- History and New Atheism
To the Editors,
Ironically, Borden Painter’s survey of New Atheism’s often polemical view of history (“New Atheism’s Old—and Flawed—History,” Historically Speaking, November 2012) commits many of the same errors Painter accuses New Atheists of. The most egregious: generalizing about “all” New Atheists, claiming “all” of us gloss over nuance, use outdated sources, and don’t cite page numbers. He would do well to read more widely. Two examples that contradict his narrative can be found in a single New Atheist volume, The Christian Delusion, edited by John Loftus (Prometheus Books, 2010). I would direct his attention to how two of the subjects he mentions are treated there by New Atheists Hector Avalos (“Atheism Was Not the Cause of the Holocaust”) and myself (“Christianity Was Not Responsible for Modern Science”). We engage the kind of proper research Painter faults other New Atheists for ignoring, and yet we get the same results they do (only, perhaps, worded more carefully and allowing for nuances). Avalos shows that the Nazi program against the Jews almost certainly derived from Lutheran ideology, and I show that in all probability had it not been for Christianity, we would be 1,500 years more scientifically and technologically advanced today. Yet I do not require a direct conflict thesis to reach that conclusion, neither does Avalos require any defense of Hitler as a committed Catholic. Take away their hyperbole, and the New Atheists tend to be right about things like this. Painter’s critique really doesn’t prove otherwise.