I've written a handful of fairly scholarly works attempting to debunk various theistic authors (for example, Ray Comfort, author of The Evidence Bible: Irrefutable Evidence for the Thinking Mind; Bridge-Logos Publishers, 2002 and David Marshall's The Truth Behind the New Atheism: Responding to the Emerging Challenges to God and Christianity; Harvest House Publishers, 2007) and this one that you're about to read now is one of my most favorite of these accomplishments. The reasons are because to date no one has been able to refute any of my arguments in it; I've gotten more kudos on this refutation than any other I've written, and I would consider it a labor of love because of the amount of research I put into the main parts of the book.
I've taken the time to create this new version of the review because I was unsatisfied mainly with the layout of my sources. I wanted to create footnotes and make the review look more scholarly and professional. I also made a few minor changes for this edition as well, but nothing important enough to worth noting.
Just a quick note. The original review can still be found here.
Finally, I thought I'd write a little bit about the writing of the review and the research done.
Like all reviews that I've begun, I've never set out to write long rebuttals to the books I read. I simply wanted to buy a few books detailing the arguments used by various theistic apologists. Once I read a book and see it has many factual errors I'm often compelled to write about them and attempt to set the record straight.
That is what compelled me to write this review, though an additional reason also cropped up. I had read that this book did a good job at refuting the “new atheists” (of course they all say that, don't they? It never turns out to be true though) and I wanted to read Aikman's scathing arguments.
To be quite honest, despite my current confidence that I have successfully refuted the claims of Aikman's about linking atheism to Communism, when I first read his book I was actually somewhat convinced of his argument (though judging from some reviews I found, even by other atheists, I wasn't the only one who was fooled. In the beginning, at least). I anguished for days reading and rereading the fifth chapter trying to find an obvious hole in his arguments. It look me a little while to see that his entire premise was false, by basing it on an incorrect definition of atheism.
In hindsight my reaction was completely unnecessary, but I suppose I was just intimidated to a small degree by Aikman's credentials in the area of Russian history and Communism (he has a Ph.D.) and the many quotes he used in an attempt to prove that atheism was what caused the hatred of religion, and thus the destruction of it.
Of course, as I finally realized, this is completely false and I've yet to come across any evidence linking atheism to the Communist atrocities after my more in depth research into the topic.
The same with the founding of the country, though I was a little bit more prepared for that subject since I had briefly read and written about that subject in the past. Though, with Aikman being a historian I had to play 'catch up' and do some reading about the founding of the country and the place of religion in america myself. That is when I turned to my main sources of information for that chapter: Frank Lambert's The Founding Fathers and The Place of Religion in America and David L. Holmes' The Faiths of the Founding Fathers. Both of these books I would highly recommend to anyone seeking knowledge about the religious beliefs of the "founding fathers" and religion in America and the role the founders wanted it to play.
Something that astounded me, though, was the fact that despite Aikman being a historian, many of his historical "facts" were just so obviously false even to someone who just had a basic knowledge of history. How could someone so well schooled make such glaring mistakes? One example is blaming atheism for the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. Just a cursory glance at its history will show that the Terror was executed by deists! It wasn't an attack upon religion itself, as Aikman makes it appear, but a revolution; an uprising of the common people demanding that their place in society be bettered. It wasn't atheism at all!
Another accomplishment of mine regarding this review was my definitive refutation of Aikman's claims about some study that had been done (see chapter 6) about the influences of the "founding fathers", and claiming the bible was the most influential, not the enlightenment thinkers. Well, this is false, too, as I prove later on. It's kind of funny how I came upon the information to debunk Aikman's claims. I was reading an online article at Talk2Action.org by Chris Rodda, author of the excellent (and very helpful at times for this review) book Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, Volume 1, in which she exposes the deceit of Congressman Randy Forbes about the founding of the country (she mentions another "liar for Jesus" in David Barton, a Christian history revisionist who tells the same lies in his books) and mentions the Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston, Donald S. Lutz, and a study he did about what had the most influence upon the "founders". Curious what Lutz's research showed about the founding of the country and its influences I bought his book The Origins of American Constitutionalism and while reading it I came across a chart in the book and while looking at it two numbers seemed so very familiar. I knew I had seen those figures before; I ran to my bookshelf and pulled out Aikman's Delusion of Disbelief and flipped to the section where he was talking about the influences on the "founders" and that's when I confirmed my hunch. The figures Aikman used were from Lutz's study. Of course, I now believe that perhaps Aikman had read one of David Barton's books, and not Lutz's, but since Aikman didn't give any source for his information I doubt I'll ever know.
The rest of the chapters were fairly easy to rebut. I'm familiar with many arguments about the bible so the chapter on that subject wasn't too difficult. I severely demolished most of his arguments in that chapter; some of them were honestly a little dumb. I actually laughed out loud when I read some of Aikman's arguments. One example was his claim that "legends usually require at least one to two generations to bring to life" regarding the accusation that the gospels are legendary and it would take at least that long for legends to develop.
Another observation of mine was the fact that, like other apologists that attempt to rebut the “new atheists” (David Marshall for example), Aikman was guilty of a few misquotes and taking some of the “new atheists” out of context a few times. This phenomenon seems rampant within apologetic circles. They can't seem to understand many of the claims and arguments of the “new atheists.” They seem to project what they want to see, instead of what they actually say.
Finally, a reader might notice that chapters one through five are fairly short. That's not because I couldn't answer most of his arguments; not in the least, but only because I was trying to focus on the main argument; the main focus of each chapter and refute that. In this way I was hoping to make the review more precise and to the point instead of trying to point out every little error I found. This was especially true (as I say at the end of this review) since this was likely be the last refutation that I was going to write and I wanted my final one to be one of the best; to go out with a bang and write a great refutation that demolishes my opponent. Judging from the feedback I gotten I've accomplished this objective.
Another reason for the shorter earlier chapters was because while I was writing the earlier chapters I was doing research for the up and coming chapters, starting with the fifth one. The fifth and sixth chapters, I felt, were his most important chapters and I wanted to hurry and get to them. I was looking forward to pointing out all the errors he made. Though, I don't think that harmed the earlier chapters. I made it a point, as I said, to refute the main argument in each chapter; it's just that I went into more detail in the later chapters because those were his more important ones.
I hope you enjoy reading this new version of my review and if you like it, if you hate it, if you have any comments or criticisms, by all means come to my blog and tell me about it. Leave me a message in the comments section or email me.
May 15, 2009
Previously, this was a PDF version of my review of Aikman's book but I've decided to copy the new version directly to my blog so I can host it locally from now on.
June 10, 2010
This is a review of David Aikman's The Delusion of Disbelief: Why the New Atheism is a Threat to Your Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008.
Before I begin with the chapter by chapter break down I thought I'd express some thoughts about the book. Aikman, like every other theist, tries to place the "four horsemen" (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel C. Dennett, and Sam Harris) in a bad light, seemingly trying to discredit them before he even begins to address their arguments. If theists don't attack the four authors directly they try the old atheism is responsible for Communism and Nazism bit (Aikman does exactly that in chapter 5). As I've said before, I think this new strategy is an attempt to discredit the logical philosophy of materialism by equating it with evil acts, which is just a logical fallacy in itself (the 'poisoning of the well' fallacy).
In my opinion, this new approach is due, at least in part, to the fact that theists have had their arguments critiqued and destroyed and they have been unable to prove their case. Because of this, they've decided to attack the materialistic philosophy directly, but again they have failed, as I will prove in later chapters of my review.
That's enough of the introduction, so let's get to it.
Chapter 1: The Four Horsemen
This is a fairly short chapter and basically just talks about the rise of atheism in America, "the four horsemen" and their books.
One of the things he says, on page 3, were the names that the four authors have been called, such as "the new atheists," "the new godless," and he adds his own with, "The Gang of Four," referring to communist leaders. I felt this was a little preview for his readers about the distortions of history that one will come across later in his book.
He comments briefly about the "brights" movement which reeks of snobbery and I do agree with Aikman on this. However, even though it's a term that is condescending I think it's also true, regardless of how 'pretentious' it sounds.
On page 10 Aikman goes over what he feels are some of the failings of the "four horsemen" such as "their view that the discoveries of science have invalidated religious truth," and their critiques of the bible.
I can understand how Aikman must feel to have his silly beliefs torn apart as they have in recent years, but science has disproved religion, and has been for hundreds of years, and I don't think that trend will slow down any.
Aikman aims to answer the question about why the sudden surge of "atheistic propaganda" and he answers with the political reasons, with many in the Bush administration being Christians and speaking out about their faith publicly. But I don't think that's exactly the right answer, though that is partly to blame. I think Aikman is going around the question and doesn't want to highlight the bad consequences of religion. The tearing down of the wall between church and state is one very good reason many are upset, and the heavy influence of evangelicals in recent years in the law making process and other realms of politics. He does mention some of these issues very briefly, but highlights the "religious content of the public discourse of recent years," as being the main reason. He only gives lip service to a few of the consequences that have taken place by allowing religious beliefs to take control of many important decisions that affect many peoples' freedoms, not to mention the violence.
Chapter 2: The Attack of the Four Horseman
At the beginning of chapter 2 Aikman claims that "the four horsemen are not a coordinated or coherent group," despite each other giving many kudos to each other in their books. He claims that they each contradict one another, and have different opinions on the same religion, but what else does he expect? It almost sounds as if he is arguing that just because the four men don't agree on everything, everything they say must be false! Each is their own person, and is reflective upon the fact that atheism is not some little club with a set of beliefs about religion, or any other topic for that matter. The only thing that makes a person qualified to be an atheist is a lack of a belief in a god. Even Aikman somewhat admits this, but if that is so, why make a big deal out of it?
Next, he covers some background information on each of the atheist writers; some of it a bit unflattering, which I feel is an attempt to discredit the men at the outset so anything they say might be discredited.
For example, he states that Christopher Hitchens "was no great scholar," and "graduated with an undistinguished 'third class' degree."  He also says that Hitchens had been a Marxist and a Trotskyist which, in my mind, is another jab by Aikman in an attempt to convince people that atheism will lead to socialism and communism.
Hitchens does hold opinions that some might frown upon in regards to politics, but how does that make anything he says about religion any less true?
I also think it's a little hypocritical of Aikman to talk about Hitchens' past beliefs. His own religion's "holy" book seems to condone communism in some passages. Two being Exodus 16:16-18 and Acts 2:44-45.
Exodus 16:16-18: "This is what the lord has commanded: 'Gather of it, every man of you, as much as he can eat; you shall take an omer apiece, according to the number of the persons whom each of you has in his tent.' And the people of Israel did so; they gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; each gathered according to what he could eat." (RSV)
Acts 2:44-45: "And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need." (RSV)
This sounds strikingly similar to Karl Marx's phrase, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
Having said that, I think it needs to be stressed that communism is not a purely atheistic concept (I further discuss Aikman's claims about communism in my review of chapter 5). There have been several Christians who have held communist beliefs including, it seems, Thomas Aquinas. "He recognized the right to property for personal 'use,' but believed that any superfluity should be distributed to others who are in need. The right to property is therefore strictly speaking a right of administration or stewardship. The possessor of wealth is an administrator who should distribute it according to his judgment for the good of humanity. Possessions are not merely private property for personal enjoyment: 'Quantum ad hoc non debet homo habere res exteriores ut propias, sed ut communes.' The holder of wealth therefore has a continual duty to practice almsgiving according to his individual conscience. Wealth is held in trust for the public good. Property is not an indefeasible right: where death threatens or there is no other source of sustenance, it is permissible to take what is necessary for others. Such an act cannot be considered robbery or theft."
Another early church father, Ambrose, seemed to hold the same opinion as Aquinas: "Nature has poured forth all things for all men for common use...Nature therefore has produced a common right for all, but greed has made it a right for a few."
It should also be noted that "Jesus' voluntary poverty, his attacks on riches (it is more difficult for a rich man to go to heaven than to pass through 'the eye of a needle'), and his sharing of goods (particularly bread and fishes) all inspired many early Christians to practice a form of communism. The communal life of the early christian church endured throughout the ministry of Paul." 
He also talks briefly about Sam Harris' past and says that "[Harris] and a friend experimented with the hallucinogenic drug MDMA, better known by its street name, 'ecstacy.' Harris experienced some kind of mind-altering epiphany and decided to drop out of college, apparently to write a novel. He spent the next eleven years traveling through India and Nepal and experimenting with meditation techniques...[h]e then returned to Stanford and completed his degree."  Even though Aikman does say that Harris is a "pleasant-mannered young man with impeccable West Coast credentials," I again feel that Aikman's reference to his drug use is an attempt to discredit Harris because of many peoples' negative feelings toward the use of drugs, which might reflect negatively upon Harris.
I just don't see what the big deal is about the personal lives of these men? They are not being hypocrites or harming anyone, unlike some religious "leaders" such as Ted Haggard. If you don't remember, in November of 2006, Haggard admitted to using methamphetamine and his accuser, prostitute and masseur Mike Jones, also claimed to have had sex with Haggard. After initially denying some of the charges Haggard finally admitted, "The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. And I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar. There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life.” 
On page 29 Aikman is discussing a problem with something that Christopher Hitchens had said in his book god is Not Great and says that he caught Hitchens contradicting himself. Sorry to tell you, Mr. Aikman, but Hitchens did no such thing. Aikman says of Hitchens: "In the very first chapter, on page five [Hitchens] writes, 'Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith.' Then, on the very next page, he writes, 'We believe with certainty that an ethical life can be lived without religion.' Huh? Hitchens is not only inconsistent in his dogmatic definitions of what atheism is or is not..."
What Hitchens was saying is that atheism is not a belief, and that it is possible to live a decent and moral life without religion. That is not some contradiction; a person can have beliefs about things in life and still be an atheist. Hitchens was referring to a religious type of belief. With this statement I think it's pretty clear that it's Aikman and not Hitchens who is confused about the definition of atheism.
On page 32 on his discussion of Sam Harris, Aikman does something which many other theists are guilty of: taking a quote of Harris' out of context. Aikman says, "Even more chillingly, he also suggests that people espousing certain ideas that he considers truly harmful to society ought simply to be put to death."
The quote on pages 52-53 of The End of Faith that many refer to is the following:
"Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense. This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and to innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas."
As can be plainly seen, Harris is not advocating that people go and kill others just because of their religious beliefs. He is talking about the fact that the Islamic terrorists killed themselves and many others because of what they believe, and was talking about self-defense, not just going and killing someone over what they believe. It's been demonstrated that the terrorists do murder people because of what they believe, and if your life is threatened I see no problem with attacking someone first (this is probably my self-defense/martial arts mentality coming out).
Harris, himself, has even written about this often misconstrued quote:
My discussion of killing people “for what they believe” (pages 52-53 of The End of Faith):
The following passage seems to have been selectively quoted, and misconstrued, more than any I have written:
The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense. This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and to innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.
This paragraph appears after a long discussion of the role that belief plays in governing human behavior, and it should be read in that context. Some critics have interpreted the second sentence of this passage to mean that I advocate simply killing religious people for their beliefs. Granted, I made the job of misinterpreting me easier than it might have been, but such a reading remains a frank distortion of my views. Read in context, it should be clear that I am not at all ignoring the link between belief and behavior. The fact that belief determines behavior is what makes certain beliefs so dangerous.
When one asks why it would be ethical to drop a bomb on Osama bin Laden or Ayman Al Zawahiri, the answer cannot be, “because they have killed so many people in the past.” These men haven’t, to my knowledge, killed anyone personally. However, they are likely to get a lot of innocent people killed because of what they and their followers believe about jihad, martyrdom, the ascendancy of Islam, etc. As I argued in The End of Faith, a willingness to take preventative action against a dangerous enemy is compatible with being against the death penalty (which I am). Whenever we can capture and imprison jihadists, we should. But in most cases this is impossible." 
At the end of the chapter, Aikman claims that the biggest weakness of the "New Atheists" is their lack of a coherent set of principles to govern morality. He claims that Sam Harris is the "most philosophically confused" of the "four horsemen" and that Harris' claim of some kind of "psychological laws that govern human well-being...[and] provide an enduring basis for an objective morality" is 'breathtakingly presumptuous.'
I think it is Aikman who is the one who is confused. The reason is because there is research that is on-going in the field of evolutionary psychology, and the roots of morality. Aikman might not like science treading where religion has usually dominated, but from the looks of research by the likes of Marc Hauser, Robert Wright, and others, there seems to be a legitimate basis to those claims (For more information please read Hauser's Moral Minds and Wright's The Moral Animal). 
Chapter 3: They Don't Like god
In this chapter, Aikman wonders why the "new atheists" speak hatefully about a god who they don't believe in to begin with. Since he couldn't really answer that question, claiming instead that they really do believe; it's just that they're in denial, I think I'll give it a try. I think the reason the "new atheists" talk angrily and unfavorably about god is to shock believers into seeing reality; see that the god they are taught to love and worship is actually a cruel monster, and not this loving being. Then maybe they will snap out of their blind faith phase and actually read the bible for all the horror it contains; if that happens, maybe they will see all the lies that their belief system is built upon.
For several pages Aikman scolds Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris on their critiques of the bible, and claims they don't all agree (which means in his mind they must all be wrong, right? Wrong!). Just because Hitchens doesn't feel there is any truth to the bible, and the other "new atheists" do to a degree, he makes it sound as if they are all wrong. Aikman next berates the atheists because a few of them talk badly about Mother Teresa and other religious individuals. I concede that she did quite a bit of good for people, but after seeing some pictures of her hospices with the uncleanliness, the men and women either on the floor or on cots (if memory serves), without any pain medication, I don't see what's so dignified about that. I wouldn't want to die in such conditions, and I wouldn't want anyone else to either. I think with all the money she got she could have given those people a more dignified death.
For the most part this chapter was just Aikman ranting and raving about pointless topics so I won't comment much further.
He blasts Hitchens for not accepting that people of faith can do good things because of it, which I do agree, but I think his criticism is a bit pointless. Religious belief has done more harm in the world than good, and I think that's the point of view of most of the atheist writers. The facts of history speak for themselves: Yes there have been many good people who are religious that did good things, but I argue that the number is much higher for the pious who've done more harm than good.
Chapter 4: The Science Problem
This chapter was a bit of a helter skelter of various subjects: Aikman droning on and verbally insulting Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, and Harris on various things they have said about memes, Einstein, and religious belief. He states that Dawkins' idea of a meme is "entirely speculative," and that "no scientist has ever found a way to observe one or measure it" . I'm a bit confused by this because all memes are is a "unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation" (emphasis in original) . I don't see what's so hard about observing how fads or clothing fashions pass from one person to another, and finally to other places. But, Aikman insists that Dawkins' ideas regarding the evolutionary ideas of religion are just wrong, but doesn't really provide any evidence for his claim. He just tries to shoot down Dawkins' ideas, as if by doing that, the supposed truth of his religion is somehow legitimized.
Aikman criticizes Dawkins for not looking favorably upon those who might try and team up with religious people who accept evolution, and scientists who have religious beliefs, or who tolerate religion. He criticizes Dawkins for being "aggressive and extremely hostile"  and claims that "Dawkins [can't] discuss any topic about which others might hold a differing view without getting angry" (emphasis in original) . Dawkins did criticize some scientists in The God Delusion, but I wouldn't say he was "aggressive and extremely hostile" to any of them. I think that's just Aikman's bias showing. In his book, Dawkins simply says that biologist Stephen Jay Gould is wrong about the fact that science does have things to say about religious topics, and I completely agree with Dawkins. Think about it. Science has disproved the old religious claim that the earth was the center of the universe; many religious people claim there is life after death, and cite NDE's (near death experiences) as proof of that, but science has been able to discover that the most likely cause of these experiences is nothing supernatural, but is simply a physical biological reaction of a person's brain (For more information please read Evidence Against the Supernatural, Parts One and Two). Religious claims are well within the bounds of science, and many things can be tested, such as prayer, which has not had very promising results.
Aikman quotes some scientists such as Francis Collins, who is the author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief and Owen Gingerich, author of God's Universe, who make pretty silly claims to be honest about how belief in god is rational. All I have to say about their books is that they're nothing but "god of the gaps" explanations, and I won't comment any further. Their religious convictions blind them from thinking critically. I'm not completely sure why Aikman quoted these men, but I think it has to do with his last claim in this chapter: that religion built the foundation for science and Aikman claims that "Dawkins is more medieval than he knows. Hitchens is more monastic than he knows" .
It is true that it was Greek theists who laid the foundations for future scientific discoveries, but I think science and religion parted ways long, long ago. It was due to the order in the universe that man saw which lead him to study that order, but with science advancing; discovering truths about the world, and religion pretty much not advancing at all, it's obvious why religion began to condemn scientists for spreading facts that disproved their holy books, and their myths.
Maybe before the two disciplines diverged one could say that science doesn't have much to say about religion, but with the advancement of knowledge I don't think that's possible anymore.
Chapter 5: The Problem of Wicked Atheists: Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot
In this chapter, Aikman makes a few claims. One is that when adopted completely by a country, atheism leads to disaster because without religion, people have no true sense of morality. The other, I feel, is that he is claiming that atheism basically caused communism because the communist leaders were influenced, obviously, by Karl Marx, who in turn was influenced by Friedrich Hegel, who was influenced by deists during the enlightenment. The reason I think this is the case is because on page 101 Aikman says, "...the twentieth-century ideologies that produced the greatest totalitarian evils, communism and Nazism, both grew out of a sustained philosophical rebellion against religious faith - in essence, atheism. That philosophical rebellion was birthed in the eighteenth - century French Enlightenment and first gained expression in political life during the 1789-1799 French Revolution; it attained its apotheosis in the Bolshevik regime that came to rule Russia after October 1917." Of course this is incorrect (as is his definition of atheism) as I will prove later.
He cites the communist countries and the period in France near the end of the 1700's which is called the Reign of Terror. The period during the Reign of Terror basically evolved into a totalitarian-like state because of "external danger and internal disorder." The revolution was breaking apart, the economy was a mess, and war was causing much upheaval .
The only problem is that he leaves out some important facts about these events. When you read his book it almost sounds as if during the Reign of Terror it was nothing but a bunch of atheists who went around and murdered religious people. On page 101 Aikman says:
"...[B]y the time the French Revolution approached the paroxysm of the Reign of Terror in 1793, atheism was in conflict with deism. Dechristianization had become the policy of the revolutionary regime (my emphasis), leading to decrees that priests and those who harbored them could be killed on sight. In the wholesale bloodletting of the ten-month Reign of Terror, 18,500 to 40,000 French men and women were executed, including thousands of priests and their protectors."
It wasn't the intention of the Convention, during the Reign of Terror, to set up a totalitarian-like state and attack religion. Georges Danton stated:
"We never intended to annihilate the reign of superstition in order to set up the reign of atheism...I demand that there be an end of those antireligious masquerades in the Convention" .
From my reading, it seems that a task force was set up to suppress any revolts against the Convention, in which its goal was to "repress anarchy, civil strife, and counter-revolution..." The "Reign of Terror," as it was called, was a group of "political police" that would work to stop any counter-revolutionary action, or "internal enemies" against the Convention.
The number killed "has often been exaggerated" but about 40,000 people died, while hundreds of thousands were arrested and held in custody. "The Terror showed no respect for, or interest in, the class origins of its victims. About eight percent were nobles...[f]ourteen percent of the victims were classifiable as bourgeois...[s]ix percent were clergy (my emphasis), while no less than seventy percent were of the peasant and laboring classes" .
Near the end of 1793 there briefly was a "cult of Reason" that developed, which attempted to "dechristianize" France, but as I noted above, this was "severely frowned upon" by Robespierre (Danton took Robespierre's side ) and the suppression of religion was put to an end.
The cause of the religious persecution was that some members of the Convention believed that "all religion [was] counter-revolutionary," and so they launched the movement of dechristianization, which was soon stopped by Robespierre . It was a bad time, but it should be noted that only a portion of the members approved, and mostly it was another group called "Herbertists," "who were accused at Robespierre's instance, found guilty and executed" . Jacques-Rene Hebert, who was the leader of the Herbertists, was an atheist and Robespierre sent him to the guillotine, so right there that should tell you that this wasn't some atheistic regime who murdered Christians .
As you can see, it wasn't actually atheism that caused these problems, but it was the "Herbertists'" beliefs about religion being counter-revolutionary, and in their minds any action of that kind had to be stopped. In fact, many of the key players during the enlightenment disliked the Reign of Terror; one such person was Immanuel Kant . Another fact is that the number of religious individuals killed was small when compared to other groups (only 6 %), but Aikman neglects to mention this. "The Terror showed no respect for, or interest in, the class origins of its victims," as I said before, so to say it was purely religious in nature is incorrect.
As for the communist nations, I insist that atheism was not the cause of it; it was a combination of Marx's teachings and the communist leaders' own lust for power and control. The reason I think this is the case is because during their reign, they sometimes veered wildly from the communist ideology if it served their personal interests. For example, in 1917 Lenin allowed workers to take over factories and peasants to seize land, even though these actions violated Marxist doctrine .
It's also clear from my reading about Stalin that he seems to me to be just a very calculating psychopath, murdering anyone who got in his way of his attaining his power and authority. Stalin didn't just murder many priests and religious people, but other communists and even friends, just to attain his power within the communist ranks. In Aikman's book, he mainly focuses on the religious persecution, which to me, makes it sound as if Aikman is trying to portray communists as being nothing more than atheists who hated religion, and wanted it destroyed, when that's a distortion of the truth. Judging from their actions it seems that it was absolute power and authority that they wanted and they would use any means to attain that power.
Another fact is that communism, as seen in the totalitarian regimes, was a distortion of Marx's (and many of the enlightenment philosophers') teachings. Yes, Marx's personal beliefs were that religion should be abolished, but the method was to make people no longer need its consolations because the loyalty and adoration of the state was to replace it; there would be no reason to ban religion because it would simply become unnecessary because the state would be there in its place. Plus, soviet communism is a perversion of original Marx's communism, which didn't advocate the oppression of religious people .
Marxism's positions on religion were that "the state should regard each person's religion as a 'private matter,' and not discriminate on grounds of religious practice or affiliation." Also, "with the coming of socialism, but not before, religion will spontaneously disappear" .
Marx felt that "religion is a symptom of inadequacy in the human condition and can therefore ultimately only be exorcized by changing the actual human condition through Communist revolution" .
After the communists gained power they found that religion wasn't going to wither away as easily as they originally thought, so they began to initiate anti-religious campaigns. By doing this, they thought perhaps they could force people to give up their religious beliefs and help the "classless society" to develop, as was required of Marxist doctrine. It was their attempt to initiate this phase of socialism by forcing religion out of the communities and gain this "classless society," and had nothing to do with atheism itself. But, as I said, this contradicted the teachings of Marx .
Now that I've shown that Marx didn't advocate the totalitarian regimes that reigned in Russia, and is thus not directly responsible, I can turn my attention directly to the atheism of the communist leaders. Before I do that, though, let me make myself clear. Yes, Karl Marx developed the idea of communism and did influence Lenin, but because Marx did not advocate such atrocities, I don't think he can be blamed for the persecution and murders of religious people in Russia. Those acts were thought of and carried out by the leaders of the communist regimes and because of this only they are responsible. This is my argument that the enlightenment ideals were not responsible for the religious murders and atrocities. The reason is because I look at this argument as if it's a chain - a chain of causation. If each person in this chain - the people of the enlightenment, Hegel, Marx, Lenin, etc. - all wanted to destroy religion and murder believers then I think the chain would hold up, but this isn't the case. Their chain is severely broken since most of the people who may have influenced the communist leaders didn't feel the need to eradicate religion.
The enlightenment itself did account for a lot of religious persecution, but much tolerance also developed for religion during that period, which one cannot ignore.
From A History of the Modern World, by R.R. Palmer and Joel Colton, page 291, "All this prompted the spirit of secularism in Europe. Intellectual developments reinforced social and economic causes in turning people away from the old religion. Churches and churchmen lost out in leadership and prestige. Economics and politics, business and the state, were no longer subordinated to religious ends. They threw off the restraints imposed by moral or religious judgments. At the same time religious toleration spread. Persecution of religious minorities became less common. In any case, in their attempts to enforce acceptance of religious doctrine, churches no longer used the barbaric methods of former times, such as the fagot and the stake. Barbaric methods as used by the state, against persons suspected or convicted of crimes or political offenses, also became increasingly into disrepute."
In many ways, the places that the enlightenment influenced, it had a positive impact. In Russia, for example, Catherine the Great played a key role in fostering the arts, sciences, and education. This time gave birth to the first Russian university, library, theatre, public museum, and relatively independent press . For a short time at least, Catherine the Great's foreign policy was "brilliantly successful," and she also attempted to improve the legal system. "She appointed a large and fairly representative Legislative Commission which was instructed to propose reforms, and she gave explicit directions as to what she expected from it, relying on such French thinkers as Montesquieu for her ideas" .
The "founding fathers" of the united states were also influenced by the enlightenment, and it was also because of it that Thomas Paine wrote his influential books The Rights of Man and Common Sense. It seems to me that without the enlightenment, the united states that Aikman reveres would not even exist, so I think it's a little hypocritical of him to speak badly about it.
I want to pose an issue with something that Aikman says about the "new atheists" and what they have to say about the atheism of Stalin, and other communist leaders.
On page 95 Aikman quotes Dawkins from The God Delusion: "What matters is not whether Hitler and Stalin were atheist," Dawkins continues, framing the issue to his liking (emphasis mine), "but whether atheism systematically influences people to do bad things. There is not the smallest evidence that it does..."
What Aikman doesn't seem to understand is that the "new atheists" are not saying that just because a person is christian they will do bad things. It is the beliefs that motivate some Christians to do bad things. Christians believe that a soul enters the zygote at the moment of conception and so they murder abortion doctors to stop it, many feel homosexuals should be put to death because their bible says so (Leviticus 20:13), many Christians wish to end homosexual marriage because they feel it "harms" marriage in some un understandable way, and again they infringe upon innocent peoples' rights all because of what they believe.
Because of this misunderstanding, many theists have been attempting to claim that because some atheists have done bad things, they can turn the argument back around on atheists. Well, there is a huge problem with this, because they don't understand the argument in the first place! In their zeal to defend themselves, they are blind to what the "new atheists" are saying.
The beliefs are the reason for the actions: because Christians believe certain things, their beliefs motivate some of the cruel actions against humanity. However, there is no evidence that atheism has the same effect simply because it is a negative and has no beliefs associated with it; just the lack of a belief in a god or gods. It is logically and philosophically impossible for such a negative to have any power over one's actions.
Richard Dawkins is not "framing the issue to his liking," but is actually telling it like it is: Atheists blame the beliefs for the inspiration of the actions, and because atheism lacks any beliefs to motivate, how can atheism cause someone to do something - either good or bad?
One last objection to this claim: The majority of the most influential men responsible for the enlightenment were deists, or was some kind of a believer in a "god of nature."
Some are listed below:
- Voltaire was a deist 
- Rousseau was a deist...at the very least he was not an atheist 
- Maximilien Robespierre was a deist  NOTE: I wouldn't consider Robespierre to be part of the enlightenment, but according to my source at Wikipedia, he was a "disciple of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, among other Enlightenment philosophes, and a capable articulator of the beliefs of the left-wing bourgeoisie."
- Sir Isaac Newton was either a deist or monotheist, depending on the source  
- Thomas Paine was a deist (This is pretty common knowledge)
- John Locke's religious beliefs are debatable, but he is considered a "believer," but he held to a form of "liberal religion" which favored evidence over blind belief. Locke also "challenged the Trinity and the Incarnation" 
- Thomas Hobbes was a deist 
- David Hume was possibly a deist, but maybe was an agnostic 
- Montesquieu was a deist 
- Adam Smith was a deist 
- Baruch Spinoza was considered a pantheist 
- Denis Diderot was an atheist 
- Jean le Rond d'Alembert was an agnostic 
- Benjamin Franklin was a deist 
- Immanuel Kant was a "non-christian theist" 
- Joseph Priestley was a unitarian 
- Marquis de Sade was an atheist 
(Some other figures I was unable to get information on their religious beliefs)
As you can see, several of the major players in the enlightenment were actually deists, and not atheists, though a few were (in fact, many deists despised atheists). I do not see how "atheists" and the "enlightenment" could ever be considered a cause of the massacres which took place because of communism with the facts I've presented.
I also want to stress again, the fact that communist principles were not developed by some of the men of the enlightenment but was expressed in the bible and by early church fathers long before anyone during the time of the enlightenment. I must also note, too, that Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his much later years, did "call for a corporate State based on a totalitarian democracy," but as I noted earlier, he was not an atheist, so I don't see how "atheism" could be considered an influence on communism .
The next issue I want to tackle is Aikman's belief that, without religion, there would be no ultimate source of morality. He expresses these thoughts throughout his book:
On page 100, "The point that needs to be made about the role of atheism in the depravities of twentieth-century secular totalitarian dictatorships is this: Simply put, atheism sets mankind at the center of the universe. That is, atheism makes the assumption that there is no authority for rightness or wrongness of human behavior outside of human beings themselves."
On page 133 he says, "...it is exceptionally difficult to define 'wicked' in a precise way without reference to some transcendent moral authority of good and evil."
Also on page 122 Aikman says, "If you declare humanity to be the only ultimate value in the world, from whence do you derive the authority to pronounce moral judgment on regimes that themselves do not recognize any authority higher than humanity?"
First of all, I want to say that religion and morality were probably not originally thought of as one and the same. Logically looking at what most likely happened, I think some form of morals developed first, and then later on did religion begin to preach about morality. At first, religion mostly tried to appease the gods with offerings, and other such things, in an attempt to understand and/or control nature. I have to say also, that Christianity doesn't have a monopoly on ethical teachings (depending on if you listen to a pastor, or read the bible - you get two different kinds of "morality"). Buddhism teaches many of the same things that Jesus supposedly taught, and the Buddha predates Jesus by about 500 years.
Another problem is the fact that most of the "morals" taught by religion are oppressive and counter-intuitive. For example, the bible sanctions the oppression of women (1 Corinthians 14:34-35), and the murder of homosexuals (Leviticus 20:13). It also allows slavery (Exodus 21, among other passages), and the murdering of children for harmless acts (Deuteronomy 21: 18-21). Obviously these "laws" are of a barbarous age that's come and gone, and so religious people today preach about the "love" and "peace" that Christianity stands for. Well, many people may proclaim this, but many religious people do the opposite. They use the vote to force their skewed religious ideas of morality upon everyone else. They want to get abortion banned, the marriage of homosexuals banned; some even want the entirety of the ten commandments placed into law, and if a true theocracy develops it could make it legal to murder all atheists and anyone else who didn't believe in the christian god, just as it says in the bible (2 Chronicles 15:12-13). Many religious people don't even believe in modern medicine and instead rely on hocus pocus and their child dies of some ailment because they wanted to try prayer instead. And these people think an atheistic society would be worse???
Another problem with Aikman's claim that wide spread atheism would cause tons of problems is he is using communist nations as his example of atheistic countries. The problem lies in the fact that communist nations are totalitarian at their very core and these kinds of societies are violent and oppressive to begin with. While countries with high levels of natural atheism (a brand of atheism that is not forced, but is fostered through education, etc.) are much better off than countries that have high levels of religious belief.
Other than the forced atheism (totalitarian governments), there have been no full-scale atheistic societies, however, there are several countries that have a very high percentage of atheists and agnostics, and all the studies show that these places are better off than ones with high levels of religious belief. Such examples are Norway, Iceland, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom, and each of these places, according to a 2005 united nations human development report, are the most healthy, according to life expectancy, adult literacy, per capita income, educational attainment, gender equality, homicide rate, and infant mortality .
The sociologist Phil Zuckerman's research also confirms these facts:
"If this often-touted religious theory were correct - that turning away from god is at the root of all societal ills - then we would expect to find the least religious nations on earth to be bastions of crime, poverty and disease and most religious countries to be models of societal health."
"A comparison of highly irreligious countries with highly religious countries, however, reveals a very different state of affairs. In reality, the most secular countries - those with the highest proportion of atheists and agnostics - are among the most stable, peaceful, free, wealthy, and healthy societies. And the most religious nations - wherein worship of god is in abundance - are among the most unstable, violent, oppressive, poor and destitute (Zuckerman, 2006)." 
In a 2005 study published in the Journal of Religion and Society, independent scholar Gregory S. Paul found an inverse correlation between religiosity (measured by belief in God, biblical
literalism, and frequency of prayer and service attendance) and societal health (measured by rates of homicide, suicide, childhood mortality, life expectancy, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, and teen pregnancy) in 18 developed democracies. "In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies," Paul found. "The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developed democracies, sometimes spectacularly so”. 
Finally, I think that Aikman's argument is silly anyway. The reason is because, ultimately, the "morals" of Christianity did come from human beings!!! His delusional belief in some god is distorting his thought process. Human beings were responsible for the good and bad morals that are taught in the bible, so I don't see why anyone would need some artificial belief system surrounding the morals that are taught in the first place for them to be effective.
One thing is for sure though, I don't see how Christianity could be a good thing to wholly adopt for any place because every time it has gotten a lot of influence and power it has not been good for society, as history can attest to.
I feel Aikman implies that the "new atheists" don't want religion taught to children when he is talking about communist Russia on pages 115-116, when he says, "...the Soviet Constitution's language on religious freedom was changed to abolish the previous guarantee of freedom to propagate the faith (this freedom did not apply to the proselytizing of children)..." He doesn't come right out and say this, but it's very clear. His attempts at contrasting the "new atheists" to communist leaders are very clear throughout his book, and I think this is one example.
I don't know what it is about so many theists who want to read too much into Richard Dawkins' statement about "child abuse." Dawkins never once says that he doesn't want kids to be taught religion, only that parents should wait until they're older so they can make up their own minds, instead of the beliefs being pushed down their throats when they're too young to understand what they're being taught.
He says this all too clearly when he said in The God Delusion on page 327, "If, having been fairly and properly exposed to all the scientific evidence, they grow up and decide that the bible is literally true or that the movements of the planets rule their lives, that is their privilege. The important point is that it is their privilege to decide what they shall think, not their parents' privilege to impose it by force majeure."
Another blow to this silly comparison is this interview that Dawkins gave in The Guardian, from February 10, 2003:
Interviewer: "'I tell him I've been thinking about his point that children should not be defined by religion, and that I have a solution. Why not ban religion till you're 18? I expect him to be delighted by my initiative, but he looks horrified.
Dawkins: "Oh no. I don't want to lay down a law that says when you get a driving license, you can call yourself anything you like. It's a consciousness-raising issue.' "
Dawkins also says, '"I think I would abolish schools which systematically inculcate sectarian beliefs.'
Interviewer: But you've still got parents infecting the kids with their dogma, I say, playing devil's chaplain.
Dawkins: 'Well, I wouldn't want to have the thought police going to people's homes, dictating what they teach their children. I don't want to be Big Brotherish. I would hate that'" .
From Dawkins' own mouth, you can clearly see the immense distortion by many theists about his actual opinions.
Throughout the chapter (and even the entire book) Aikman continuously makes references to the fact that Christopher Hitchens is a former Trotskyist; he mentions how communist Russia didn't allow the teaching of religion to children, and how Marx, and other communists, criticized religion. With these examples, I think it's pretty obvious that he is trying to insist that the "new atheists" are in the process of doing the exact same thing that the communists did, but he is wrong. As I mentioned before, the idea of kids not being taught religion at all is a distortion of what Dawkins says, and Hitchens is a former Trotskyist, and I haven't seen him insist that this country be plunged into communism. Also, just because someone criticizes religion, doesn't mean they want to abolish it. In fact, many of the "new atheists" have made direct statements saying that that they would not want to impose secularism upon anyone.
With these facts I've presented, it seems apparent that his comparison between atheism and communism goes flat under closer examination.
NOTE: I chose to refrain from discussing Aikman's claims about Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot because I have already shown how none of the main figures responsible for most enlightenment ideas were atheists to begin with, and communism is a distortion of many of those writers' thoughts (which include Marx). Hitler's religious views are debatable and "open to interpretation"  even according to Aikman, and since he couldn't prove that Hitler was an atheist, who committed the atrocities because of atheism, I decided not to mention him either.
For more information about various claims about Hitler please see my other post at http://arizonaatheist.blogspot.com/2008/08/hitler-nietzsche-and-evolution.html
Chapter 6: The Christian Worldview is the Foundation of Liberty
I find this chapter's title to be extremely ignorant. More times than not, religion has actively stifled scientific thought and freedom. Aikman starts off by claiming Dawkins doesn't know what he is talking about when he says in The God Delusion, that "the greatest of [the "founding fathers"] might have been atheists." This is indeed not true, but Dawkins asserts that despite the men's religious beliefs, they were secularists. Next, Aikman exposes his own ignorance when he refers to the MayFlower Compact, which was the very first document created once the two groups of settlers arrived at present day Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Aikman claims that because this was the very first document signed in America, and it was by religious individuals, and they included the actual wording of "god" in it, then this must be a christian nation (he didn't say exactly that but while reading that is the impression that I got). Such ignorance. The constitution was adopted in 1787, and the Mayflower Compact was signed in 1620, over 150 years earlier! The MayFlower Compact talks about how the two groups (the "Separatists" and the "Strangers"), who landed in present day Massachusetts, were to abide by certain rules which would be for the good of the entire colony. The constitution, however, simply refers to how the United States government will be set up, and the rules that the government will follow. The constitution has no references whatsoever to any religion, other than the fact that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office..." and that "congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." The United States of America and the colony that was set up in present day Massachusetts are two separate entities.
On page 138 he claims that the MayFlower Compact is often referred to as the "foundation of the U.S. constitution..."
Other than the vast differences that I pointed to above, the Compact doesn't seem to have had much - if any - influence upon the constitution, or any other document. According to Wikipedia on the influences of the constitution:
"Several of the ideas in the Constitution were new, and a large number of ideas were drawn from the literature of Republicanism in the United States, from the experiences of the 13 states, and from the British experience with mixed government. The most important influence from the European continent was from Montesquieu, who emphasized the need to have balanced forces pushing against each other to prevent tyranny. (This in itself reflects the influence of Polybius' 2nd century BC treatise on the checks and balances of the constitution of the Roman Republic.) John Locke is known to have been a major influence, and the due process clause of the United States Constitution was partly based on common law stretching back to the Magna Carta of 1215. The English Bill of Rights (1689) was an inspiration for the American Bill of Rights. For example, both require jury trials, contain a right to keep and bear arms, and prohibit excessive bail as well as "cruel and unusual punishments." Many liberties protected by state constitutions and the Virginia Declaration of Rights were incorporated into the United States Bill of Rights."
No listing of the Compact there...
A book I have called Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, by James W. Loewen, has a chapter on the first Thanksgiving and what really happened, despite what many text books say. Well, he says on page 80 about the MayFlower Compact: "Regardless of motive, the MayFlower Compact provided a democratic basis for the Plymouth colony. Since the framers of our Constitution in fact paid the compact little heed, however, it hardly deserves the attention textbook authors lavish on it." [my emphasis]
With it not being listed as an influence in any of my sources, and the two documents having different subject matter, and the constitution not referring to the christian god, I think Aikman's delusions about the founding of the country are becoming more apparent    
On page 138 Aikman appears to have made another mistake when he says, "the christian purpose of the United States has been woven through the warp and woof of every major constitutional document that has followed [the MayFlower Compact] ..." Is that so? Tell me, then, why the constitution has no mention whatsoever of any religion (other than the partial passages quoted above)? The "Creator" and "Nature's God" mentioned in the declaration of independence are non-specific words that favor no particular deity, except maybe the god of deism (and this is far from the god of Christianity), which is another bit of proof showing that the "founding fathers" did not want any one religion to dominate, and wanted freedom for all religions. How Aikman can claim that is just at the height of stupidity.
Many of the "founding fathers," such as Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, were Deists and not Christians. This country actually was founded as a secular nation, as any non-biased historian will tell you. The founding of the country was also based upon some of the ideals of the Enlightenment, whether Aikman wants to admit it or not , and not Christian principles as he seems to think.
It must also must be said that it is the fact that because this country was founded as a secular one, that is the precise reason why there is such a freedom of religion, and Christianity was able to flourish in the first place. James Madison wrote a letter to his friend Robert Walsh in 1819 and stated that, "there has been an increase of religious instruction since the Revolution." He also noted that "the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the state" .
Historian Alexis de Tocqueville, in his visit to the United States in 1831, noted the large diversity of religious belief and said the following:
"On my arrival in the united states the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country. My desire to discover the causes of this phenomenon increased from day to day. In order to satisfy it I questioned the members of all the different sects; I sought especially the society of the clergy, who are the depositaries of the different creeds and are especially interested in their duration. As a member of the Roman Catholic Church, I was more particularly brought into contact with several of its priests, with whom I became intimately acquainted. To each of these men I expressed my astonishment and explained my doubts. I found that they all differed upon matters of detail alone, and that they all attributed the peaceful dominion of religion in their country mainly to the separation of church and state. I did not meet a single individual, of the clergy or the laity, who was not of the same opinion on this point" .
I also cannot forget this classic argument with the Treaty of Tripoli, in which article 11 states:
"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
Now, I've read several christian apologists' arguments against this, and to some they seem to think it's a debatable point, but let me explain.
Some claim that the government wasn't founded as officially christian but the country was. Well, I don't see how, when the majority of the "founding fathers" were deists or Unitarians, and they included non specific religious language in all of the documents. The "Creator" mentioned in the Declaration of Independence is used in a general way, not favoring any religious belief (or lack thereof), but still acknowledging the fact that a great majority of people were religious. The whole point was freedom for all as spokesman for the National Liberal League, Francis Abbot, said in a letter to senator George F. Edmunds in 1878:
"...Our government is not for Christians alone, but also for vast multitudes who are not covered by that name. If the government should allow partiality to Christianity, it would compel all to pay homage to a religion which is not the religion of all..." .
Besides the many quotes of people who wanted freedom for all, and not just for particular denominations, it would be a violation of the natural rights of anyone who was not christian if this country was turned into a "Christian nation." From the beginning of the formation of this country there has been an abundance of religious individuals living here, and not just Christians, and certainly there were many who were of no religion, or outright atheists. Trying to turn this into a "Christian nation" would be an insult to anyone who was not Christian and would ignore the fact that there have always been atheists, or non-believers of various stripes living in the U.S.
Another argument of apologists is that the English translation, done by Joel Barlow, was a distorted version, and the original Arabic treaty did not have article 11 in it. Whether or not that's true doesn't do anything to refute the fact that the Barlow translation was the one that was read aloud, shown to all senate members, and even signed by John Adams. There was even a copy of the treaty printed in several widely circulated newspapers, along with the following:
"Now be it known, That I John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said Treaty do, by and with the advice consent of the Senate, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. And to the End that the said Treaty may be observed and performed with good Faith on the part of the United States, I have ordered the premises to be made public; And I do hereby enjoin and require all persons bearing office civil or military within the United States, and all others citizens or inhabitants thereof, faithfully to observe and fulfill the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof."
There is no record of one person objecting to the wording of the treaty. So, regardless if it was a legitimate translation or not, everyone from the president down, agreed that the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion . This fact clearly illustrates the "founders'" intentions.
The separation of church and state is also a relevant factor: No religion was going to dominate in the country, so it would ensure freedom for all religions. The "founders" knew what could happen if one belief system became more dominant. In fact, James Madison, in one of the times he used his veto powers, denied a bill incorporating a church in the District of Columbia because he believed it to violate the separation of church and state .
A third argument used by apologists (including Aikman on page 159) is that after 1805 Article 11 was not included in the new treaty. Apologists make it sound as if this fact is significant - as if it wasn't the true intention of the "founders" to include the "not founded on the christian religion" phrase, and was purely for political reasons. The reason Article 11 was no longer included was because recent events made it necessary to rewrite the treaty. As of 1797, the United States had never "entered into any voluntary war or act of hostility against any Mohametan nation," as was stated in Article 11. As of 1805 this was no longer true, so the treaty needed to be revised. It had to be added that the only exception to this had been to defend the right to navigate the high seas. In rewriting the sentence, Tobas Lear left out the phrase "is not in any sense founded on the christian religion." A likely reason Lear left it out was because it was unnecessary, and with what was added to the revised treaty it made the Article too long. This fact doesn't do anything to prove an apologists' case because the intention of Jefferson was to rewrite the treaty with the current situation in mind, and not with trying to prove this was not a christian nation . With no one, even citizens, complaining about the wording of the original treaty, it seems pretty apparent that it was the intention of the "founders" that this was not a "Christian nation."
Despite Aikman's claims, it was Deism and Enlightenment ideas, not Christianity, that had the most profound impact upon the United States. It was during the Enlightenment that Montesquieu formulated the principles of the separation of powers and Rousseau's "social contract," which rested on the (at that time) revolutionary foundation of a general will of the people .
One last observation about the "America is founded upon Christian principles" claim. I feel as if this wording has been changed from a claim of the "Christian nation" to principles because those who would like to distort history can't get away with that silly claim anymore...there is too much counter evidence. But, one thing I've noticed is that no one outlines exactly what Christian principles the U.S. was supposedly founded on... even Aikman is silent in his book. Strange isn't it?
Well, you know, on second thought maybe they are right that this country was founded upon Christian principles because it's a fact that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and if my information is correct, DNA evidence proves that Jefferson (most likely) raped one of his slaves and she had his child (For more information, please see this link: http://arizonaatheist.blogspot.com/2008/02/founding-father-exploited-slave-for-sex.html).
Yeah, I know it's a low blow (but a good one!) and it's true if you read the contents of their "holy" bible.
Something Aikman said on page 140 completely blew my mind. He said, "...it is clear from their actions in life and from their writings that the founders were overwhelmingly not Deists..."
Here is where Aikman displays his immense ignorance. The "founding fathers" were Deists or, at most, Unitarians. It just seems that Aikman doesn't know much about Deism. Deism has no set creed, no leader, etc., so many times it can be hard to tell who is a deist, but Edward Herbert formulated five general beliefs of deists, though each person is also not restricted to these and some may even reject a few:
1. There is a god
2. He ought to be worshiped
3. Virtue is the principal element in this worship
4. Humans should repent of their sins
5. There is a life after death, where evil will be punished, and the good rewarded 
Two quotes from a few clergymen might also help clear things up:
"The deists were never organized into a sect, had no creed or form of worship, recognized no leader, and were constantly shifting their ground...so that it is impossible to include them strictly under any definition."
"Deism is what is left of Christianity after casting off everything that is peculiar to it. The deist is one who denies the divinity, the incarnation, and the atonement of Christ, and work of the holy ghost; who denies the god of Israel, and believes in a god of nature" .
With Deism being, essentially, a watered down version of Christianity without all of the absurd claims I would consider the "founding fathers" to be Deists. Thomas Jefferson was identified as a Deist as this quote from a critic of Jefferson's proves: "...my objection to [Jefferson's] being promoted to the presidency is founded singly upon his disbelief of the holy scriptures; or in other words, his rejection of the Christian religion and open profession of Deism" .
An even larger blow to this claim is a speech given by Bird Wilson in New York, on October of 1831. Wilson knew each of the men personally and of the "founding fathers'" beliefs he said, "Washington...had not been an orthodox Christian; in reality he had really been an eighteenth-century Deist. Wilson cited support on this point from clergy who had known Washington and whom he himself knew. Then - in significant words - he went on to state that 'among all our presidents downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism" .
On page 143 he misunderstands Dawkins, when he quotes a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to his nephew Peter Carr. Aikman claims that "Dawkins implies that by encouraging Carr to question everything, Jefferson himself had come to the conclusion that god doesn't exist."
Sorry, but Dawkins is being misquoted. On page 43 of The God Delusion, after Dawkins cites the letter, he says that "the remarks of Jefferson are compatible with deism but also with atheism." Dawkins also displays caution when he is discussing what Jefferson believed, when he says, "Whether Jefferson and his colleagues were theists, deists, agnostics, or atheists, they were also passionate secularists..."
Dawkins wrote that what Jefferson said could be compatible with either atheism, or deism, and expressed caution when trying to pin down what exactly they believed. That's a bit of a distortion on the part of Aikman.
Other than these few errors, the rest of the chapter's premise is that the "founding fathers" disliked atheism, and felt that Christianity was necessary for morality. He claims that out of the many quotations the "founders" used in their writings, 34 percent came from the bible, while only 22 percent from the Enlightenment authors .
I wonder just how accurate those percentages of biblical and Enlightenment references are because in Frank Lambert's book, The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America, he says on page 246 that "...the delegates to the Constitutional Convention [of which the "founding fathers" were a part] in Philadelphia appealed primarily to secular, not sacred, authority. An analysis of citations in American political pamphlets and treaties in the late eighteenth century indicates that almost 90 percent of the references are to European writers who wrote on Enlightenment or Whig themes or who commented on the English common law. Only about 10 percent of the citations were biblical, with most of those coming from writings attributed to Saint Paul."
In fact, the Federalist Papers include several mentions of Montesquieu, a famous Enlightenment thinker. Alexander Hamilton references Montesquieu in his Federalist Paper number 9 . James Madison also references Montesquieu in his Federalist Paper number 43 , and so does Hamilton again in the Federalist Paper number 78 . These are just a few references of Montesquieu throughout the Federalist Papers.
[Note: The following is an additional edit providing more evidence that the percentages Aikman used are false.]
I must also note that it seems that Aikman got his percentages from a chart in Donald S. Lutz's book The Origins of American Constitutionalism (this is just a guess since he doesn't give a source for his information), which included the following chart on page 141:
It would seem that this is damning evidence for Aikman's claims, but there is a problem because Aikman doesn't give Lutz's explanation for these percentages.
On page 140 of The Origins of American Constitutionalism Lutz says:
"If we ask which book was most frequently cited in that literature [the public political literature], the answer is, the Bible. Table 1 shows that the biblical tradition accounted for roughly one-third of the citations in the sample. However, the sample includes about one-third of all significant secular publications, but only about one-tenth of the reprinted sermons. Even with this undercount, Saint Paul is cited about as frequently as Montesquieu and Blackstone, the two most-cited secular authors, and Deuteronomy is cited about twice as often as all of Locke's writings put together. A strictly proportional sample with respect to secular and religious sources would have resulted in an abundance of religious references.”
“About three-fourths of all references to the Bible came from reprinted sermons. The other citations to the Bible came from secular works and, if taken alone, would represent 9 percent of all citations - about equal to the percentage for classical writers. Although the citations came from virtually every part of the bible, Saint Paul was the favorite in the New Testament, especially parts of the Epistle to the Romans in which he discusses the basis for and limits on obedience to political authorities."
So, the three-quarters of that 34% total came from a sub-category of one of the categories of the documents in the study. This would cause the bible (as Lutz explains above) to be knocked down to about nine percent, more in agreement with the figures I cited in Frank Lambert's book, The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America.
In an attempt to make this clearer, allow me to quote Chris Rodda from her Talk2Action article about this issue:
"The 916 documents included in the study were not official documents, legislative proceedings, etc., but writings 'printed for public consumption,' such as books, newspaper articles, and pamphlets. Only items of over 2,000 words were included. Taking into account that three-quarters of the biblical citations came from the subcategory of sermons, which comprised only 10% of the category of pamphlets, the Bible is really in the same range as Classical influences for documents that weren't sermons" .
It also seems that Jefferson didn't feel Christianity was necessary for morality. Aikman seems to claim that Thomas Jefferson felt religion was necessary for morality when he quotes Jefferson when he replied to a letter from John Adams, in which Adams stated, "Without Religion, this World would be Something not fit to be mentioned in polite Company, I mean Hell." Jefferson is quoted as agreeing with Adams .
There is evidence which contradicts this, however:
"David Hume...shaped Jefferson's and Madison's understanding of how people of many faiths, as well as those unaffiliated with any religious tradition, could find a moral center. Jefferson believed that the Creator had endowed all persons with a moral compass, with a 'sense of right and wrong.' Moreover, he regarded this sense as being as 'much a part of his nature as the sense of hearing, seeing, feeling, it is the true foundation of morality.' Such a perspective placed Jefferson and those who shared his viewpoint at odds with orthodox Christianity...
Jefferson contended that the conscience, or moral sense, was not only intact; it was as 'much a part of man as his leg or arm'... [Jefferson] believed that while the moral sense was guided by reason, very little thought was required to guide it aright. 'State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor,' he reasoned, and 'the former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules.'" 
Another quote of Jefferson's on this subject is the following:
"... If we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? It is idle to say, as some do, that no such thing exists. We have the same evidence of the fact as of most of those we act on, to wit: their own affirmations, and their reasonings in support of them. I have observed, indeed, generally, that while in Protestant countries the defections from the Platonic Christianity of the priests is to Deism, in Catholic countries they are to Atheism. Diderot, D'Alembert, D'Holbach, Condorcet, are known to have been among the most virtuous of men. Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than love of God." (Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Law, June 13, 1814. From Adrienne Koch, ed., The American Enlightenment: The Shaping of the American Experiment and a Free Society, New York: George Braziller, 1965, p. 358) .
Many of the "founding fathers" did feel that religion was a worthwhile component of a good and moral society, but they didn't feel it was absolutely necessary for a good society. As the above quote suggests, it seems as if Jefferson felt, much like what evolutionary psychology is beginning to understand today, that there is an innate moral sense that influences our decisions. If that's so, then it would also suggest that Jefferson felt that religion is not needed for morality if we all have this moral sense.
Another fact that is relevant here is that all of the founding documents, like any other legal document, use language which is supposed to bind certain individuals to an agreement. There is no such language in the constitution binding future generations to that agreement, and so we can create whatever kind of place that we wanted (Please see http://arizonaatheist.blogspot.com/2008/01/constitution.html). And for anyone who thinks this means someone can create a theocracy if they wanted, I would not agree. No one can hold power over us unless it's by our permission, and because of that, I don't see how that would happen - unless religious fundamentalists used force as in the past and made us comply, but this is where the idea of self defense would come in. Using some form of coercion to force people to follow your way is opposite of anything that a normal person would consider moral, and from reading about the "founding fathers," it seems to me that they were all for total freedom as long as someone did not interfere in another's life (with some obvious restrictions of course - as I mentioned before, only white men had any real rights in early America).
On pages 157-159 Aikman mentions the Treaty of Tripoli and uses the same apologist excuse that I anticipated someone might use (damn I'm good!) and so I've refuted that claim already.
Conclusion: The New Atheism Offers Nothing New
Before I begin to tear up this chapter, I'd like to say that this statement is extremely hypocritical because religion offers nothing new whatsoever! Yes, it's true that these same arguments - on both sides - are pretty much the same, but what the atheists have is science on their side, which constantly updates its facts and expands our knowledge. Religion does neither. Since the time of the "founders" of the country (and many others) expressed their religious beliefs, there has been massive amounts of new scientific data that exposes religion to be the false, dogmatic, and oftentimes harmful left-over from the human species' past. Now that I've got that out of the way I'll get to what Aikman has to say in this chapter.
Essentially, this chapter consisted of Aikman trying to make a case that Christianity is the source for almost everything good, while atheism leads to immorality, uncertainty, and violence. I won't deny that Christianity has done some good things throughout the world, but I think it's absolutely naive and, well, just plain idiotic to give credit to Christianity to all that Aikman does. To me, and I've stated this in the past, Christianity can be compared to a man who has been guilty of murdering one-hundred people, but to his credit, has also saved five. Now, all things considered, would a rational person see this person as 'good?' No. So, how in the hell can someone say that Christianity is a good thing in the world when the bad clearly outweighs the good? It's just not logical.
He goes through several pages giving examples of 'immoral' atheists like Madalyn Murray O'Hair and Annie Besant, airing their dirty laundry, making it sound as if all atheists are immoral, slutty, evil people. He says of Madalyn Murray O'Hair:
"...O'Hair was an exceptionally hateful person who made no attempt to conceal her anger and hostility towards anyone who opposed her...views..." .
He says this because of her son, who later became "born again." However, it must be said that O'Hair received hundreds of death threats throughout her life from Christians, so the fact that her son became one obviously upset her, and explains her hostility.
Of Besant, Aikman insults her for her supposedly having multiple sexual partners:
"Annie Besant was something of an archetypical hitchhiker through the anti-god universe, picking up and discarding beliefs with the same frequency with which she took on new lovers" .
Next, he takes us on a tour on the bus of delusion, and restates his claims about how Christianity forms the basis of morality and freedom, which is a completely silly statement. On page 178, after going through several pages detailing the immorality and vices of various atheists throughout history, Aikman claims, "A link has indeed existed throughout modern history between conscious rejection of moral restraint and atheism." Of course, as I'm about to prove, this statement is very inaccurate.
Aikman leaves a lot of facts out of his book though. Here is a list of unbelievers of various stripes throughout history who have had positive impacts upon the world, or have contributed to society in some way.
1. Thomas Edison - He invented the carbon microphone, record player, incandescent lamp, among many useful things .
2. Susan B. Anthony - She was a major leader in getting women rights over their children, control of property, and over wages. She also supported the abolition movement .
3. Warren Buffett - He donated 37 billion dollars to charity .
4. Bill Gates - He donated 30 billion dollars to charity .
5. Terry Sanderson - He is a gay rights activist .
6. Deng Pufang - He is a Chinese handicap people's rights activist .
7. Norma Kitson - She was a South African anti-apartheid activist .
8. Klas Pontus Arnoldson - Even though not a wealthy man, he spent most of his money in the cause of peace. He opposed the war with Norway in 1906. In 1908 he was Nobel Peace Prize .
9. James Watt - He was the inventor of the improved stream engine; he also coined the term "horsepower," and the unit of electrical power (watt) is named after him .
10. Alexander Graham Bell - He invented the telephone and devices directed to the needs of the deaf .
11. George Pullman - He invented the railroad sleeping car and also introduced dining cars .
12. Frederick Douglass - A former slave, he became an American abolitionist activist .
13. William Lloyd Garrison - He founded the Liberator, in 1831, which helped to organize the American Anti-Slavery Society .
14. Wendell Phillips - He worked for social reforms, prohibition of liquor, women suffrage, abolition of capital punishment, labor rights, and was a delegate to the World Anti-Slavery Convention .
15. Elisabeth Cady Stanton - She was a leader of the woman suffrage movement .
16. Emily Jennings Stowe - She was a Canadian leader for womens' rights, and founded Canada's first woman suffrage society .
17. Elizur Wright - He was a secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society and was editor of the Abolitionist .
18. Louis Pasteur - He is best known for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and prevention of disease. His experiments supported the germ theory of disease, also reducing mortality from puerperal fever (childbed), and he created the first vaccine for rabies. He was best known to the general public for inventing a method to stop milk and wine from causing sickness - this process came to be called pasteurization .
19. Ivor Jennings - He was vice-president of the National Council for Civil Liberties .
20. Hippocrates - The Greek physician who is considered to be the "father of medicine" .
These 20 men and women (which is by no means anywhere close to an exhaustive list of freethinkers) who contributed - in some cases immensely - to modern society should not be overlooked simply because they doubted, or outright did not believe in, god or Christianity.
There are also studies which seem to prove that nonreligious individuals are just as, if not more, moral than religious individuals.
"In 1934, Abraham Franzblau found a negative correlation between acceptance of religious
beliefs and three different measures of honesty. As religiosity increased, honesty decreased.
In 1950, Murray Ross conducted a survey among 2,000 associates of the YMCA and discovered that agnostics and atheists were more likely to express their willingness to aid the poor than those who rated themselves as deeply religious.
In 1969, sociologists Travis Hirschi and Rodney Stark reported no difference in the self-reported likelihood to commit crimes between children who attended church regularly and those who did not.
In 1975, Ronald Smith, Gregory Wheeler, and Edward Diener discovered that college-aged students in religious schools were no less likely to cheat on a test than their atheist and agnostic counterparts in nonreligious schools.
In 1996 George Barna, a born-again Evangelical Christian, in his Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators, based on interviews with nearly 4,000 adult Americans, revealed: 'Born again Christians continue to have a higher likelihood of getting divorced than do non-Christians.' And: 'Atheists are less likely to get divorced than are born-again Christians.' Barna found that the current divorce rate for born-again Christians is 27 percent, while it is only 24 percent for non-Christians. In addition, the Baby Boomers -- that generation often criticized for sexual indulgence and moral relativism -- has a lower rate of divorce (34 percent) than the preceding generation (portrayed in popular culture as the idealized 1950's Ozzie and Harriet family), who hover at 37 percent.
Five years later, in a 2001 survey, Barna found that '33 percent of all born again individuals who have been married have gone through a divorce, which is statistically identical to the 34 percent
incidence among non-born again adults.'
The July/August 2007 issue of the Annals of Family Medicine published the results of a study conducted by researchers from the University of Chicago and Yale New Haven Hospital that religious doctors were no more likely (and even slightly less likely) to employ their craft among undeserved patients than were physicians with no religious affiliation. Specifically, Farr Curlin, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and his colleagues surveyed 1,820 practicing physicians from all specialties: 31% of physicians who were more religious practiced medicine among the undeserved, compared to 35% of atheist, agnostic, and nonreligious doctors. Religiosity was measured by religious service attendance and self-reported 'intrinsic religiosity' questions that measured the extent to which individuals embrace their religion as the 'master motive that guides and gives meaning to their life.' Curlin noted his own response to the data:
'This came as both a surprise and a disappointment. The Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist scriptures all urge physicians to care for the poor, and the great majority of religious physicians describe their practice of medicine as a calling. Yet we found that religious physicians were not more likely to report practice among the undeserved than their secular colleagues'" .
Starting on page 185 Aikman lists some people whose lives have been changed due to their "conversion," "coming to the faith," or whatever you'd like to call it - as if these peoples' personal experiences validate the supposed truth of Christianity at all.
Aikman claims, using Thomas Kuhn as his source, that "the real reason scientists prefer a new theory to an old one is not the persuasiveness of the new hypothesis backed by testable evidence, but because the new theory is, well, more appealing aesthetically. In other words, scientists no longer investigate material reality as though there is a logical thread connecting old theories and discoveries to new ones, but out of rather arbitrary reasons" .
Of course, this means nothing since it's backed by no evidence, and thus, is nothing more than an argument from authority. The fact is that each scientific theory is backed by evidence and that's that. It might not be what some people want to hear, but truth is truth. Another fact is that science deals with only the material because that's all that's been observed! I've debunked this claim in the past, but that pretty much sums up why science gives no real credit to the supernatural. No proof, so why should anyone take anything seriously that's only backed by appeals to the immaterial? No one has even proven the immaterial in the first place!
Appendix: The Four Horseman and the Bible
This chapter has Aikman attempting to refute the many claims about the bible's historical and scriptural accuracy made by the "new atheists." He begins with talking about the ten commandments and how "the consensus of biblical scholars is that the Ten Commandments and other stipulations of the mosaic law were part of a covenant ratification ceremony that, to a high degree, mimicked what is known about suzerain-vassal treaties describing mutual legal obligations in the ancient near east" .
A few sentences later Aikman says, "But what is beyond dispute is the fact that both the ancient and the modern worlds offer up abundant examples of serious moral confusion for which Harris and Hitchens seem to assume that universal human consensus exists about what is right and what is wrong."
I don't really see how this refutes anything that the "new atheists" say about the Ten Commandments. Aikman claims that the "new atheists" say everyone everywhere should have some consensus about what is right and wrong, but I think that's a bit of a strawman argument because yes there is research that shows certain universal moral decisions are made by many people, but that doesn't mean that there is no longer confusion. It's just a fact that some have different ideas about what is moral and what isn't.
I would say there is consensus universally that it's wrong to steal, to kill, etc., and many of these things are reflected in many of the earliest attempts at writing down a set legal code, such as the Code of Hammurabi and the Ten Commandments. In fact, the code of Hammurabi and the Ten Commandments have some similar laws, and some of the laws that are in the Code of Hammurabi are also found in the bible. Laws against theft, which the punishment is death; slavery is allowed and has laws regulating its practice. Laws against adultery are also found, and the law # 195 in the Code of Hammurabi says, "If a son strike his father, his hands shall be hewn off" . This sounds similar to another unnecessary punishment that is in the bible: Deuteronomy 21:18-21, which says, "If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, 'This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard. Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death." (NIV)
The main problem, though some atheists use various arguments, is that there is nothing special about the ten commandments. Many of the laws were borrowed from other sources (possibly the Code of Hammurabi for example), and half of them are pointless religious dogma about not worshiping other gods and other religious nonsense.
Aikman talks about the new testament next and says that the following arguments by the "new atheists" are false:
1. all the gospels were written so long after Jesus died that they cannot be considered reliable, and in any case, they contradict one another,especially in regard to the genealogy of Jesus and the virgin birth
2. apart from the point raised above, the gospels in general are not reliable accounts of what happened
3. none of the gospel writers knew Jesus personally, nor are their identities even known
4. the translation of the Hebrew word almah as "virgin" is incorrect (as in "a virgin shall be with child")
5. Jesus never claimed to be divine
6. the gospels differ in their accounts of the resurrection of Jesus
After he lists the various claims made by the "new atheists" Aikman states that, "[a]t one level, most of these assertions could be dismissed with the flick of a rhetorical fly whisk: not one of the 'four horsemen' seems to have any detailed understanding of either Christianity or of new testament criticism. The only biblical critic cited as an authority for his attempts to debunk the authenticity of the new testament is Bart Ehrman..." .
That's pretty presumptuous of him because even though the "new atheists" aren't biblical scholars, they cite a few well schooled scholars for their evidence, such as Bart Ehrman. Other biblical scholars whose opinions coincide with Ehrman's are Robert M. Price and Earl Doherty, among others. Personally, I've referenced John W. Loftus and Randel McCraw Helms in some of my writings. All these men have legitimate credentials, and some have even studied with well known christian apologists, such as William Lane Craig (in the case of Loftus), so I wouldn't simply dismiss their criticisms like Aikman seems to do.
It's also hypocritical of Aikman to say that the "new atheists" can't cite experts because Aikman's entire eighth chapter has been written using other biblical scholars for his counter claims! So, according to Aikman I could just say that his 'assertions could be dismissed with the flick of a rhetorical fly whisk,' but I won't, because I know I can prove him wrong.
He gives a brief biography about Ehrman and how he "starts from the premise that none of scripture is truthful" . That's, for the most part, accurate but Ehrman says that because we don't have access to the original manuscripts we cannot know for certain what was originally written, though Ehrman doesn't seem so pessimistic when he says the following in his book Misquoting Jesus, on page 210:
"A number of scholars - for reasons we saw in chapter 2 - have even given up thinking that it makes sense to talk about the 'original' text.”
“I personally think that opinion may be going too far. I do not mean to deny that there are difficulties that may be insurmountable in reconstructing the originals...all of these manuscripts were copied from other, earlier manuscripts, which were themselves copied from earlier manuscripts; and the chain of transmission has to end somewhere, ultimately at a manuscript produced either by an author or by a secretarial scribe who was producing the 'autograph' - the first in the long line of manuscripts that were copied for nearly fifteen centuries..."
Seems to me, with this quote from Ehrman's book, that he doesn't think that it's impossible to get back to the originals, it's just that it can be extremely difficult, and in some cases impossible with some parts of the bible. But he doesn't seem as pessimistic as Aikman makes it sound.
Aikman next begins with his attempts at debunking various claims about the bible which he outlined previously:
1. all the gospels were written so long after Jesus died that they cannot be considered reliable, and in any case, they contradict one another, especially in regard to the genealogy of Jesus and the virgin birth.
He basically claims that because there are more manuscripts of the bible than any other ancient work, such as Gallic Wars, people should accept that there is more than enough information to obtain much of the original wording of the bible.
Just because there are many copies of many books of the bible, doesn't mean they are accurate to begin with. This argument isn't a very good one.
2. and 3. The gospels in general are not reliable accounts of what happened and none of the gospel writers knew Jesus personally, nor are their identities even known.
Aiman's claim is absurd. He claims that "[e]arly church tradition...ought to count for something in the history of Christianity..." and states that because it's tradition, it can be counted on as reliable. He is really stretching it this time. He has no evidence whatsoever that any of the writers knew Jesus and according to some biblical scholars, such as Randel McCraw Helms, no one even knows who wrote the gospels at all.
As for the claim that none of the accounts are reliable, Aikman didn't even answer that objection. All he said is that many archaeological discoveries have revealed that many of the places mentioned in the bible are real, so that qualifies as "proof" that the stories are true. That line of "reasoning" is about as good as me trying to claim that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are real because there is a place called New York City in real life.
4. The translation of the Hebrew word almah as "virgin" is incorrect (as in "a virgin shall be with child")
He says that, overall, the atheists are right, but"[i]n the overwhelming majority of usages of almah in the old testament, however, it clearly designates a woman who as not been married and was, according to the norms of the time, by definition a virgin" . Even if that was true (maybe it is, maybe it's not) it does nothing to prove that a virgin got pregnant and gave birth.
5. Jesus never claimed to be divine
I won't even bother to go over this one because theologians can't even prove a Jesus existed. I'm not going to waste my time trying to refute something that they can't even prove was real to begin with.
6. The gospels differ in their accounts of the resurrection of Jesus.
Basically he claims that one, there are many things in each of the accounts that are the same; second, he says that the tomb was empty, and so something had to have happened to the body; and third, he claims the stories were not products of a legend, because "legends usually require at least one to two generations to bring to life" .
These arguments are pathetic. First, yes there are several similarities but there are many more discrepancies:
What time did the women visit the tomb?
* Matthew: "as it began to dawn" (28:1)
* Mark: "very early in the morning . . . at the rising of the sun" (16:2, KJV); "when the sun had risen" (NRSV); "just after sunrise" (NIV)
* Luke: "very early in the morning" (24:1, KJV) "at early dawn" (NRSV)
* John: "when it was yet dark" (20:1)
Who were the women?
* Matthew: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (28:1)
* Mark: Mary Magdalene, the mother of James, and Salome (16:1)
* Luke: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women (24:10)
* John: Mary Magdalene (20:1)
What was their purpose?
* Matthew: to see the tomb (28:1)
* Mark: had already seen the tomb (15:47), brought spices (16:1)
* Luke: had already seen the tomb (23:55), brought spices (24:1)
* John: the body had already been spiced before they arrived (19:39,40)
Was the tomb open when they arrived?
* Matthew: No (28:2)
* Mark: Yes (16:4)
* Luke: Yes (24:2)
* John: Yes (20:1)
Who was at the tomb when they arrived?
* Matthew: One angel (28:2-7)
* Mark: One young man (16:5)
* Luke: Two men (24:4)
* John: Two angels (20:12)
Where were these messengers situated?
* Matthew: Angel sitting on the stone (28:2)
* Mark: Young man sitting inside, on the right (16:5)
* Luke: Two men standing inside (24:4)
* John: Two angels sitting on each end of the bed (20:12)
What did the messenger(s) say?
* Matthew: "Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead: and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you." (28:5-7)
* Mark: "Be not afrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you." (16:6-7)
* Luke: "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." (24:5-7)
* John: "Woman, why weepest thou?" (20:13)
Did the women tell what happened?
* Matthew: Yes (28:8)
* Mark: No. "Neither said they any thing to any man." (16:8)
* Luke: Yes. "And they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest." (24:9, 22-24)
* John: Yes (20:18)
When Mary returned from the tomb, did she know Jesus had been resurrected?
* Matthew: Yes (28:7-8)
* Mark: Yes (16:10,11)
* Luke: Yes (24:6-9,23)
* John: No (20:2)
When did Mary first see Jesus?
* Matthew: Before she returned to the disciples (28:9)
* Mark: Before she returned to the disciples (16:9,10)
* John: After she returned to the disciples (20:2,14)
Could Jesus be touched after the resurrection?
* Matthew: Yes (28:9)
* John: No (20:17), Yes (20:27)
After the women, to whom did Jesus first appear?
* Matthew: Eleven disciples (28:16)
* Mark: Two disciples in the country, later to eleven (16:12,14)
* Luke: Two disciples in Emmaus, later to eleven (24:13,36)
* John: Ten disciples (Judas and Thomas were absent) (20:19, 24)
* Paul: First to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve. (Twelve? Judas was dead). (I Corinthians 15:5)
Where did Jesus first appear to the disciples?
* Matthew: On a mountain in Galilee (60-100 miles away) (28:16-17)
* Mark: To two in the country, to eleven "as they sat at meat" (16:12,14)
* Luke: In Emmaus (about seven miles away) at evening, to the rest in a room in Jerusalem later that night. (24:31, 36)
* John: In a room, at evening (20:19)
Did the disciples believe the two men?
* Mark: No (16:13)
* Luke: Yes (24:34--it is the group speaking here, not the two)
What happened at the appearance?
* Matthew: Disciples worshipped, some doubted, "Go preach." (28:17-20)
* Mark: Jesus reprimanded them, said "Go preach" (16:14-19)
* Luke: Christ incognito, vanishing act, materialized out of thin air, reprimand, supper (24:13-51)
* John: Passed through solid door, disciples happy, Jesus blesses them, no reprimand (21:19-23)
Did Jesus stay on earth for a while?
* Mark: No (16:19) Compare 16:14 with John 20:19 to show that this was all done on Sunday
* Luke: No (24:50-52) It all happened on Sunday
* John: Yes, at least eight days (20:26, 21:1-22)
* Acts: Yes, at least forty days (1:3)
Where did the ascension take place?
* Matthew: No ascension. Book ends on mountain in Galilee
* Mark: In or near Jerusalem, after supper (16:19)
* Luke: In Bethany, very close to Jerusalem, after supper (24:50-51)
* John: No ascension
* Paul: No ascension
* Acts: Ascended from Mount of Olives (1:9-12) 
Aikman states that because there was an empty tomb, something must have happened. Well, if you accept that the gospels and the legends are true, it would make sense, but Aikman is making a huge assumption if he does that. If Jesus was crucified a more logical explanation would be that someone stole the body, but given that there is no evidence outside of the bible that any of this happened, this line of argumentation is pointless.
Another fact is that Mark 16:1-8 is the earliest version of the resurrection story, where women discover the empty tomb, and an angel tells them that the disappearance of the body means that Jesus has risen. In the earliest and best manuscripts the gospel ends there, then later on a scribe adds Mark 16:9-20, which speaks of his disciples seeing Jesus after he has risen .
Right there, it's proof that the resurrection story has been changed, and added to, so how does anyone know that this really happened? Not only is the available evidence (the bible) unreliable, but logic dictates that dead men can't rise from the dead.
His other claim that "legends usually require at least one to two generations to bring to life" is absolutely false because in Robert M. Price's book Jesus is Dead, on pages 36 to 37 Price recounts a few miracle stories developing within weeks or days.
Price recounts the story of Sabbatai Sevi, who was a false messiah in the 17th century.
"Gershom Scholem speaks of 'the sudden and almost explosive surge of miracle stories' concerning Sabbatai Sevi within weeks or even days of his public appearances....
Letters from December of the same year related that Sabbatai 'command a Fire to be made in a public place, in the presence of many beholders...and entered into the fire twice or thrice, without any hurt to his garments or to a hair on his head. Other letters tell of his raising the dead.'"
"Twentieth-century African prophet and martyr Simon Kimbangu became another 'living legend' against his own wishes. One group of his followers, the Ngunzists, spread his fame as the 'god of the blacks' or 'Christ of the blacks,' even while Kimbangu himself disavowed the role. Legends of Kimbangu's childhood, miracles, and prophetic visions began within his own generation."
These two stories prove Aikman's claim to be absolutely false.
I've finally reached the end, and Aikman's arguments were horrible, and his continuous comparison of atheism to Communism was tiring; none of the "new atheists" have ever said they want to ban religion, so allowing them to influence people is not going to cause another communistic country. That is just absurd, as some quotes from the authors in question have confirmed (and Aikman even acknowledges this on pages 30 and 32).
This review has been like pulling teeth, though I tried my best to take my time and find good, factual information that would defeat many of his absurd claims. Well, I guess that's it. As I said in the beginning of the seventh chapter, religion is stale and stagnant and people who embrace it are still living in what are popularly called the "dark ages" of humanity. This is the last review that I will do on theology, or put more aptly, bullshitoloy. I've successfully refuted several well known theistic authors and none of their arguments stand the test of reason and science, so I don't feel I need to waste my time on this anymore.
So, all in all, I've proven that the "new atheism" is not a threat to anyone's life - none of the "four horsemen" have said they want to kill religious people. Nor is anyone's liberty at stake - neither Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins, or Dennett have said they want to deny religious believers the freedom to worship how they want, as long as they respect others' beliefs and not interfere in others' lives. Finally, each individuals' happiness is not in danger because no one is denying anyone their freedom (unlike some religious individuals).
Note: Because it's been nearly a year since this refutation was written many of the websites I cited may or may not still be online. If they are I will cite the access date of when I last accessed them during the revising of this new edition of this paper to ensure they are still active and accurate.
1. The Delusion of Disbelief: Why the New Atheism is a Threat to Your Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness, by David Aikman; published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008; 21
2. Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, by Peter Marshall, Harper Perennial, 2008; 75-76
3. The Delusion of Disbelief; 25
methamphetamine_drugs_scandal; accessed 5-15-09
5. http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/response-to-controversy2/; accessed 5-15-09
6. These two books by Marc Hauser and Robert Wright are excellent. The full title for each is the following:
Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong, by Marc D. Hauser, HarperCollins Publishers, 2006
The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, by Robert Wright, Vintage Books, 1995
7. The Delusion of Disbelief; 66
8. The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins, Oxford University Press, 2006; 192
9. The Delusion of Disbelief; 81
10. The Delusion of Disbelief; 82
11. The Delusion of Disbelief; 93
12. The Story of Civilization: The Age of Napoleon, by Will and Ariel Durant, Simon and Schuster, 1975; 62
13. The Story of Civilization: The Age of Napoleon, by Will and Ariel Durant, Simon and Schuster, 1975; 74
14. A History of the Modern World, by R.R. Palmer and Joel Colton, Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1956; 359- 360
15. The Story of Civilization: The Age of Napoleon, by Will and Ariel Durant, Simon and Schuster, 1975; 73-74
16. A History of the Modern World, by R.R. Palmer and Joel Colton, Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1956; 361- 362
17. http://www.marxists.org/archive/morris/works/1886/sru/ch8.htm; accessed 5-15-09
18. http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/robespierre.htm; accessed 5-15-09
19. A History of Western Philosophy, by Bertrand Russell, Touchstone, May 2007; 705
20. Communism: A History, by Richard Pipes, Modern Library, 2001; 157-158
21. Atheism: A Very Short Introduction, by Julian Baggini, Oxford University Press, 2003; 81-88
22. The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, edited by Tom Flynn, Prometheus Books, 2007; 520
23. The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, edited by Tom Flynn, Prometheus Books, 2007; 523
24. The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, edited by Tom Flynn, Prometheus Books, 2007; 621
25. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Enlightenment; accessed 5-15-09
26. The Western Heritage: From the Earliest Times to the Present, by Stewart C. Easton, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1970; 570
27. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltaire#Religion; accessed 5-15-09
28. The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, edited by Tom Flynn, Prometheus Books, 2007; 673
29. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robespierre; accessed 5-15-09
30. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_newton; accessed 5-15-09
31. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 801
32. The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, edited by Tom Flynn, Prometheus Books, 2007; 509
33. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 515
34. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 554
35. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 762
36. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 1022
37. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 1039
38. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 294
39. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Second Edition, edited by Robert Audi, Cambridge University Press, 1999; 203
40. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 395
41. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 607
42. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 885
43. The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, edited by Tom Flynn, Prometheus Books, 2007; 277
44. Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, by Peter Marshall, Harper Perennial, 2008; 122
45. Letter to a Christian Nation, by Sam Harris, Alfred A. Knopf, 2006; 43
46. 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a god, by Guy P. Harrison, Prometheus Books, 2008; 296
47. http://skepticforum.mu.nu/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=8994&p=119811; accessed 5-15-09
48. http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Media/2003-02-10guardianprofile.shtml; accessed 5-15-09
49. The Delusion of Disbelief; 95
50. The Complete Idiot's Guide to American History, by Alan Axelrod, Ph.D., Alpha Books, 2006
51. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Constitution; accessed 5-15-09
52. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Constitution#Historical_influences; accessed 5-15-09
53. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayflower_Compact; accessed 5-15-09
54. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment; accessed 5-15-09
55. The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America, by Frank Lambert, Princeton University Press, 2006; 288
56. Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, Volume 1, by Chris Rodda, Self Published, 2006; viii-ix
57. The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America, by Frank Lambert, Princeton University Press, 2006; 290
58. Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, Volume 1, by Chris Rodda, Self Published, 2006; 289-290
59. The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, edited by Tom Flynn, Prometheus Books, 2007; 242
60. Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, Volume 1, by Chris Rodda, Self Published, 2006; 315-316
61. The Knowledge Book: Everything You Need to Know to Get By in the 21st Century, by various contributors, National Geographic, 2007; 32
62. The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, by David L. Holmes, Oxford University Press, 2006; 46
63. The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, by David L. Holmes, Oxford University Press, 2006; 39-40
64. The Separation of Church and State: Writings On a Fundamental Freedom By America's Founders, edited by Forrest Church, Beacon Press, 2004; 124
65. The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, by David L. Holmes, Oxford University Press, 2006; 162
66. The Delusion of Disbelief; 156
67. The Federalist Papers, edited by Clinton Rossiter, Signet Classic edition, 1999; 68
68. The Federalist Papers, edited by Clinton Rossiter, Signet Classic edition, 1999; 274
69. The Federalist Papers, edited by Clinton Rossiter, Signet Classic edition, 1999; 464
70. http://www.talk2action.org/story/2008/1/4/24725/53989; accessed 5-15-09
71. The Delusion of Disbelief; 146-147
72. The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America, by Frank Lambert, Princeton University Press, 2006;177
73. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_buckner/quotations.html; accessed 5-15-09
74. The Delusion of Disbelief; 176
75. The Delusion of Disbelief; 175
76. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 321
77. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 38
78. A video about atheists on YouTube, put together by "zakiechan." It can currently be found at http://youtube.com/watch?v=fdVucvo-kDU (accessed 5-15-09)
80. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_atheists_%28Activists_and_educators%29; accessed 5-15-09
82. http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080812072029AAncmnT; accessed 5-15-09
83. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 47
84. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 1163
85. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 90
86. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 90
87. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 306
88. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 421
89. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 859
90. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 1043
91. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 1056
92. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 1204
93. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Pasteur; accessed 5-15-09
94. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 589
95. Who's Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and Non-Theists, by Warren Allen Smith, Barricade Books, 2000; 512
96. http://skepticforum.mu.nu/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=8994&p=119811; accessed, 6-10-10 (was previously unable to access, but the page has since been restored)
97. The Delusion of Disbelief; 194
98. The Delusion of Disbelief; 198
99. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi; accessed 5-15-09, however cited information is no longer available.
100. The Delusion of Disbelief; 202-203
101. The Delusion of Disbelief; 203
102. The Delusion of Disbelief; 207
103. The Delusion of Disbelief; 210
104. Dan Barker's article called Leave No Stone Unturned: An Easter Challenge For Christians, from http://ffrf.org/books/lfif/?t=stone; unable to access 5-15-09
105. Jesus is Dead, by Robert M. Price, American Atheist Press, 2007; 4