Like many observers, I have wondered at the motivation for the rash of atheistic books that have achieved best seller status over the past year or so. All of a sudden, they are everywhere, and the electronic media has picked up the lead with follow up interviews and debates pitting their author/celebrities against surrogates for the Judeo/Christian tradition. Of course, much of it is political in motivation, but as Harvey Mansfield has noted, these atheistic attacks are no longer limited to the personification of “organized” religion, the institutional church, but attempt to reach more deeply into religion itself as manifest in the faith of the believer.
Well, the jury is still out on all of this, I suppose, but in spite of my bias, the defenders seem to have the upper hand. For one thing, the atheists clearly hold believers to a much higher standard than for non-believers. After all, the sole source of tyranny, whether religious or secular, is human, and there has clearly been much more tyranny led by atheistic secular humanism just in the past century alone than all of it that has been led by religious zealots in history combined—if you doubt it, count the bodies. For another and more important point, what has atheism ever produced for the benefit of mankind that even remotely compares with the beauty, hope, faith, and perseverance instilled and nurtured over the years by the religious impulse and religious sources? Not to mention the contribution of religion to the greatest achievements of human culture, including most of the values and virtuous human attributes revered by the authors of these atheist tracts.
I think Hitchens, Dawkins, and their ilk would be well advised to be on the winning side of Pascal’s “wager”—it’s a good bet and one I wouldn’t want to lose.