The necessity of the non-answer
Clark of Mormon Metaphysics points to this screed by Peter Lawler over at Postmodern Conservative by way of praising Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. Lawler asserts:
… It begins as a criticism of the naive stupidity of the “new atheists” such as Hitchens, Dawkins, and Dennett from the perspective of the older atheist Nietzsche. The new atheists criticize religion (or basically Christianity) from an anti-cruelty, pro-dignity, pro-rights, pro-enlightenment perspective. They don’t realize that their humane values are, in fact, parasitic on Christianity and make no sense outside the Christian insight–completely unsupported by modern or Darwinian science–concerning the uniqueness and irreplacability of every human person. Nietzsche was right that secular Christianity or Christianity without Christ is unsustainable, and that the sentimental preferences of the new atheists are no more than that.
I have been blogging for 7 years now, and the whole time I have made it clear that I am an atheist. My readers who are orthodox Christians have often asserted that Nietzsche is the only true consistent and honest atheist, that only his atheism faces the plain facts of existence in a world without God, and that I should man up. Though the author of Atheist Delusions is an Eastern Orthodox theologian and philosopher, Lawler reports that his criticism of the New Atheists starts from a Nietzschian perspective. All I have to say is that homey don’t play that game. Friedrich Nietzsche was the product of a line of Lutherans pastors, so it should not surprise that his atheism engages so directly, and inverts so forcefully, the thrust of Christianity. As philosophy goes much of what Nietzsche had to say was captivating, but then I also find science fiction captivating, as well as some portions of the Bible.
The atheism of Nietzsche plays on the terms of Christianity, and that is why Christians often admire his work. It is entirely intelligible to them insofar as it operates in the same universe of morals, albeit characterized by inversions. So naturally Christians castigate atheists who are not Nietzschians, such a stance creates much greater difficulty in fashioning rhetorical thrusts. Too many presuppositions simply are not aligned. Where Lawler and many others declare that Christianity is a necessary precondition of humane values, I simply assert that humane values, or more accurately the values we hold today, used Christianity, as well as other religions and philosophies, as cultural vessels. Morality and ethics existed prior to religion, and the emergence of “Higher Religions” which fused a moral sense with supernatural intuitions was a process which occurred in the light of history. It was no miracle, and may even have been inevitable once humans reached a particular level of organization.
Of course this sort of argument leaves many loose ends hanging. So be it. Those who believe that they have the Ultimate answer do not, and yet we continue to muddle on.