New Atheism = Inadequate Theodicy?

The Other Journal continues its current engagement with atheism with Ryan Dueck’s The New Atheism as Inadequate Theodicy. Dueck makes an interesting argument that the “new atheism” is ultimately portraying a simple and inadequate resolution to the problem of evil. While I find his argument fairly compelling, I think that Dueck would have done better to take Merold Westphal’s advice to take the charges against religious belief a little more seriously and humbly. (For more, see Westphal’s Atheism for Lent.) Here’s a sample:

Those who puzzle at the phenomenon that is the “new atheism”—whether religious or irreligious—could be forgiven for wondering what new cosmological data or insight into human nature suddenly became available around the mid-point of the twenty-first century’s first decade to instantly render belief in the supernatural remarkably less credible than in the millennia that preceded it. …The meager nature of the contribution of the new atheists to the actual philosophical argument about the existence of God demonstrates that something else, clearly, is motivating this latest (and loudest) blast of hostility toward God and religion. It is my contention that this something has less to do with science and reason vs. blind faith than it does with the problem of evil. The entire project undertaken by the new atheists is a theodicy, albeit of a curious sort. This claim is, perhaps, a strange one, and will require some unpacking.

The New Atheism as Inadequate Theodicy

9 responses to “New Atheism = Inadequate Theodicy?”

  1. Nothing new appeared showing atheism is more true than it used to (technically new evidence would favor theism- it is the stance with the claim). What we have been seeing is a growth in anti-theism, due to 9/11, Islam in Europe and President Bush.

    Or in short the realization that faith appears to be trying to consume the planet or take it down with it.

  2. Samuel Skinner: Did you actually read the article? Because the quote I made is the least substantive part of the article, it just asks a pertinent question and then goes to answer it, in some cases agreeing with what you’re getting at, in others not.

  3. Unfortunately I am familiar with it and have read it before. Given the fact that atheism means people who don’t believe in god or deny the possibilty of a god existing, I can’t see how atheism can be a moral protest against gods evil.

    Basically theodicy only applies to theists- and he spends the entire paper trying to apply it to atheists.

    And he doesn’t say why the new atheists are wrong. He completely ignores that.

    Uh… what moral protest? Atheism is motivated by factual reality. Antitheism is motivated by the actions of believers. Admitadly some people have become atheists due to the bible and the problem of evil.

    No, the new atheists don’t have an evolutionary view of history. And the he makes the breath taking arguement that we need theism, not because it is true, not because it doesn’t kill, but because of the transendant arguement. Yep, the whole essay is an arguement from ignorance.

    Now do you see why I think theologians are idiots.There really is nothing to see except and exceptionally stupid and long transendant arguement. In other words he isn’t arguing for theism, but against atheism on the grounds that “he doesn’t think it will work- it borrows from Christianity-purposeless” and other worthless bile.

    I’ll sum it all up- he doesn’t once offer evidence that god exists. He only claims that he can’t imagine atheism “working”. Which is odd, because it does work (By working I mean not driving a person insane or into contradictory ideas and falsifying itself).

  4. Samuel Skinner: Cheers for the somewhat more substantive, if vituperative, reply. You are, however, making certain demands of the article that it cannot supply. Nowhere does Dueck say that he’s going to argue for the truth of theism, simply that he’s intrigued by the “new atheism” and finds its protest against belief somewhat inconsistent. I thought that the article was strongest in saying that worldviews are essentially certain types of theodicy that give an explanation for evil in the world, but I think he would have done better to stay away from the word “theodicy” itself.

    Theologians are idiots eh? Nothing like an insubstantive ad hominem to make the day flow more smoothly. Still, good to see someone who apparently cares about what he believes…

  5. Well, than his arguements are irrelevant. Unless he is working on theology like fiction canon.

    Uh.. he fails to show the arguements are inconsistant. The accounting for evil is simple. Evil exists. And, no worldviews aren’t designed specifically to explain evil- all most all tribal religions were about manipulating the natural world, communism and facism were about the cause, naturalism is about reality, etc. Myths and legends focus on explaining evil- however they aren’y worldviews. Christianity isn’t soly concerned with explaining evil- that is just one problem it has with a good, all knowing and all powerful god.

    We, he is an idiot. You see when discussing important things we focus on wheter they are true, not pile on so much verbiage until they look like good, while completely ignoring the whole point.

    For morality… I’ll give you a short example of the thinking (doesn’t apply to all atheists… but it is reasonable).
    With atheism we wouldn’t have any grounding for maorals and society will fall into choas!
    “Why do we have morals?”
    To keep people from doing whatever they want and keeping society afloat.
    “Isn’t that a justification in itself?”
    “We are moral because we don’t want that to happen.”
    But how do you support it!
    “It… works?”
    That isn’t enough.
    Because it isn’t!

  6. Samuel Skinner: You bluster well, but you argue poorly. You make bold assertions, but do not back them up with much else other than appeals to “reality” and “it works.” Appealing to reality does not mean that you possess it. And your mini-dialogue on morality is incoherent.

  7. How am I wrong? You don’t say. As a rationalist I expect more than “you bluster well, but argue poorly”. I expect something like examples and refutations. You seem to be unable to do so.

    Reality… I never claim to possess it. Reality covers everything that exists- you can’t possess it. You made another incoherent statement. If you mean that I am not perceiving reality correctly you’ll have to show why. However given that the basis of theism is that reality isn’t all, that there are somethings available to those who want them very much… I’d say I’m closer to reality than you by default theist.

    As for the mini dialogue I’ll put it in a form you can understand- if it applies to the real world (aka reality), than atheists can find- and justify- it too. Is that too complicated for you?

    I find it hard to treat you as anything other than an idiot and I am sorry if that descriptor is invalid. However you continue to respond with empty statements and need to have the simplest idea explained to you.

    For example 1st you accuse me of not reading the article in the first responce saying it brings up substantive issues. In the second reply you admit it isn’t concerned with the truth of theism… which means the entire article is rather irrelevant. If something isn’t true… than its FALSE! The exception is opinions, which are rather irrelevant outside of politics and morality. This means that you where either lying or you don’t understand what you are saying (brings up substantive issues- not concerned with the truth are mutually exclusive). There is only one exception- when you don’t care about the truth of the matter. In which case you are an idiot- after all only the process and the results matter, but without results you are wasting your time.

    Then you say calling him an idiot is wrong because it is an ad hominum. I’m not judging the man based on his background- I’m judging him based on his work. And it sucks.

    If you respond please use… ever read Foundation? There is a scene where Salvor Halden records a diplomatcs statements and has technicians eliminate all contradictory statements. In the end the diplomat, in an entire week, has said, promised and guarenteed nothing. Don’t let that be you.

  8. Mmm… condescension, lovely. I thank you for deigning to speak with me, an idiot. If there were an emoticon for a chuckle, it would go here.

    Dueck’s article was not concerned with proving the truth of theism because, as a Christian, he obviously believes that theism is true. So, yes, I was somewhat sloppy in what I said, but you also interpreted what I said in the worst possible light, violating the principle of charity in argumentation. He’s not concerned in his article with proving the truth of theism, but that does not mean he is not concerned with truth. Writing would be wearisome if we had to defend every assumption that we make every time we wrote anything. You keep demanding an argument for theism out of his article, which is quite simply besides the point of what the article was attempting to accomplish. Or, perhaps more realistically, you’re attempting to get in an argument with me over the truth of theism. That would be another matter.

    But this is the very thing that you yourself are doing. In what you have written here, you also have not made any arguments for the truth of atheism, although you have made some limited arguments against theism. Which is precisely what Dueck’s article did, with theism and atheism switched. So, to put it in technical philosophical language, we have a performative self-contradictory refutation of your own argument. Or, in plain English, it takes one to know one. But again, this would be uncharitable because I am certain that you would not write with such bluster if you did not have reasons for your beliefs.

    Now, I’ll level with you and say that I’m not going to engage in an argument over theism and atheism with you, if that’s what you’re driving at. I find those types of engagements generally unproductive and not worth the time and energy invested, particularly in a context such as this where 1) we have no relationship and 2) you have displayed a quickness to pettiness that I find tiring. The tools of good dialogue do not include bludgeons. You can find my email address on the about page if you actually wish to have a genuine dialogue, but I will not reply any longer in this comment thread.

  9. I wrote a long reply, but the submit button screwed up so here is the short end.

    You misrepresent the article (he does argue theism is true- transendant arguement). The article misrepresents atheism (lack of belief, not worldview).

    : and ) (might not work here though)

    As for name calling… well civilty is required, respect is not. And the article is rather stupid. What is depressing is you found it good. Not to mention your position changes (changing is alright- but not is the change in your position relies on the origional).

    I won’t bother with continuing this conversation, I’ll just leave you with this thought. I have, as an atheist and by definition never heard a convincing, consistant, logical and correct arguement for theism. Ever. And I have heard them all. Okay-almost all (there is probably more of those nutters out there- like an Easter egg).

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