Well, sixteen months of toil came to an end today as I finally submitted my thesis for grading. I can’t tell you how good it felt to plunk that big stack of paper down at the Regent front office today. I am very relieved to have this completed—it’s a huge load off my mind. For those who might (still) be wondering about what, exactly, I’ve been beavering away at for so long, I’ve reproduced the abstract below. If you’re interested enough to read more, drop me an email and I’ll send you a copy.
The “new atheism” is the broad umbrella under which many have grouped a collection of popular writings from a diverse group of thinkers that have appeared in the last five years. What these works share in common is a militant and hostile approach to faith, the God of the Abrahamic religions, and religion in general. It is an angry and intolerant form of atheism, a plea for the banishment of religion from the public sphere and the embrace of reason as the sole source of human hope. Yet the new atheism is also characterized by a moral stridency that is incongruous with its naturalistic presuppositions. The prominence of evil in the new atheism—evil attributed to God, his followers, and the hostile, indifferent planet he is claimed to have made—suggests that the issue is not, as claimed by the new atheists, one of “rational” atheism versus “superstitious” religion. Rather, the dispute between the new atheism and theism is a dispute between rival theodicies. The new atheists are confident in their ability to identify evil, to describe its causes, and to a recommend a way forward. What they do not provide is a plausible account of why human beings should have such a strong moral reaction to the nature of our environment in the first place.
This thesis seeks to interpret the rise of the new atheism as a response to the problem of evil. The new atheists are attempting to render the world and the evil it contains in conceptual categories that are both intellectually and existentially satisfying. Ultimately, however, the new atheism represents an incoherent curse against the only foundation that could render their moral protest justified and validate their hopes for a better world.