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>Vanquishing Atheism's Vanguard

>I reviewed Vox Day’s book The Irrational Atheist for Tekton Apologetics Ministries and the review has recently been uploaded. The Tekton rating system is a 1–3 thumbs down for negative reviews and 1–3 thumbs up for positive reviews (with no neutral option). I gave the book 2+ (ie. a 4 on a 0–5 scale)

The review is at Tektonics and I have reproduced it below.


Vanquishing Atheism’s Vanguard

A Review of Vox Day’s The Irrational Atheist

by Joel Bethyada

I had high expectations for this book. This concerned me somewhat as it increased the chances of being disappointed on reading it. Suffice it to say that it met my prior elevated expectations.

Vox is witty. He is both very clever and very funny. When you are laughing just reading the contents page you know it is going to be a good book.

What is useful in this foray into the New Atheist territory is that Vox lets them choose the battlefield and the weapons. And while Vox has no hesitancy in demolishing the arguments with his opponents’ swords, he frequently just sharpens them before handing them back leaving the New Atheists to eviscerate themselves!

The first few chapters cover the ground rules. Subsequent chapters are devoted to various popular atheists exposing their foolishness or duplicity. Despite the subtitle (Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens), Vox also has chapters on Dennett and Onfray. That they are not referred to in the title is due to Vox’s admiration of the former’s honesty, despite his mistaken conclusions; and the consistency of the latter’s position, albeit a horrifying one.

He then discusses objections to Christianity that have been raised by several of New Atheism’s statesmen or are commonly used by contemporary atheists. Vox suggests that Hitler was neither Christian nor atheist, but likely pagan; briefly dismissing the genetic fallacy that Hitler was raised Christian by noting that so were Dawkins and Hitchens. The Inquisition is dismissed mentioning themes that have previously been raised by other apologists, and also making the astute observation the the precipitating cause had a higher body count than all the inquisitors over several centuries combined. He then covers the Crusades. And finally human sacrifice in religion suggesting that often times political subjection was a primary motivation over piety. I am less certain the ancients made as great a distinction from the spiritual as modern day secularism.

Following along the lines of the Christians-behaving-badly arguments, the tables are turned and the New Atheists are forced to answer for unprecedented mass murder of the more powerful atheists (and only atheists!) of the 20th century.

As a theological addendum, Vox takes on theodicy and determinism using analogy with computer games. The analogy is quite a useful one but because of some theological errors, minor equivocation and pushing the analogy further than it is capable of, this section, while interesting reading, is less compelling than the atheist trouncing.

The style is slightly difficult at times (but made up for in the humour); the arguments are reasonable to follow but some sentences take slow focused concentration or re-reading. Vox makes frequent reference to his vast knowledge of topics and persons and reading the electronic version may be preferable to allow quick searches on esoteric comments. (The electronic version is available free online).

The book’s strengths include a offence approach—though perhaps a little aggressive, if one is going to take someone to task about minor mathematical errors he best be sure to make none himself—and arguing within the atheist paradigm. Weaknesses include allowing his opponents to label scientific that which is certainly not empirical evidence and better labelled historical, and the discussion of complexity where Vox fails to identify the real flaw in Dawkins’ argument and his fractal designer rebuttal is incorrect.

Will this book affect persons on either side of the debate? I hope so. Certainly the more noble of the atheist crowd will ponder its conclusions and it may perhaps draw them away from the dogmatic assertion that “God is not.” It will certainly encourage Christians who have thought the New Atheist arguments held water to realise they are hot air—if they can overlook any theological disagreements they have with the author. And for those who were already convinced of the New Atheist stupidity it certainly adds more ammunition to their armoury.

  1. Samuel Skinner
    2008 June 29 at 01:07

    Vox is a man who has defended genocide.
    http://voxday.blogspot.com/2007/02/mailvox-sharpening-knives.html
    I find it odd that people think he is such a great apologist.
    Pagans where individuals who are polytheists- Hitler repeatedly refered to being guided by a supreme power and insisted that Jesus was NOT a Jew. Since the criteria to be a Christian is simply that you must believe Jesus was the Lord’s final prophet, he fits.
    The large death tolls were made by
    King Leopold of Belgium
    The Kaiser
    The Czar
    The Emperor of Austria Hungry
    The President of the Third Republic
    The Prime Minester of England
    Adolp Hitler, Supreme Chancellor of Germany and the Third Reich
    Mussolini, Prime Minester of Italy
    Emperor Hirohito of Japan
    Tojo, leader of the Japanese Government
    Mao, Leader of the Chinese Communist Party
    Stalin, Party Head and leader of the United Soviet Socialist Republics
    Pol Pot, leader of the Kymar Rouge
    Of these individuals listed, three were atheists. King Leopold killed between 6 to 15 million individuals, the leaders during WW 1 are responsible for the deaths of between 20 to 40 million people depending on how much the ensuing epidemic was caused by the war, Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo and the Emperor are responsible for approximately 50 million dead. Stalin killed between 3 to 15 million, Mao is responsible for the deaths of up to 50 million (mostly due to famine, although he may have killed a million in the Cultural Revolution) and Pol Pot killed about 5 million before being killed by other communists.
    So, the majortiy of the deaths were caused by theists.

  2. 2008 June 29 at 11:56

    Samuel, the are a few issues here.
    You have likely underestimated Stalin’s death toll. You need to compare the number of deaths per person in a particular camp. If atheists make up a small minority of persons and as rulers consistently kill a disproportionate number of persons, that is significant.
    I make no defence of where the blame for WW1 lies. I do however claim that if a country defends itself against an invader, the deaths of its citizens due to the war cannot necessarily be laid at the feet of the king.
    Your claim that Hitler was Christian lacks reasonable support. His intense opposition to Christianity belies your suggestion and your definition of Christianity is hardly viable.
    Finally your claim about Vox defending genocide misses the point. Firstly it is infanticide; secondly it is God’s sovereignty he is supporting. If God is creator he sets the rules. He owns the lives of all men including infants. Murder does not apply to God; see my recent post The limits of God. Of course there would be an intense debate over a person claiming to have heard from God to mass kill children; but the question is not the reliability of men hearing the voice of God but the prerogative of God to do as he chooses.

  3. Samuel Skinner
    2008 June 29 at 23:47

    First off, they keep changing Stalin’s death tools- the low ones are more recent. It is possible they were very high- I don’t know. I looked up a recent source and they gave 10-20 million
    http://www.cyberussr.com/rus/revision-hitler.html
    You can probably find others.
    Of course, Stalin had 30 years to do this- Hitler managed to do most of hist genocide in only 4 (1941-1945.
    Atheists don’t make up a smaller percentage of the educated classes and upwardly mobile, in which rulers are drawn from.
    WW1 was caused by intense nationalism- if you wish we can blame it entirely on the Axis- they were all theists anyways.
    Even if Hitler wasn’t a Christian he was a theist.
    Many Christian rulers have been opposed to Christianity- see the conflicts betweeen the HRE and the pope.
    So the reason that Mao and Stalin are bad is they didn’t have premission? I’ll…
    I’m sorry, that didn’t get through my moral filter. All I heard was “Blood for the BLOOD GOD! Skulls for the Skull Throne!” Perhaps you should worship a less openly sociopathic diety- one that does not view humanity as his chattel and toys.
    The funniest part is that this argument is a fallacy from ignorance (the only reason they included the bad things done by theists was to support antitheism, not atheism)! It has no bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim.
    Also, Vox’s computer game analogy is false. It only works for humans because the programer isn’t all seeing- I’m God’s case he would be.

  4. Samuel Skinner
    2008 June 29 at 23:52

    Here is a better example. Estimates for Stalin range all over the place- we have some claiming up to 60 million. At the other end are those who estimate as low as 3.5 to a max of 8 million.
    http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat1.htm
    Given that the USSR only had 164 million in 1937 this means that Stalin either eliminated a few… or a third of his countries population.
    Given that the arguments continue the answer is for future historians to work out.

  5. 2008 November 23 at 09:08

    Good, clear review. I hadn’t heard of Vox Day until very recently, and it’s good to get a picture of his book that’s not all praise (!)

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