For more than 200 years, men have disguised their disdain for the Bible in the language of science. Claiming to be materialists, they have embraced atheism, and want you to do the same. No longer content to co-exist peacefully with Christianity however, the “new atheists” insist that the world needs to be relieved of the poison of religion.
A glance at history, or at the pages of any newspaper, reveals that ideas which divide one group of human beings from another, only to unite them in slaughter, generally have their roots in religion. It seems that if our species ever eradicates itself through war, it will not be because it was written in the stars but because it was written in our books; it is what we do with words like “God” and “paradise” and “sin” in the present that will determine our future.
Sam Harris has appointed himself to the post of “rational traffic cop” and intends to serve his post with due diligence. His first book, The End of Faith, picks up right where Jonathan Glover’s Humanity leaves off. Glover ends his moral overview of the twentieth century this way:
To avoid further disasters, we need political restraints on a world scale. But politics is not the whole story. We have experienced the results of technology in the service of the destructive side of human psychology. Something needs to be done about this fatal combination. The means for expressing cruelty and carrying out mass killing have been fully developed. It is too late to stop the technology. It is to the psychology that we should now turn.
Glover’s closing plea is Harris’ opening thesis. Harris, and others like him—including Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens—agree with Glover that modern technology offers too many war machine options to too many would-be martyrs. The promise of heaven and life-everlasting, in Harris’ view, is a psychological hiccup in the evolutionary process, a vestigial chemical in the brain. Religion, in its many varieties and flavors, is not something to be extolled and cherished, it is something to be demonized and destroyed. Just like VIKI in I, Robot, Harris and his atheistic compatriots have “evolved” to the point of realizing that in order to save humanity, a portion of it must be eliminated, or at least subjugated. A little leaven does indeed leaven the whole lump.
But the question must be asked: How do Harris and his ilk differ from the dictators of the twentieth century that sent millions to their deaths in concentrations camps, gas chambers, and gulags? How does their “scientific,” matter-only worldview yield anything substantially different from the barbarous and megalomaniacal views and subsequent actions of Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Benito Mussolini, or Joseph Stalin? Why should we expect Sam Harris’ America to be any different than Hitler’s Germany? Harris’ patent dishonesty is made manifest when he claims “Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious…. Atheism is nothing more than the noises that reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.” This is pure obfuscation on Harris’ part. While it may be technically true that “non-belief” in God is not a worldview in and of itself, neither is a “belief” in God. Atheism and theism may not be the worldview components, but evolution and Christianity are. Harris is a self-admitted Darwinist, so we can safely assume that he adheres to the former. In this regard he is not unlike Michael Ruse who has famously stated:
Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality.… Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.… Evolution therefore came into being as a kind of secular ideology, an explicit substitute for Christianity.
In other words, “survival of the fittest” is the social and intellectual worldview of the “New Atheists.” Harris and Dawkins are simply this century’s model of the Bolsheviks which in 1925 created the League of the Militant Godless “to bring atheism to the masses.” A propaganda campaign that would make Richard Dawkins proud was mounted in early 20th century communist Russia by the League that effectively promoted atheism as progress and religion as poison. Open graves filled with millions of dissident corpses were the tangible results of the League’s efforts. Even the United States has its own atheistic example in the formation of the town of Liberal, Missouri, where the goal was a “‘town without a church, [w]here unbelievers could bring up their children without religious training,’ and where Christians were not allowed.” It took only a few short years, however, for this atheistic “paradise” in middle America to unravel.
Since Liberal was started there has not been an average of one birth per year of infidel parents. Feticide is universal. The physicians of the place say that a large portion of their practice has been trying to save females from consequences of feticide. In no town is slander more prevalent, or the charges more vile…. Nine-tenths of those now in town would leave if they could sell their property. More property has been lost by locating in the town than has been made in it…. Hundreds have been deceived and injured and ruined financially.
Such is the inevitable future of Harris, Dawkins, et al. The genocide of the Bolsheviks was the feticide of the Liberals (the equivocation here is intentional). An atheistic community cannot tolerate dissenting voices. Harris and Dawkins rightly perceive religion, and specifically Christianity, as the largest roadblock to their future atheistic utopia, and they are taking the necessary academic steps to undermine it. And it seems to be working. In his forthcoming book, The Assault on Reason, Al Gore asks: “Why do reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions?” Only when America completely jettisons “reason, logic and truth” will Harris and Dawkins’ future hope be finally realized. “Why,” continues Gore in Harris-inspired rhetoric, “has America’s public discourse become less focused and clear, less reasoned. Faith in the power of reason—the belief that free citizens can govern themselves wisely and fairly by resorting to logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available, instead of raw power—remains the central premise of American democracy. This premise is now under assault.”
Perhaps Gore has his countries mixed up. If eighteenth century history teaches anything, it teaches that France was the country that elevated reason to the level that Gore and Harris think it should occupy, not America. The signers of the Declaration of Independence appealed to “the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,” not to Harris and Gore’s invisible god of reason. The signers realized that for reason to be reasonable it must be fixed on a standard outside of man himself. Thomas Paine’s book Common Sense was instrumental in promoting this view throughout the colonies. Conversely, the French Revolution made it a point to destroy any vestige of Christianity and start all over again—even including their calendar. Their experiment was a miserable failure and a case-study of tyrannical government intervention. What “reason” leads Harris, Dawkins, and Gore to believe that their own “experiment” will fare any better?
. Sam Harris, The End of Faith (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004), 12.
. Jonathan Glover, Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1999), 414.
. Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), 51.
. Michael Ruse, National Post, May 13, 2000, pp. B1, B3, B7
. Daniel Peris, Storming the Heavens: The Soviet League of the Militant Godless (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998), 2.
. Quoted in Eric Lyons, “Atheism and Liberal Missouri,” Apologetics Press, 2003.
. Al Gore, The Assault on Reason, excerpted in Time, May 28, 2007, 39.