Posted on Oct 29, 2013 by Tom Gilson
This is the third in a short series on the New Atheist belief that “faith is belief without evidence,” and its accompanying “faith is pretending to know things you don’t know.” Previously I wrote two versions of an argument showing that this position refutes itself.
That’s bad enough. It’s worse than that, though. These beliefs fail the tests of believability and of humanity.
They require us to believe that once Western civilization made it through the Goths, Visigoths, Huns, Vikings, etc. and moved into its recovery and growth phase in the early Middle Ages, it was built by people whose basic orientation toward life was to ignore evidence, and believe what they wanted to believe regardless. Its leaders were men (mostly) and women of faith: people whose fundamental stance toward knowledge was (supposedly) to believe without evidence, and blithely to pretending knowing things they did not know.
That’s not terribly plausible, if you ask me. Great civilizations are not built by such small people.
Granted, it fits a certain picture of Western history, for example that religion and science have been in perpetual conflict, or that Christians were quick to burn libraries. The religion/science conflict thesis has been rejected by responsible historians for decades now, though. (Some people are not open to learning, however, and they cling to the “knowledge” of the first half of the twentieth century on this.) The other prejudice, that Christianity stood in the way of learning, is equally as erroneous. (Links below)
And so there are some who believe that virtually nothing good happened in Western civilization between about 100 AD and the Enlightenment, that the Enlightenment sprang up practically out of nowhere in historical terms, and that it was informed exclusively by Greek and Roman classical thinking (which included such gems as the idea that women were virtually chattel, that slaves were slaves by nature, that compassion for the poor and sick was rather unseemly, and that the natural world was better understood by thought than by experiment).
That’s not plausible either.
Neither is the idea I’ve already mentioned, that whatever good happened before the Enlightenment was accomplished by people who were as stupid as atheists consider Christians still to be today. This includes the great Muslim advances in mathematics, the development of the university, the rise of international banking, the first hospitals, the elimination of slavery (until after the Enlightenment) in Europe, considerable new technology (clocks, mills, and much more), the gradual rise of the middle class, the development of the guilds, the grand architecture of the cathedrals, churches, and so on, and much great art and music.
The implausibility increases the more one thinks about it.
And there is another major problem with this pair of atheist beliefs: taken together they are the seed of dehumanization: that believers in God, being essentially stupid, are somehow less than human. Dawkins recommends ridicule. Peter Boghossian says in his Manual we ought not to be allowed to sit at the Adult Table. This is stereotyping, belittling, and bigoted behavior, and it flows directly from these beliefs about Christians and Christianity: beliefs that fail the test of believability and also the test of humanity.
From James Hannam:
- The Mythical Conflict Between Science and Religion
- Did Early Christians Destroy Pagan Literature?
- The Mysterious Fate of the Great Library of Alexandria
From other sources: