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The Godless Delusion - Putting Atheism on the Defensive

Thursday, October 27, 2011 1:11 PM Comments (11)

Step into their world, turn it inside out, and show it to be wanting. Catholic apologetics? More like a battle plan for Catholic polemics. Whether it is war or tennis, the aggressor sets the tempo of the engagement. The defender must constantly react to his opponent’s moves, and if he fails to reclaim the offensive, he is stuck in a tiring and vulnerable position.

There are many good books handling the questions the new militant atheism lobs at Catholicism; however, how many books actually put atheism on the defensive? How many step into the principles of atheism and show that, even by their own standards, they falter? I am pleased to note that two thinkers have effectively taken up this call: Patrick Madrid and Kenneth Hensley, the authors of The Godless Delusion.

Madrid and Hensley’s primary concern is not to show that Catholicism is true, but to show that atheism is false. Moving from the defensive to the offensive, they properly re-frame the atheist/Catholic dialogue. Entering into the philosophy of Naturalism — the belief that existence is limited to material objects — they demonstrate that science alone is completely incapable of digesting the central issues of the world as we know it.

In one such maneuver, Madrid and Hensley lay out the correct purview of a science that limits itself according to empirical evidence. Though science is necessary and its boundaries are correct, its pride in empirical limitations neutralizes its ability to speak to certain realms of thought. One of the most problematic of these realms is morality.

In a worldview limited by empirical knowledge, this new militant atheism attempts to claim morality — and even charity — as products of evolution or as basic humanitarian principles. Deftly, the authors unravel the next layer of contradictions. A primary example explored in the book is militant atheism’s claim that, since science is bound by empirical evidence, all moral codes are mere suggestions. It’s not that good and evil become indistinguishable, but that they are no longer even categorical realities. The shocking conclusion, then, is that, regardless of whether you are a kind humanitarian atheist or Joseph Stalin, neither one is objectively right or wrong.

Good apologetics today only engage in half of the battle against the “new atheism.” We are encountering an atheism that is evangelical and has openly stated that the elimination of religion is a fundamental goal. This is not our time for restraint.

And so we turn to the saints. How often do we seek to emulate their ability to engage the world with vigor? Polemics are not new to the Church. I am reminded of St. Augustine, who in his day and age went on the attack against neo-pagan philosophies. In his great work The City of God, he time and time again explores pagan philosophies and reveals them to be lacking, even according to their own standards. St. Augustine courageously grappled with the difficult voices of his day, and we too must have the confidence and wisdom to speak out against false truths that face us now.

is an excellent addition to any Catholic’s arsenal. In it, Patrick Madrid and Kenneth Hensley validate our need for a balanced approach in our apologetics — an approach that devotes energy to both defense and offense. Only then will we manage to turn hearts to the enduring truths of the faith.

To hear him in his own words, Madrid will be a guest on EWTN’s literary program Bookmark this Sunday at 9:30am ET and then again at 11:30pm ET. If you miss these you can catch them again on Monday at 5:30am ET and then Wednesday at 5:30pm ET.

St. Augustine, pray for us.

For More
Armed for Apologetics
EWTN’s Boomark
Atheists: The Human Toothaches

 

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About Dan Burke

Dan Burke
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Dan Burke is an award winning author, speaker, regular voice on Register Radio, the Executive Director of the National Catholic Register and founder of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation. Dan has appeared on EWTN's Journey Home program, blogs on the spiritual life over at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction and his latest book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God is available through EWTN's Religious Catalogue. Dan's journey began in Judaism, matured into a living relationship with Christ as a Protestant, and after fifteen years of exploration has found his home in the Catholic Church.