Letters to the Editor about anti-atheism essay
Readers write about Dinesh D'Souza's Opinion piece.
Dinesh D'Souza professes Catholicism, a tradition that has long maintained the compatibility of faith with reason, but his Oct. 17 Opinion piece "What atheists Kant refute," is a God-of-the-gaps argument that asks the believer to make a place for God in the vanishingly small spaces where reason has not yet tread. In this, he has much in common with the discredited Intelligent Design movement. Worse, his reading of Kant is superficial. There is no need to speculate how the arguments Mr. D'Souza presents may apply to the question of God's existence. Kant addresses the issue himself later in the same work. Not only does he find that the idea of God is an artifact of our reasoning apparatus – albeit an inescapable one – he finds no basis for supposing that this idea corresponds to anything in the noumenal field where D'Souza places Him. Kant was a theist, but he defended his belief in God on moral grounds.
Thank you for a simple, straightforward article that explains why the supposely logical arguments of atheists aren't, in fact, using logic when promoting that people of faith are brainwashed.
Watching one of these atheist authors on video during a recent presentation at a university, I was disappointed and dismayed at his callous handling of a student's sincere question as to whether he had ever considered that he might be wrong. Students in college are being taught to question and look for support for both sides. It would be reasonable that this kind of question would be posited in a university forum. In my mind, only fear would keep one from fairly addressing an opinion opposed to one's own.
D'Souza uses the philosophy of Immanuel Kant to ostensibly refute atheist logic by claiming that atheism is based on what he calls the Fallacy of the Enlightenment. I might be inclined to forgive Kant for his shortsightedness, since he made these claims more than 200 years ago. D'Souza, on the other hand, should know better. As humans, we are incapable of sensing radiation in the infrared, ultraviolet, and X-ray wavelengths and detecting sounds of very high and very low frequency. Does this mean we are incapable of knowing that these things exist? Clearly D'Souza's (and Kant's) argument is demonstrably false, for we can detect and understand things beyond our senses with the aid of technology. Further, technology is ever improving. D'Souza's faith in the outdated claims of Kant is as blind as his faith in an invisible creator.
D'Souza has "hit the nail on the head," a metaphor that is the only way we can describe something we've experienced. The dilemma we all face when we think denotatively, is our assumption is that if our metaphor is true, then all other metaphors must be false. Joseph Campbell and others have taught that we must think connotatively, understanding that what we think is only our representation of reality, or face the consequences that we have created for ourselves.
I really enjoy reading the occasional article I stumble across from the Monitor. D'Souza's Opinion piece, however, was rather sloppy and intellectually lazy. I realize that people of faith continue to struggle mightily to find support for their beliefs, but I don't think relying on this "anything goes" approach advances the cause.
First of all, the terms religion and faith are not the same and are carelessly used in the article. Faith is belief that something is true, regardless of the evidence,or lack thereof. Religion refers to a set of specific beliefs, practices, and rituals, usually related to trying to explain what happens to humans after they die.
The bigger objection is the implied rejection of the use of reason and logic by atheists, as if the "faithful" religious types aren't desperate to play by the same rules. That's why biblical creationism is now "intelligent design," which sounds more scientific. Isn't the reliance on taking religion on faith, and the rejection of the application of reason to test religious hypotheses, merely making virtue a necessity? As humans advance knowledge and understanding of the world around them, religious stories seem less and less credible, less capable of withstanding scrutiny. The issue here is not that atheists don't get it, it's that the existence of atheists makes the faithful nervous about their beliefs.
D'Souza simply asserts there is something beyond reason. In this regard, Kant's argument is no argument at all, because his argument, too, is mere assertion devoid of logic or proof. "Beyond reason" is meaningless because "reason" has no limit or boundary.
Religion does a disservice when it makes claims in areas where reason does apply. I don't mind religion having positions about the unknown afterlife, but resent its faith-without-evidence-based intrusion about matters of this life. This bleed-through of the unknowable into the knowable is where the trouble starts.