctions between the forms of faith embraced by the vast majority of American citizens and the militant Islam that at this very moment is pledged to America's destruction." What he fails to see is that that American majoritarian faith also results in reprehensible violence. To name just three examples from the last year:
- Charles Carl Roberts, home-schooled by religious parents, killed 5 and wounded 5 more Amish schoolgirls in October 2006 because he was angry at God.
- Brian K. White, a religious musician, beat to death a 75-year-old former Soviet political prisoner in New Jersey because the man refused to buy his religious CD's.
- Joshua Royce Mauldin, who claimed he was called by God to be a minister, seriously burned his 2-month-old daughter's face by jamming her in a microwave.
Berkowitz concludes by claiming, "Of all the Bible's sublime and sustaining teachings, none is more so than the teaching that explains that humanity is set apart because all human beings--woman as well as man the Bible emphasizes--are created in the image of God". Berkowitz may feel this is "sublime" and "sustaining", but I just regard it with sorrow. What could be more responsible for our ecological crisis than this silly, deluded view that man is somehow elevated above everything else in nature?
If this mess of lies and foolishness is the best the theists can offer, then the atheists have already won.