Religious convictions, in many cases, are held not because they’re true but because they’re meaningful, because they’re personally transformative. It’s perfectly rational to reject faith as a matter of principle.
The problem is that the New Atheists think of God only in epistemological terms.Consequently, they have nothing to say to those who affirm God for existential reasons.New Atheist writers tend to approach religion from the perspective of science: They argue that a particular religion isn’t true or that the empirical claims of religious texts are false. The more interesting question is why religions endure in spite of being empirically untrue. From the irreverent Voltaire to the iconoclastic Nietzsche, the godless have always had a voice. Religion, they argue, isn’t just wrong; it’s positively corrosive.If you’ve heard people like Bill Maher or Lawrence Krauss speak in recent years, you’re familiar with this approach.
New Atheism emerged in 2004 as a kind of literary and social movement. Whatever you think of their tactics, they’ve succeeded at putting fanatics and moralizers on the defensive – and that’s a good thing.Led by such luminaries as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, New Atheism became part of the zeitgeist, a well-timed reaction against religious fundamentalism. But there’s something missing in their critiques, something fundamental.For all their eloquence, their arguments are often banal.Regrettably, they’ve shown little interest in understanding the religious compulsion.They talk incessantly about the untruth of religion because they assume truth is what matters most to religious people.And perhaps it does for many, but certainly not all – at least not in the conventional sense of that term.