Meme Grinder #10 – “Principles of New Atheism.”

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1. “All faith is folly, including moderate faiths.”

Well, then atheism, by its own criterion, is a folly since it is itself a faith position. Former atheist turned Christian biophysicist Alister McGrath notes that “The simple fact of the matter is that atheism is a faith, which draws conclusions that go beyond the available evidence” (1).

For example, the atheist must presuppose that his cognitive faculties are reliable for gathering information about the external world. He must have faith that science itself is a reliable tool for studying the external world. The atheist must also go beyond scientific data to make philosophical arguments, ones based on faith, that God does not exist or probably does not exist. This list can go on.

2. “Stop giving religion special treatment.”

No-one needs to give religion special treatment, instead one should not outright disrespect others & their  beliefs – something that many atheists are notorious for. Apologist Eric Mader explains:

“I don’t at all believe that atheists as such are inherently violent people. I do believe, however, very strongly, that those who support the New Atheism are largely motivated by a deep-seated personal hatred for people of faith” (8).

3. “Bible offers no answers to suffering.”

Firstly, on atheism good & evil (since suffering implies that evil exists) do not even exist! According to the former atheist Philip Vander Elst things like morality and the reality of good and evil has “no more validity or significance than the sound of the wind in the trees” if atheism is true (2). Also the fundamentalist atheist Richard Dawkins admits that there is “at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference” (3). Such is consistent with atheism if we follow it to its logical conclusion.

Secondly, the Bible does offer answers to the reality of suffering. Some of the most notable biblical figures in the Bible (Job, David, Paul, the disciples & Jesus himself) stand out for us as role models & inspiration for dealing with the reality of suffering that we humans experience – unlike atheism the Christian worldview does not deny its existence. Further, the Bible gives us an explanation as to why suffering & evil exist since it is a result of rebellion against God (Genesis 3) and the Bible informs us who is behind it (John 8:44; 2 Cor. 11:14, 4:4). The Bible also affirms that enduring suffering actually strengthens us (Rom. 5:3-5; James 1:2-4) and that it is a test of faith (1 Peter 1:6-7; James 1:12). We are also told that suffering, a product of the fall of man, will one day end when God wraps up human history for good (Rev. 21:4). In fact, most powerful is that suffering is at the very center of Christianity in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross for our redemption (Phil. 3:10). Even Jesus tells us that we will suffer if we follow him (Luke 14:27) and he even goes as far as to say that the persecuted are blessed (Mat. 5:10-12).

Well, where’s atheism’s explanation for the reality of suffering? The answer to that is simple: it doesn’t even have one. That is how explanatorily insufficient the atheistic worldview is.

4. “Religion is not the source of morality.”

If I could receive a penny for each time I’ve heard this line I’d take a month long cruise in the Caribbean. This simply misunderstands a popular argument that theists make for the existence of God via objective morals & duties. In fact, I gave a full answer to the atheist Christopher Hitchens on this point.

Arguably one of the world’s leading apologists is that of the philosopher William Lane Craig who is the forerunner of the arguments for God’s existence. He formulates the moral argument thusly (11):

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values do exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

Note that in no way is the argument claiming that non-religious people cannot be moral. The argument is instead focusing on whether morality is objective or subjective, and whether or not that would provide evidence for God’s existence. No-one here is denying that an atheist can act morally. Instead, what the issue for the atheist is is how he grounds his moral experience. Upon what basis can he make the claim that we should act morally? Would the atheist tell others that it would be morally abominable to rape, or torture women? Well, is that merely his subjective opinion or is it objectively wrong to hurt others?

So, no-one, at least to my knowledge, is claiming that religion is the source of morality (on Christian theism it is God himself who is the source of morality) so I don’t think we need to take the memes caricature seriously.

5. “The universe is matter and nothing more.”

Now this is simply becoming absurd. How does anyone know this? Has anyone ever investigated every nook & cranny of the universe in order to validate this claim?  Certainly not. We haven’t even been to Pluto let alone to Alpha Centauri. What about the Big Bang? That would seem to be a thorn in the side of the atheist. How does he explain the origin of the physical universe that our best scientific evidence suggests arose from nothing (no matter, no space-time, nothing)? Robin Schumacher explains the difficulty for the atheist:

“To the atheist, that ultimate reality is an eternal universe where only physical matter exists. Atheism’s struggle is to explain how the universe is eternal when all scientific discovery shows it had a beginning, and how–since an effect always resembles its cause in essence—an impersonal, non-conscious, meaningless, purposeless, and amoral universe accidentally created personal, conscious, moral beings who are obsessed with meaning and purpose” (4).

Since we cannot know that the “universe is matter and nothing more”, and since this is an unprovable assumption, it comes down to a classic example of faith that it requires to be an atheist (refer to McGrath’s comment in point 1). The atheist must have faith that this is the case.

6. “Atheism is a positive philosophy.”

No, it’s depressing. As we saw with Dawkins’ comment above it cannot even give an answer for the reality of good & evil even though everyday experience affirms it for us. Things like love & beauty are merely electrochemical misfiring of atoms in our brains that give us the illusion that love & beauty exist. Humans, and every other sentient creature, are accidents of nature, as the atheist William Provine sums up, that on atheism “There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either” (5). The notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer speaks truth when he once said that on atheism all of us “just came from the slime. When we, when we died, you know, that was it, there is nothing…” (6).

No meaning, no ethics, no purpose, no freewill, the end of our existence in death – how does this at all equate atheism to “a positive philosophy”?

7. “Atheism is growing, coming out of the closet.”

Despite this atheism will always remain a minority worldview in this world. In all honesty it has grown in a handful of countries (mainly England, America & France, while it is a majority worldview in places like the Czech Republic and Estonia). Despite that a study by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity suggests that religion is growing while atheism is declining (7). For instance, in 1970 there were around 165 500 000 atheists in the world, that equates to about 4.5% of the global population. Yet, in 2010, the number of atheists had fallen to 136 582 200, or 2.0% of the population. It is expected that by 2020 there number of atheists worldwide will be at 136 685 000. Although that is a small increase in absolute number, that will still be down to around 1.8% of the world population. What this suggests is that atheism shall always remain a minority view in this world for the foreseeable future. Further, Islam is set to become the world’s largest religion in the year 2070 if current prediction models are correct. Beyond 2015, the “Muslim share of the world’s population would equal the Christian share, at roughly 32% each, around 2070. After that, the number of Muslims would exceed the number of Christians, but both religious groups would grow, roughly in tandem, as shown in the graph above. By the year 2100, about 1% more of the world’s population would be Muslim (35%) than Christian (34%).”  Besides Christianity & Islam other religions (with the exception of Buddhism) are also set to grow, for example, Judaism will grow by 16%, Hinduism by 34% & Folk Religions by 11%.

This well suggests that the infinitesimal growth of atheism in relation to other worldviews is nothing at all to champion. Most of the world doesn’t even care.


1. McGrath, A. 2002. Glimpsing the Face of God: The Search for Meaning in the Universe. p. 22.

2. Vander Elst, P. From Atheism to Christianity: a Personal Journey. Available.

3. Dawkins, R. 1995. River out of Eden. p 131-32.

4. Schumacher, R. ‘An Examination of Atheism’s Truth Claims. Available.

5. Provine, W. 1994. Origins Research. p.9.

6. Jeffrey Dahmer Interview with Stone Phillips, Dateline NBC (1994).

7. Bishop, J. 2015. Atheism, agnosticism in decline while religion grows, Pew Research Center. Available. See Study.

8. Mader, E. 2015. Dealing with New Atheist Bigotry: Some Basic Steps. Available.



12 responses to “Meme Grinder #10 – “Principles of New Atheism.”

  1. Hi, James, I find some flaws in your reasoning.

    1. Non belief in something on the absence of evidence is not faith. And yes, atheism presupposes the reliability of senses, EVERYBODY must, even you. Even if you try to prove god’s existence through the argument from reason, you must first presuppose reason and then form the argument. That objections does not do much. And not all atheist ‘believe’ in science.

    2. I am an atheist and I don’t hate people on the basis of their beliefs, but neither do I ‘respect’ those beliefs, I respect people not beliefs. And I don’t think that is a bad thing.

    3. Atheism is not a worldview; ethical guidelines, cultural names, personal constitutions do not come with atheism. Atheism has morals of its own and that’s not based on a book but on empathy. Utilitarianism is something most atheists go for.
    And I don’t find that explanation satisfactory(when God wrote it, it MUST be satisfactory) because a creator cannot just torture his children because they disobeyed him earlier.

    4. Please do a favour. Give a single objective moral value, then prove it. Prove that it IS objectively moral in all circumstances. That will prove your moral argument, until then the premise 2 is not established. Thanks.

    5. I am an atheist, and not a materialist. I believe that there is more to be known but we do not yet know whether the supernatural exists or not, but we do know that the natural exists. What exists, manifests itself, that is not faith.

    6. Atheism is positive if the atheist is positive, it depends on the purpose because as I said, atheism is not a philosophy, it is a singular position regarding a singular issue. Asking if atheism is positive is like asking if an apple is positive, that is meaningless.

    7. I actually do not care about this, this falls under the ad-populum fallacy.

    • Regarding your point 4 above, i would suggest that “all human beings have a right to life” is an objective value – yes or no?

      • Regarding your point 1 above, I would agree that “non belief in something on the absence of evidence is not faith” – but as soon as you declare your “non belief” publicly to another person by saying “God does not exist” then you are asserting that your statement is true as far as you are concerned, and as the statement cannot be proved you must accept that it is based purely on “faith”.

        • Hello John, thanks for your response. Actually, I was in hurry when I wrote the original comment, so pardon my grammatical and rhetoric errors. However, here goes my defence;
          4. I need not to agree, mutual agreement does not prove a point. I asked for a *proven* objective moral value, if something seems right to me or you, that doesn’t mean that it is proved. Subjective validation is not proof.
          1. I do not claim that God doesn’t exist, you’ll not find me doing that. I even have criticised gnostic atheism in many places and circumstances. However, I do believe that the scriptural God can be disproven, since it has traits. When you just say ‘God’, it is an empty reference, when you say ‘a creator God’, it is quite plausible(although currently unreasonable); but when you give traits(like omnipotence, omniscience etc.) you start to give weaknesses, logical holes on which your God can be shown to be self-contradictory. Regardless, I do not see how it even challenges my first point.

          • Hi rounaqb, thanks for replying.
            Regarding point 1, would you please tell me whether it is ever acceptable for a person to rape, torture or murder another individual, or steal their property, just for fun? When would any of those acts be considered quite acceptable to an atheist, or to any rational person for that matter?
            As for point 4, it seems to me that you are not really an atheist, as it is simply the God as portrayed in the Bible that you do not believe in, but you do not rule out there being a “God of sorts” somewhere out there! Your comments as an atheist are therefore not really applicable, are they?

            • On ethics;
              As far as I can tell, an atheist does not appeal to objective moral values, they appeal to utilitarianism, so the questions of yours seem to be slightly off the mark. And again, you have to ‘prove’ objective moral values to me, it does not matter if I agree with the values or not, an argument matters.

              On atheism;
              You are assuming that for being an atheist, you MUST reject the possibility of all sorts of gods and God. That’s not the case. Atheism is a belief-position, I can accept the possibility of a god, but not believe in its existence until good reasons come.

              • Many thanks for your reply, greatly appreciated! May I add a couple of final comments? Firstly, regarding “proof” of objective moral values, surely it is up to the atheist to prove that those values do NOT exist, rather than ducking the issue and claim to base their own “values” on other “criteria”.
                Secondly, you admit that atheism is a belief-position – you accept the possibility of a god, but have FAITH in your belief that it does not exist because of a lack of evidence – case proved!

              • That’s rather weak, as it seems to me. The moral argument rests on the key assumption of objective moral values, it is on the theist to prove them. Atheists need not to disprove the objectivity of morality because what it rests on is a default and powerful position, utilitarianism, which does not conform to any kind of objective ethics.

                Again, I do not believe that God does not exist, I simply refuse to think about anything unreasonable, until someone presents a reason for that specific claim.

  2. It saddens me that in order to defend your own position you feel the need to resort to attacking those who do not share your beliefs, rather than sharing your beliefs and letting their merit stand on their own. It is akin to political mudslinging, attacking those who do not share your viewpoint in order to lift up your “side”, and it is disgusting. Even worse, that you attempt to place yourself into the mind of another human being and think you can understand what they think and feel by attributing your own bias i.e. “No, it’s depressing”. It’s referring to atheism. It’s depressing because of your own bias and worldview. Stop worrying about what the atheist does or does not believe, and live your own life.

    “…so I don’t think we need to take the memes caricature seriously.” Perhaps the only good thing you said. Screw the meme, live your life as you will.

    • I also see atheists resort to this tactic all the time. Of course, that doesn’t excuse Christians doing the same thing, and they have, including myself in the past.
      I don’t think James attacked anyone, but simply stated atheism’s faults. I also never got the impression that James was stepping into another’s shoes, if any, though I don’t speak for James, I feel he was describing his view through his own shoes.
      To be clear, I don’t think atheism is a depressing non-belief (or lack of belief, or whatever whatchamacallit), rather it’s more of a hopeless worldview. The atheist can feel whatever he chooses to feel with this.
      I bet James, and other Christian apologetics, want to live their lives as they will, but apologetics exist for a reason. For those doubting what is true, they offer some guidance to what they ultimately choose to believe or non-believe.

  3. This New Atheism appears strikingly similar to Christianity as it once was: regarded as superior, forced onto people due to said perceived superiority, and intolerance of opposing views. I see this as very dangerous. Different belief, but same mentality and approach. Free societies are founded on tolerance. Tolerance requires the freedom to think as an individual, regardless of how different it is from the predominant views of the powerful.

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