By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The New Fundamentalists

In my personal experience, either firsthand or through reading, there seems to be a pattern in the background of some atheists (I include some of them as cordial, pleasant friends): they are reacting, understandably, to a fundamentalist Christian background. Of course, other atheists may be reacting to fundamentalism as found in other religious traditions. Recently, I picked up a book by Karen Armstrong (The Case for God) in which she boldly and, I believe, correctly identifies many of the vociferous and best-selling new atheist writers as the mirror image of religious fundamentalists. She points out how some of the most prominent new, aggressive atheist writers are obviously theologically illiterate and thus simplistically see all religion as fundamentalist. In contrast, the main trunk of Christianity--Catholicism--has never been fundamentalist in its view of the Bible. For example, like many other Catholics, I do not have any problem with the biological application of the theory of evolution; it is hard for many Catholics to understand the obsession of some other Christians with this issue.

So much of what the new aggressive atheism says really misses the mark when it comes to Catholicism. It is good to see Ms. Armstrong (apparently, a former Catholic) making that point. (Note: Having begun the book, I already disagree with her on some other matters. She draws a distinction between mythos and logos that seems to roughly correspond in her eyes to the division between religion and secular knowledge; but, for Christians, Jesus is the Logos. This issue needs to be sorted out by a reviewer. In addition, it seems that her philosophical analysis may possibly be ignoring the contributions and insights of the philosophical school of American pragmatism which would tend not to make such a stark division between mythos and logos. I will withhold final judgment until I read the entire book.)