I came across this article, from someone who is clearly a proud atheist, praising Bill Maher. Jeffrey Taylor (along with Bill Maher) is a product of the New Atheist movement. A movement of aggressive anti-theists, who don’t respect religious thinking enough to investigate what it actually is, and who end up mocking it and viciously attacking it in the context of never actually having took the time to learn what it is they are mocking, they end up mocking out of ignorance.
When a religious fundamentalist says something like “evolution isn’t true because I didn’t come from a monkey,” that person is derided as an idiot, because he is a person attacking something of which he is absolutely ignorant of. Does this mean that there are no atheists out there that believe that humans came from monkeys, and believe that’s what evolution means? No, I’m absolutely sure there are atheists out there that think that, but they also, along with the religious fundamentalist, don’t understand evolution. It would be silly to attack a theory based on the understanding of it held by people who don’t understand it.
When an atheist mocks Christianity by saying something like “the bible must not be true because the earth is older than 6000 years,” that person (just as much as the religious fundamentalist) is, and should be called, an idiot. Yes, there are religious people out there that believe Christianity depends on the earth being no older than a couple thousand years, but those people, along with the atheist, are ignorant of religious thought, theology and the bible.
Jeffery Taylor is an example of an Atheist mocking religion while knowing nothing about it, here’s an example from his article:
How can we not laugh aloud when Genesis declares that Almighty God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, yet had to pilfer a rib from Adam to produce Eve?
Now, when Jeffery wrote this, did he really honestly think that religious people throughout history took all of Genesis literally? Did he know that Thomas Aquinas thought it completely compatible with the bible that the universe was eternal in the past? Did he know that Origen read Genesis Allegorically, in line with the Jewish allegorical tradition (for example from Philo of Alexandria)? Did he know that Augustine of Hippo suggested that God created everything in one moment, endowed with the capacity to develop, this in a book called “the literal meaning of Genesis?” Did he know that all 3 of those I mentioned are considered orthodox Christians who took the bible as the inerrant, inspired word of God? All of them living before modern science existed.
These famous historical theologians were not responding to Atheists, they were not responding to scientific discoveries. They were seriously and painstakingly trying to faithfully interpret the text of scripture on its own terms as they best understood it.
Frankly, Jeffery Taylor doesn’t care to understand biblical passages on their own terms, or in a theological way, he’s going to read them the same way a 5 year old would, rather and understand what they are trying to say, and then mock it based on that lack of understanding.
Here’s another example:
How are we supposed to accept Jesus as an up-to-snuff savior when, in Matthew 21:19 and Mark 11:13-14, he loses his temper and cusses out a fig tree, condemning it to death, for not bearing fruit out of season? Any second-grade science-class student would have known better, and possibly even exercised more self-control.
Now does Jeffery Taylor really think that Mark and Matthew included that story of Jesus in their accounts just to show that Jesus was a foul tempered moron that didn’t know that figs don’t grown when they are out of season? Or does he believe that Mark and Matthew just wrote what they saw/heard/read with no theological or ideological purpose, or no narrative purpose? Were they just uninterested journalists catching Jesus at a bad time?
You would have to be an idiot to believe either one. Matthew explains what the purpose of the account is, if Jeffery would just strain his eyes and read a couple verses more he’d see that there was a theological point being made about trusting God and what can be accomplished by it. The same goes for Mark (likely where Matthew got the story from), if he just kept reading until verse 19-25 he would see that a much deeper theological point is being made, in fact part of it having to do with forgiveness, which may seem strange given Jesus’ reaction to the tree, but then again Mark has many theological/ideological subtleties and ironies which Jeffery might be aware of if he actually took the time to try and learn something about the passages he’s mocking.
He goes on.
“Properly read,” declared the science-fiction author and biochemistry professor Isaac Asimov, “the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”
It is an ironic thing for him to quote given the obvious fact that Jeffery Taylor has never “Property read” the bible, or even parts of it. But I suppose he would just consider it beneath him as a self-proclaimed “rationalist” to take the bible or theology seriously enough to actually investigate it, study it, and have some knowledge about it before attacking it.
Here comes his more serious error:
Look abroad, and the panorama of savagery religion must answer for curdles the blood. No rationalist could contemplate all this entirely unnecessary faith-driven regress and backsliding with anything but anger, tempered with despair. If we want to do true and lasting good in this world, we are morally obligated to fight faith in the open, and root it out from every nook and cranny in which it hides.
Now here we have an issue, I take it Jeffery here is referring to Islamic terrorism, such as we see manifest in Isis. Just some simple logical thinking is needed here; Islamic terrorism has been around for about what … 50 years? Terrorism itself has been around for much longer. Islam has been around since the 7th century. So given that simple fact, could it be that the violence done by Islamic terrorism exists simple because people believe that Mohammed received a revelation from God? Before there was Islamic terrorism people still believed in the revelation to Mohammed, so how could that be the main cause?
Or take monotheistic faiths in general, what we generally would call now “religion.” Before Islam did people savagely murder each other? How about before Christianity? How about Before Judaism? Of course they did. We’re those people in history secularists? No, were they religious? Well, depends how you define that word, if by religious you mean that they based their morality, lives, worldview and political and economic decisions on a holy book or on what they believed a certain god wanted them to do, then no they weren’t. For most ancients morality and religion had nothing to do with each other, religion was ritualistic, cyclical and mainly consisted of giving sacrifices to temples, reading omens, and honoring ancestral gods and traditions. In fact Sociologist of Religion Rodney Stark has argued that in many ancient cultures the average person was more secular than the average western European today. Wars in ancient times were not motivated by religion. Did they live in a peaceful utopia where everyone just lived along with each other well? No they did not.
This myth assumed by some New Atheist types, the fideistic belief that somehow, war and violence are not part of the human condition and part of human institutions of power and domination, but rather, simply a matter of believing in the divine, is dangerous because it distracts from dealing the real causes of violence and war.
Jeffery ends quoting Bill Maher:
“It’s not OK to make decisions based on myths. Don’t let it look like in America that the most reasonable, not to mention correct, fact-based argument is really the weird one, the one held by a tiny minority of misguided eggheads.
The reason the “argument,” pushed by these New Atheist types, is “weird” and held by a tiny minority of misguided eggheads, is because the “argument” is based out of absolute ignorance of what it is trying to address (religion), and based on a childish myth that without belief in the divine no one would have any reason to be violent. It’s also based on the myth that many secularists have that there is such thing as objective “progress” without a standard on which to measure it by, other than the subjective opinion of said secularists.
If you’re going to mock and attack religion, yet you refuse to actually know anything about religion or history, you’re an idiot.