God is Dead (Again!): Secular Fundamentalists Fight Back



Nick Gier, Professor Emeritus, University of Idaho ngieruidaho.edu">(ngieruidaho.edu)


For Gier’s own critique of fundamentalists see his God, Reason, and the Evangelicals


Click here for Gier’s "Process Theology and the Death of God"


Click here for an exchange on Sam Harris, who admits to some value in Buddhism



The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?"

he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers.


�Friedrich Nietzsche, Joyful Wisdom �125


Nietzsche is dead.



The tone of this Charge of the Atheist Brigade is often . . . intolerant and mean. 

It’s contemptuous and even a bit fundamentalist.


�Nicholas Kristof


            The ugly giant of the Religious Right, Jerry Falwell, is dead; Pat Robertson discredits

himself nearly every time he speaks; and Ralph Reed, the founder of the Christian Coalition,

cannot even win a primary election in Georgia.


            In the 2006 election, former Senator Rick Santorum, a darling of the Religious Right,

lost to Democratic Governor Bob Casey by 18 percentage points. Senator Sam Brownback,

the GOP presidential candidate most compatible with conservative Christian positions, drew,

in most recent ABC poll, one percent compared to liberal Rudy Giuliani’s 32 percent.


            The GOP coalition between Goldwater and early Reagan conservatives and the

Religious Right is in shambles, and the birth of Vice-President Cheney’s grandson to a

normal lesbian family marks a symbolic turning point. 


            "Left-wing" evangelicals such as Jim Wallis are making headlines and is speaking

all over the country: "I say at every stop, ‘Fighting poverty�s a moral value, too.’ There�s a

whole generation of young Christians who care about the environment. That�s their big issue.

Protecting God�s creation, they would say, is a moral value, too."


            Leaders the National Association of Evangelicals agree and have issued the following

statement: "We affirm that God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility to steward the earth

and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part." What a change from former

Secretary of the Interior James Watt in 1981: "God gave us these things to use. After the last

tree is felled, Christ will come back."


            Although I certainly respect their right to speak out and actually agree with many of

their points, this is the worst possible time for atheists such as Sam Harris (The End of Faith

and Letter to a Christian Nation) and Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How

Religion Poisons Everything) to stoke the fires of the culture wars.


            It is a sad fact that theological illiteracy is found among the nation’s non-believers as

well as its believers.  There is a whole range of religious options between the two extremes

of religious fundamentalism and atheism of which most people are unaware. The Atheist

Brigade seems to forget that we are emotional beings as well as rational beings, and need

I remind them that there are many things in this world that reason cannot comprehend? 


Even though they don’t feel it, can’t they respect the fact that hundreds of millions of

people find that religion fills their deepest needs? Reading these books gives one the distinct

impression that religious people suffer from some form of mental illness.


            I have a degree in philosophical theology, and I taught philosophy of religion for 30

years.  What always struck me at my professional meetings was the fact that some

reformulations of the traditional arguments for God’s existence are still holding their own.


One can perhaps excuse the amateurs in the Atheist Brigade, but philosophy professor

Daniel Dennet, author of Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, should be

ashamed of himself when he claims that it is not necessary to address the arguments of his

professional colleagues.


            Alvin Plantinga, one of the foremost philosophers of religion, states that "many of

[Dawkins’] arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class."

Dawkins has been rightly ridiculed for his "Ultimate 747" argument, previous forms of which

most of my students saw through easily.  Biologist Dawkins has always rejected such

argumentative sloppiness by critics of evolution. 


            Moderate evangelicals, such as Richard Mouw, president of Fuller [Evangelical]

Seminary, admits that "we have done a terrible job of presenting our perspective" and that

"whatever may be wrong with Christopher Hichens’ attack on religious leaders, we have

certainly already matched it in our attacks."


            But extreme Calvinists such as Douglas Wilson make no concessions (as is his wont),

and is thrilled to have one more chance to fly the banners of a Christian Crusade.  His book

Letter from a Christian Citizen is a response to Sam Harris’ second book and his a now a

Conservative Book Club selection. Wilson and Hitchens conduct a debate in the May, 2007

issue of Christianity Today. After despairful dealings with Wilson over many years, I totally agree with Hitchens’

description of his writing as "mildly amusing casuistry," but I not always happy with

Hitchens’ rhetorical excesses.


            John Green of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life states: "These writers

share a few things with the zealous religionists they oppose, such as a high degree of

dogmatism and an aggressive rhetorical style.  Indeed, one could speak of a secular

fundamentalism that resembles religious fundamentalism."


            At the turn of the 20th Century many conservative Christians urged the return to

the "fundamentals" of biblical inerrancy and the divinity of Christ.  Our atheists want

everyone to use science and empirical tests for guidance in their lives. I certainly prefer the

latter to the former, but it is still far from being the whole truth and nothing but the truth.




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