Look, I know he is hard to take at times and his pen can act like a dagger, but, for sheer entertainment value alone one must read Hart. He makes me laugh. And, if there was ever a group to which laughter was the only legitimate response, it is the New Atheists. Hart is one of America’s most learned theologians and when turned to theology and philosophy his writing soars and is profound, but it can be equally biting and funny as when turned toward the New Atheists. I have to admit I find it a guilty pleasure. I’m reminded of the friend who slyly whispers at social engagements, “If you don’t have something nice to say about someone…then…come sit by me.” Enjoy.
The principal source of my melancholy, however, is my firm conviction that today’s most obstreperous infidels lack the courage, moral intelligence, and thoughtfulness of their forefathers in faithlessness. What I find chiefly offensive about them is not that they are skeptics or atheists; rather, it is that they are not skeptics at all and have purchased their atheism cheaply, with the sort of boorish arrogance that might make a man believe himself a great strategist because his tanks overwhelmed a town of unarmed peasants, or a great lover because he can afford the price of admission to a brothel. So long as one can choose one’s conquests in advance, taking always the paths of least resistance, one can always imagine oneself a Napoleon or a Casanova (and even better: the one without a Waterloo, the other without the clap).
But how long can any soul delight in victories of that sort? And how long should we waste our time with the sheer banality of the New Atheists—with, that is, their childishly Manichean view of history, their lack of any tragic sense, their indifference to the cultural contingency of moral “truths,” their wanton incuriosity, their vague babblings about “religion” in the abstract, and their absurd optimism regarding the future they long for?