The New Atheism and Religious Liberty in America

Paul Edwards | “The Paul Edwards Program,” WLQV Detroit | Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The New Atheism and Religious Liberty in America

May 13, 2008

Paul Edwards, host of “The Paul Edwards Program” on WLQV in Detroit, recently interviewed David Aikman, author of “The Delusion of Disbeleif: Why the New Atheism is a Threat to Your Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness.”

Paul Edwards: Who are these four gentlemen that you describe as the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?”

David Aikman: Well, you’ve got Richard Dawkins, the Oxford evolutionary geneticist; Daniel Dennett, University philosophy professor; Sam Harris, the author of “Letter to a Christian Nation” and graduate student in neurology; and Christopher Hitchens, polemicist and a skillful writer and journalist. So you have four very different people.   

Edwards: Is it coincidental that you have four prominent authors within the last six months to a year all coming together—is this a reaction to something? I want to believe it is a reaction to the American political scene.

Aikman: I do think it is a reaction. I think it is a backlash against the Bush administration which has been both heavily supported by evangelical Christians in this country, and has had a larger number of evangelical Christians in high profile positions within the administration than perhaps any previous administration in American history. That backlash, of course, comes after four or five years of a war that is very unpopular which has caused the prestige of the presidency to take some hits. And I think the “Four Horsemen” and others are really getting back at Christianity by identifying it with an unpopular political program.

Edwards: Let me ask you a question that you ask in the opening chapter of your book, “What seems to be the objective of their combined assault on religious belief?”

Aikman: Well, their objective is quite specific. As stated by Dawkins and Harris: to cause people to stop believing in Christianity, or indeed in any set of religious beliefs. Dawkins says quite specifically that he’d like it if people would read his book and at the end would put it down and would say, “I am no longer a believing Christian.” Harris sets out specifically to undermine, as he says, the core positions of Christian belief in the United States. 

So, they really want to take Christianity down—Judaism and Islam, too. But Christianity is an easier target because if you attack Christians they’re not likely to send a suicide bomber against you.

Edwards: Is there a sense that sometimes we evangelical Christians can overreact? Not that this is an overreaction, don’t misunderstand me …. Is there a sense in which the evangelical world needs to temper [its] rhetoric?

Aikman: Yes. I think evangelicals really have nothing to be afraid of if they are confident of their own beliefs, and if they know what their Bible teaches, and if they know the evidence of the authenticity of their Bible. The problem with most Christians today is that they are horribly ignorant of their own faith. There is too much complacency in pews, and many Christians don’t really think for themselves. I think there is a greater danger for Christians who don’t think—who don’t prepare themselves, and inform themselves—than there is of being influenced by these atheist thinkers.

Edwards: What is the bottom line that you want readers to take away from your book, “The Delusion of Disbelief?”

Aikman: Well, the subtitle is the clue: “Why the New Atheism is a Threat to Your Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness.” That, of course, comes from the Declaration of Independence. And one of the most important points that I am making is that the flourishing of personal religious faith, especially Christian faith, is extremely important for the flourishing of political liberty. That is, if you abolish Christian faith or if you make it unfashionable … you will create a society in which the government is a monster, a tyrant.  And none of us, even those who have no religious beliefs at all, want to live in a society which is governed by tyrants.

So, I’d say, if you’re a Christian, equip yourself with knowledge of what your faith stands for, what it says. Equip yourself with knowledge of what atheist regimes have done, the harm they have brought to all the societies they have governed. And be prepared to answer the militant secularists and atheists who are trying to impose their belief system upon the whole of society. 

Paul Edwards is a regular columnist and the host of “The Paul Edwards Program” heard daily on WLQV in Detroit. Contact Paul at [email protected].