Response to Atheism and Objectivism Seminar at Radiate 2010

At Radiate 2010 in Baltimore, The Soul of Atlas seminar and the talk entitled “The New Atheism” were extremely encouraging and motivating to me. The two talks were back-to-back in the afternoon, with more students expressing interest than I expected, by a long shot. The conference scheduled the talk in a room that seats fifty. Within ten minutes of the start time, there were seventy-five students filling the seats, standing in the back, and sitting on the floor. When we switched with another speaker, 125 students filled the larger room! Questions and answers were enthusiastic, and people came with more in between sessions.
“The New Atheism” is a phrase coined by the media to characterize the authors of several best-selling books: Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris. Their central message is that religion makes no sense. That’s not what’s new. Atheists have been saying that for centuries. But the new atheists say that religion should be disrespected and ridiculed.
The arguments themselves are actually not new, and many are fairly easy to refute. We simply need to write books that do so. But we don’t need to yell, as if it’s about power and not truth. The former approach has characterized both sides to a large degree. Ironically, that’s a very Nietschean approach: one that venerates power because there is no Truth.
The second seminar was a case study in the new atheism. It won’t be surprising to readers of this blog that Ayn Rand’s Objectivism was the case. That is, how do we approach a new atheistic argument (I think one of the better ones)? Listen to understand, articulate her arguments as best as possible to demonstrate understanding, and engage in conversation. Sometimes (most of the time), the conversations are informal. Occasionally, there are opportunities for formal debate. These talks were neither, but I hope they inspired the students who attended.

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One thought on “Response to Atheism and Objectivism Seminar at Radiate 2010

  1. I had the good fortunate of attending the event. Very informative. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts…it is becoming tremendously relevant, given the movie’s release and the questions in our culture.

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