While I tend to largely forget about past books in favor of a) the most recent one, and, b) those I’m currently writing, it’s nice to occasionally be reminded that people are still reading the older ones. SA writes of his recent encounter with TIA:
Nietzsche’s famous response to his critics was, “Swallow your poison; for you need it badly.” There are realizations that begin by tasting a bit like poison, but end up being just the medicine we need. Vox Day’s book is like that — atheists will instinctively hate it at first, not just because of its content but also because of its ironic writing style. “Poison pen” it may sometimes be; but it’s exactly the sort of “poison” they really need. As anyone who can think philosophically, or even anyone with an ounce of common sense knows, atheism is inherently irrational, since it depends on claiming certainty about a matter it obviously could never know for certain.
Day calls the atheist bluff. Teeing off on some of the chief proponents of irrational atheism today — Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and Onfray in particular — the author debunks their empty rhetoric with the simplest of weapons: facts. Particularly good is the author’s treatment of the old canard “religion causes wars,” for which he provides so much counter-evidence that the reader is left wondering why anyone ever thinks such a thing is true. He simply takes the atheists at their word, and tests their claims against the available evidence.
In a way, it’s unfortunate that Day resorts so often to the ironic tone, because opponents will be all too quick to jump on that stylistic feature and claim the author is a mere stylist without substance. That charge would be untrue, and a more calm tone might prevent that, showcasing the evidence rather than the rhetorical flourishes. However, flamboyancy and irony of tone have never stopped atheists from loving Nietzsche or uncritically embracing the random rhetoric of mere stylists like Harris or Dawkins, so their objections might be a trifle hypocritical.
On the good side, Day’s book is immensely readable, and at times is simply laugh-out-loud entertaining. You can dash through it in a night, and indeed, it’s hard to stop reading once you start. The central argument is not a scholarly approach so much as a popularly-accessible one; but that does not diminish the ultimate seriousness of the arguments advanced therein. Anyone who is already a theist, or anyone who is still seriously thinking about the atheism-theism debate can find in this book a helpful resource for casual debate. But the atheist “faithful” who have already closed their minds to the evidence may simply find it teeth-grindingly irritating.
It probably won’t escape anyone’s attention that the New Atheism is done, having mutated into helpless silence in the face of Islam on the one hand and A+ feminism on the other. It’s remarkable to see that women can even ruin atheism; it’s a tactic that we theists should have utilized long ago. After all, the sort of mind that is prone to atheism in the first place is going to be particular susceptible to cries of “sexism” and “racism”, and there are few groups more male and white than a gathering of atheists.
SA’s point that rhetorical flourishes can detract from the dialectic arguments is an accurate one, but the problem is that they are necessary for the majority who are not capable of following the dialectic arguments. What TIA exposes, in crossing the rhetorical divide, is that there is very little but rhetoric in most of the New Atheist arguments, which is why a dispassionate dialectical critique would have been an error and left its atheist readers unmoved. The venom and the spite with which so many atheist reviewers have responded to TIA over the years is proof of its effectiveness in that regard.
It’s also good to see SA single out what has probably been the primary accomplishment of TIA, which was the conclusive debunking of the “religion causes war” line. We’ve seen less and less of that ever since TIA came out, and the historical evidence has even begun to creep into scientific journals such as Nature. While I have no doubt that the Left will do everything it can to be sure I am never credited with having successfully demolished that line of attack against religion in general and Christianity in particular, (it’s amusing to see all the references to a $300 encyclopedia that it is perfectly clear no one has even seen, let alone read), I’m very pleased to see that mendacious, but rhetorically effective argument increasingly absent from the atheism-religion discourse.
And SA’s email is a useful reminder that as long as atheists attempt to rely upon the arguments it criticizes, TIA will remain relevant.