Whatever Happened to Profound Unbelief?
Recently I referred to (and quoted from) David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions. I can’t resist returning to a few pages in the penultimate chapter of that book. One of Hart’s chief contentions is that they just don’t make atheists like they used to. Nietzsche was a worthy opponent who truly understood the issues at stake. But the latest tribe—led by Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris—are an embarrassment to their intellectual tradition. Hart’s book is full of solid historical correction vigorously argued. But he also knows how to make his opponents look absolutely silly.
The rather petulant subtitle that Christopher Hitchens has given his [rather petulantly titled] God Is Not Great is How Religion Poisons Everything. Naturally one would not expect him to have squandered any greater labor of thought on the dust jacket of his book than on the disturbingly bewildered text that careens so drunkenly across its pages—reeling up against a missed logical connection here, steadying itself against a historical error there, stumbling everywhere over all those damned conceptual confusions littering the carpet—but one does have to wonder how he expects any reflective reader to interpret such a phrase. Does he really mean precisely everything? (Hart, 219)
While I doubt Hitchens is exclusively responsible for the title, subtitle or dust jacket copy, I don’t want to detract from the delightful picture Hart sketches!
And then there is this:
As I have already complained, the tribe of the New Atheists is something of a disappointment. It probably says more than it is comfortable to know about the relative vapidity of our culture that we have lost the capacity to produce profound unbelief. The best we can now hope for are arguments pursued at only the most vulgar of intellectual levels, couched in an infantile and carpingly pompous tone, and lacking all but the meagerest traces of historical erudition or syllogistic rigor… . Sam Harris shrieking and holding his breath and flinging his toys about in the expectation that the adults in the room will be cowed. Christopher Hitchens bellowing at the drapes and potted plants while hoping no one notices the failure of any of his assertions to coalesce with any other into anything like a coherent argument. (Hart, 220)
There’s more. Oh yes, there’s more.
Posted by Dan Reid
at May 11, 2009 9:44 AM
Dan, thanks for sharing this book. I think it was William Lane Craig who recently expressed frustration that contemporary atheists aren't contributing to the philosophical conversation, that they continue to rehash old arguments that were long ago refuted by theists, without any apparent awareness that their positions are outdated and stale.
Yeah, but it is nice to see William Craig pretty much destroy, without mercy, any atheist who debates him. :)