the first systematic New Atheist challenge to New Testament ethics by a biblical scholar.
What is meant by a “New Atheist”? In Avalos’s words:
Insofar as I believe that theism is itself unethical and has the potential to destroy our planet, I identify myself with what is called ‘the New Atheism’. For my purposes, the New Atheism describes a post September 11, 2001 (9/11) phenomenon, which viewed that event as illustrative of the potential of religion to bring global war and even the destruction of our ecosphere. . . . The New Atheism features a more vocal and anti-theist stance (rather than just passively atheist stance) as embodied in the writings of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. (pp. 13-14)
Ouch. That makes me wonder if my own passive atheism is a mark of irresponsibility. But I have my own carefully considered reasons for not identifying with this trio. Blaming religion per se, I think, misses the real historical culprit: the self-serving and destructive institutional powers that religion serves to smokescreen from view. Consequently New Atheists can sometimes unwittingly become mouthpieces in support of those powers.
Leaving that crucial point to one side for now, let’s continue . . . .
Although not as well known as these writers, there also has emerged a group of biblical scholars who, while not necessarily describing themselves as ‘New Atheists’, do openly identify themselves as atheist, secular or agnostic (e.g. Kenneth Atkinson, Robert Cargill, Richard Carrier, Bart Ehrman, James Linville and Gerd Lüdemann.) . . .
The New Atheism emphasizes the immorality of religious thinking itself. It challenges the ethics of Christianity and the Bible, in particular. (p. 14)
I have addressed aspects of Avalos’s thinking in this regard in other posts.
Why is Jesus bad?
First point to make here is that Avalos is not addressing any particular model of “the historical Jesus”. Continue reading “Why Does Jesus Never Do Anything Wrong?”