Re: Those Not-So-Rational Rationalists
|by Roberto Rivera|
While the Journal piece made some good points, its triumphalism leaves me a bit cold.
It would be more accurate to say that the difference between the "new atheists" and conservative Christians isn't that one group is credulous and the other isn't: instead, it's that they are credulous about different things. After all, conservative Christians' disbelief in Atlantis, Big Foot, UFOs and new-age medicine isn't so much rooted in intellectual rigor and/or skeptical empiricism -- it's rooted in a a belief system that a priori declares such things to be impossible ("the Bible says nothing about life on other planets"), verboten or a kind of culture-war treason. It's, at best, a selective empiricism, just like Maher's exclusion of religion while expressing a belief in new-age medicine.
It wouldn't be very difficult to name ideas with wide circulation in conservative Christian circles that you and I would regard as nonsense: the worst kind of credulity. Some of them have even been the subject of BreakPoint commentaries! In other words, among some Christians, the following passes for catechesis:
"I can't believe that!" said Alice.
"Can't you?" the queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again, draw a long breath, and shut your eyes."
Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said. "One can't believe impossible things."
"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
I enjoy seeing people hoist on their own petards much as anyone else. Probably more. But, to paraphrase the Sermon on the Mount, I must be careful to first pull the petard from my own pants.