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Done!

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.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Congrats! When do you defend it?

    June 28, 2008
  2. Thanks Ken. I guess I got lucky – there is no oral defense necessary at Regent (I think it depends on your supervisor).

    June 29, 2008
  3. Well done Ryan!

    Is the air today a little fresher, the water a little sweeter, your step a little lighter? I’m sure your family is glad to have a greater portion of your attention as well.

    I’d love a copy if you don’t mind sending one along.

    June 30, 2008
  4. Ken #

    I have read your thesis now and it is excellent. I think your analysis of the alternative theodicies does illuminate their differences. And, importantly, it provides reassurance for the faithful. I hope many others have a chance to read it, or to hear its good news.

    I have not read Dawkins or the others you have read. I have only heard Dawkins and Hitchens in interviews. Their point of view does seem similar to Darwin’s, although I think he realized the nihilistic implications of the paradigm for evolution he gave us more than they do and he seemed less dogmatic about everything than they do. Their tone is something like the public tone of Thomas Huxley, although in private his tone was softer.

    When I think about the theodicy offered by seeing the world through evolution, it sounds terribly dark and macabre to me. What I mean is this: I have a hard time imagining a more sinister tale than one in which we suffer and yet have hope, but the suffering is without meaning and the hope an illusion.

    I suppose if one has enough faith, or is ignorant of the tale told by science, the tale has no effect on a person. In my case, I know the tale well, and although I love every bit of faith I have, I know that I only have a little faith. The dark tale terrifies me. Surely such a dark tale is false. Surely truth is not so grim. Surely the hope you describe in your thesis is real.

    July 2, 2008
  5. I have a hard time imagining a more sinister tale than one in which we suffer and yet have hope, but the suffering is without meaning and the hope an illusion…. In my case, I know the tale well, and although I love every bit of faith I have, I know that I only have a little faith. The dark tale terrifies me. Surely such a dark tale is false. Surely truth is not so grim.

    I couldn’t have said it better Ken. You’ve articulated many of my sentiments and motivations in choosing and writing on the topic very well. Thanks for taking the time to read it and offer such insightful comments.

    July 2, 2008
  6. Dave #

    This looks quite intriguing… could you pass a copy along?

    February 12, 2009

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