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February 3, 2008 / compassioninpolitics

New York Times: New Atheists Need to Stop Listening to Old Guard Pat Robersons and Listen to Rick Warren-style New Evangelical Movement(s)

Critique of New Atheism: It Misses the Mark Entirely

Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times may just be warming up to evangelicals as he points out that church leaders like mega church pastor Rick Warren are coming around on seven key humanitarian issues:

Scorning people for their faith is intrinsically repugnant, and in this case it also betrays a profound misunderstanding of how far evangelicals have moved over the last decade. Today, conservative Christian churches do superb work on poverty, AIDS, sex trafficking, climate change, prison abuses, malaria and genocide in Darfur.

He goes on to point out a sharp contrast between past evangelicals and current day evangelicals (a distinction that is 100% missed on the new breed of atheists a la Christopher Hitchens et al)  While the older generation can be perceived as polarizing, the new generation is less so.  The old might be said to be: 

Moralizing blowhards showed more compassion for embryonic stem cells than for the poor or the sick, and as recently as the 1990s, evangelicals were mostly a constituency against foreign aid. Yet that has turned almost 180 degrees. Today, many evangelicals are powerful internationalists and humanitarians — and liberals haven’t awakened to the transformation. The new face of evangelicals is somebody like the Rev. Rick Warren, the California pastor who wrote “The Purpose Driven Life.”


(h/t to Zack Exley at Revolution in Jesusland)


Leave a Comment
  1. carriedthecross / Feb 3 2008 8:08 pm

    I think that perhaps many atheists, whether they are correct or not, feel marginalized by religious faith. Particularly in America, atheists make up an incredibly small portion of the population. And many of the most vocal proponents of religion are not voices religious people should be proud of.

    For me, it has been a difficult journey to not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Ultimately, I came to reject Christianity. Immediately after my de-conversion, I was filled with a burning desire to lash back at that which I was convinced was just wrong. Over time, I have come to recognize that I can disagree without being angry.

    There are Christians who do good things, there are Christians who do bad things. There are Christians who do a mix of the two. The same goes for non-Christians. For now, I lean on a phrase uttered by a man who has greatly influenced the course of my life, John Wesley: “In the essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.”

    I can work to alleviate the suffering of the homeless with a Christian. I can choose to debate the existence of God with a Christian, and walk away from them still friends.

  2. compassioninpolitics / Feb 4 2008 4:11 am

    Thanks for your answer and perspective. I hope my rhetoric didn’t come across as polarizing.

    To be true, its sometimes hard to respond to more polarizing characters without having some degree of polarizing rhetoric (Hitchens and Dawkins). Becky Garrison did a good job recently with her new book. Perhaps I should do better.

    To me, I don’t see the rhetoric I used against all atheists. To say “new atheists” is to refer only to Hitchens et al and his followers–not the less polarizing members of the atheist community.

    Incidently, what lead you to your perspective?
    Best wishes on your spiritual journey.

  3. mmm whatcha say / Feb 5 2008 4:47 am

    I don’t get it. The difference between religious conservatives and religious liberals is no more nor less than the difference between conservatives and liberals. If I, a religious conservative, am against foreign aid or welfare or universal healthcare or any of the other policies liberals espouse, it’s not out of any religious conviction but rather because I don’t believe that any of these programs are efficacious. As for how this would alter the view of the so-called new atheists, who cares? They’re not right about anything now and I seriously doubt they’d be right about anything after cuddling up to religious folks who won’t be “moralizing blowhards” about ESCR, abortion, gay rights, Iraq and whatever else it is that the Times wants Christians to throw overboard.

  4. compassioninpolitics / Feb 6 2008 6:55 am

    First, the “moralizing blowhards” rhetoric is certainly brash by Kristoff, but isn’t there some grain of truth there. How effective is as Rob Bell asks the guy with the bullhorn? While I respect his motives, his method seems a bit misguided.

    I’m confused how such a polarizing “who cares” rhetoric is helpful or productive?

    To my knowledge the only thing Jesus was indignant about was pretty much the money changers and perhaps the Pharisees. I think the Prince of peace would choose more human and compassionate rheteoric.

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