The Devil’s Delusion
Berlinski’s brilliant indictment of the angry, irrational ‘new atheism’
By Charlotte Cerminaro
Rarely does a book like 2009's The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions come along that delivers the kind of critique, and also scorn, that our modern-day militant atheists so richly deserve. I don’t do book reports and typically leave book reviews to actual literary reviewers, but sometimes there is a pressing exception. David Berlinski is a mathematician with a Ph.D. from Princeton University. He’s spent the better part of his life teaching and writing on mathematics and the sciences. On this occasion, though, he brings his wealth of wisdom, common sense and scientific knowledge to bear on a very worthy target: Militant atheists. The rise of a new breed of atheism that’s more like anti-theism, it spends most of its time denigrating religious belief and believers and very little time explaining their own views. When they do attempt a defense of their radical ideas, most of them become angry and shrill. Their already-illogical arguments begin to sound like a second-rate, inebriated philosopher recycling the same ideas, over and over.
From the outset Berlinski goes straight to the heart of this matter. All of their arguments hinge on two ideas: That something is speaking for science, and this something offers people a rational, cohesive view of the universe. They both must be true or neither can be true. Berlinski argues that the first idea is most certainly not true. The word ‘science’ is a tired, vague, overused word, like ‘society’ and ‘democracy’, but we have an entire segment of academia promoting it and worshipping it like a god. They are, in fact, claiming to speak for science. Berlinski lists several promoters of this radicalism. Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have all written books and lectured extensively. Their influence has not been insignificant, but according to Berlinski they are just the tip of the iceberg. This influence is surprising, as anyone who’s ever watched their debates sees immediate frustration when questioned or challenged, ultimately resorting to straw man, ad hominum or evasive attacks.
Scientific credibility and sound, good sense are not a concern to militant atheists, Berlinski points out. Geneticist Richard Lewontin is quoted in the New York Book Review with astonishing forthrightness- ”We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs,...in spite of the scientific community’s tolerance for unsubstantiated, just-so stories.” Berlinski asks the obvious question, why should any discerning person take the side of science, or anything else, under these circumstances? Lewontin explains, “Because we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
The main conclusion Berlinski draws from all of this, though, is far deeper and more disturbing than junk science. He sees atheism as just the schwerpunkt, the place where force is concentrated and applied. Behind that specific point, he says, lies a doctrinal system, a way of looking at the world, thus an ideology. And if we compare the history of the 20th century, including Soviet socialism, the Third Reich, Maoist China, Cambodia and scores of others, there is a similarity, a convergence of ideologies. Inside this modern-day militant atheism, we find the core beliefs of the most destructive, murderous revolutions in human history. No, these are not the cool, detached atheist scientists they claim to be, says Berlinski. They are, whether aware of it or not, part of the same ideology that brought in multiculturalism, politically correct thought-police, LGBT activism, SJW’s and the ever-tightening noose around the Bill of Rights.
Charlotte B. Cerminaro is a Juilliard-trained classical musician who, in addition to being a studio and orchestral musician, enjoys writing. © 2018