Where the 'New Atheists' get it wrong
The assault by the New Atheists on religion has been splendid to watch, but incompletely conceived. The likes of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens, and The End of Faith by Sam Harris have all contained courageous assaults on superstition, and between them they've helped put the superstitious on the back foot, but, says Greg Perkins, they've fallen short in important areas that religionists like Dinesh D'Souza have been able to exploit.
In the fourth in a series on The New Atheists, Perkins presents 'Why the New Atheists Can't Even Beat D'Souza: Morality and Life' saying,
How can people be moral without God? The 'New Atheists' stumble badly in debate against Christian apologist Dinesh D'Souza when addressing issues such as this. In this article, I explain how their struggle flows from three patches of confusion that are widespread in secular thought -- confusions that actually prevent the pursuit of a truly objective, scientific approach to values and morality. This the last in a series of four pieces exploring key weaknesses in the New Atheists' philosophical foundation -- and illustrating how D'Souza wouldn't stand a snowball's chance against an Objectivist."
You see, the New Atheists are successful in pointing out that the morality of the Bible is appalling. “Consider first God’s moral character, as revealed in the Bible," says Elizabeth Anderson, for example.
He routinely punishes people for the sins of others. He punishes all mothers by condemning them to painful childbirth, for Eve’s sin. He punishes all human beings by condemning them to labor, for Adam’s sin (Gen. 3:16-18). He regrets his creation, and in a fit of pique, commits genocide and ecocide by flooding the earth (Gen. 6:7). He hardens Pharaoh’s heart against freeing the Israelites (Ex. 7:3), so as to provide the occasion for visiting plagues upon the Egyptians, who, as helpless subjects of a tyrant, had no part in Pharaoh’s decision. (So much for respecting free will, the standard justification for the existence of evil in the world.)”
And they're successful in pointing out that, as Dawkins says, even Christians "do not as a matter of fact derive [their] morals from scripture,"
or if we do, [they] pick and choose among the Scriptures for the nice bits and reject the nasty. But then [they too] must have some independent criterion for deciding which are the moral bits. A criterion which, wherever it comes from, cannot come from Scripture itself, and is presumably available to all of us, whether we are religions or not.
But when it comes to deriving the actual source of morality, Dawkins and his colleagues fail abysmally. The source of morality is not "innate." It lies not in our "feelings," or some innate "moral sense" or "social conscience." Its source is not gurus or God, it's ... well, read on: Read my own contribution on the topic, or Perkins masterful contribution.