Monday, March 12, 2012

Reason Rally: the "True Reason" response in a new ebook


Today, the Christian response to the "Reason" Rally, which is coordinated through the website www.truereason.org, just published an ebook titled "True Reason: Christian Responses to the Challenge of Atheism" (Patheos Press).  The book is the equivalent of about 150 pages, and can be bought through Amazon's Kindle Store and Barnes and Noble (link not yet live) for a modest price.

Please take note: This book is not primarily evangelistic, although it does provide some positive arguments for the existence of God.  No, the primary goals of this book are to (1) expose the leading arguments of the New Atheists for what they are: completely devoid of reason -- and (2) show that, contrary to the popular notion fronted by the New Atheist movement, the Christian worldview is actually the one based on reason.  And the book achieves these goals, completely dismantling arguments from Dawkins, Harris, and others, while in so doing, filling the void left behind by their empty rhetoric with the reasonableness of the Christian worldview.

Now, let there be no mistake, if you are not a believer, it will probably be a difficult book to get through.  However, becoming a believer in the God of the bible is not the only way this book could change your thinking.  At the very least, it should show that the leaders of the New Atheists have a long way to go before reason is on their side.  I encourage everyone to download a copy and read it.

Here, I will offer a similar response in my own words.  These words can also be applied to the so-called Reason Rally, because that event is also guilty of the same folly as what I say below.

The Misonmer of the "Reason Rally" and other New Atheist Maneuvers

It is one of the great ironies of this "secular vs theism" debate that rages these days that secularism (or humanism, atheism, naturalism; whatever you choose to call it) claims to have reason on its side.  Indeed, many of the leading secular programs or institutions have the word "reason" or something like it in their title.  Harris's "Project Reason," Dawkins's "Foundation for Reason and Science."  When the arguments from the New Atheist camp are examined critically, however, this self-claimed moniker could not be more of a misnomer.

To be sure, the arguments look nice on the surface.  Sound bites such as, "If God created the universe, then who created God?" or, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," or, "Faith by definition is belief in something without, or perhaps contrary to, the evidence," or, "I cannot believe in a God that would condone slavery," or, "Morals don't come from religion; many atheists are moral people," (the list goes on) appear to be critical, knock-down blows to the validity of Christianity.  Yet each of these "blows" either have been easily answered (some many years ago), are irrelevant, are appeals to emotion, or are clearly false.  That's the great part about it: none of these sound-bite-type arguments are actually based on sound, reasoned thinking!  (For a more in-depth discussion on these sorts of topics, see my previous Reason Rally posts.  Or pony up $3 and get the ebook!)

So if that is true, if atheism simply does not have reason on its side, then how did reason come to be exclusively associated with atheism?

Perhaps an explanation of the gross misnomer is the word "reason" now does not mean what it used to?  Perhaps by "reason" what we mean nowadays is no longer the use our logical and argumentation faculties to arrive at a conclusion based on sound thinking.  Perhaps nowadays "reason" simply means atheism?  The irony of this of course is that this maneuver in and of itself is a logical fallacy.  An argument that violates, or at least ignores, our reasoning capacities.  It is the logical fallacy of equivocation: using a word in two different contexts that give it two different meanings, but glossing over the fact that it has those different meanings in the different contexts.  An example would be saying slavery was permitted in the bible, and then using the anger about how atrocious slavery was in nineteenth century America to convince people to disbelieve in the bible (this would also be an appeal-to-emotion fallacy).  The problem is, the word "slave" in those two different contexts have completely different meanings.  (And BTW: Chapter 15 of the ebook gives a fantastic treatment of the biblical view of slavery.)

But maybe that's not it.  Maybe the explanation is that when the New Atheists put a claim on this the word, it was simply a marketing ploy?  "See those Christians over there?  They have (blind) faith.  We have reason."  Well, this maneuver is another logical fallacy called "poisoning the well."  Before your opponent even gets a chance to describe his position, you have already galvanized the audience against them by (mis)characterizing their position in a negative light.  Again, ironic because the Atheists' self-claimed association with reason is an example of a logical fallacy.

Conclusion:

The word "reason" has been unreasonably co-opted by atheists.  It is not only an unfair, implied branding of Christianity as illogical, but it is also strangely enough not demonstrated by the leading New Atheists, the ones who so stridently claim to be on the side of reason.  For more on this topic, check out the ebook.

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