Anthony DeStefano is a Christian author who has appeared on Fox News, as well as a few other news outlets, multiple times. He has a new book called Inside the Atheist Mind.
Fox News recently published an article which adapts material from DeStefano’s new book and let me just start by saying “Wow.” This guy needs help.
The article starts by saying, “Atheists today are the most arrogant, ignorant and dangerous people on earth.” DeStefano seems to really believe that, based on what he goes on to say.
DeStefano then complains about atheists getting offended by religious imagery in public or “mortified if even a whisper of ‘Merry Christmas’ escapes the lips of some well-meaning but naïve department store clerk.” His examples though, are not really that great, even as he tries to misrepresent them. He mentions atheist billboards calling out church as “fake news,” the American Humanist Association being “furious” when President Trump mentioned Christianity and Jesus at the National Prayer Breakfast, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s complaints against the body of Reverend Billy Graham being lain with honor in the Capitol Rotunda.
The billboard was just funny, so I will move on to the National Prayer Breakfast. First of all, the AHA was not “furious.” They pointed out that President Trump only mentioned Jesus and Christianity. He was very exclusionary towards people of other faiths. Read the transcript of what he said for yourself. The only mention other religions get is when he briefly spoke about violence committed by ISIS. Otherwise he lays on the Jesus talk pretty heavily.
What DeStefano, and so many Christians fail to understand, is that atheists are not trying to take everyone’s religion away when they complain about things like Graham’s body being displayed. It is about making sure that the U.S. government does not privilege the Christian religion over all others, or promote it. Doing so goes against the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And Graham in particular getting this honor that has so rarely been bestowed on private citizens was also offensive because of who he was. He said awful things about Jews, women, and homosexuals. He was not someone to celebrate, unless you share his hateful ideas.
Christians are the ones who cannot help but ram their religion down everyone’s throats, and want to do things like teach creationism instead of evolution in public schools. A billboard put up that calls church “fake news” is not oppressing anyone’s ability to practice their faith. But Christians want to oppress other people’s rights to different faiths, scientific education, and healthcare access, just to name a few.
Moving on, DeStefano then says, “Atheists believe that the vast majority of human beings from all periods of time and all places on the Earth have been wrong about the thing most important to them. They basically dismiss this vast majority as being either moronic or profoundly naïve. What they don’t seem to know – or won’t admit – is that the greatest contributions to civilization have been made, not by atheists, but by believers.”
The problems with DeStefano’s logic here quickly grow the longer you think about it. Believers is not a single unified set here, but rather a group of disparate sets. As a devout Christian, DeStefano has to believe that every ancient Greek was wrong to believe in the gods of Mount Olympus. So when he uses Aristotle as an example a little later, it is more than a little disingenuous. Go back to ancient Egypt and preach about Jesus and they will look at you like you are insane.
DeStefano then states, “What they don’t seem to know — or won’t admit — is that the greatest contributions to civilization have been made, not by atheists, but by believers.”
Again, DeStefano is being either deliberately manipulative with the facts, or he just is not that smart. Atheists are perfectly fine admitting that many great minds from history were believers. But that is not really surprising when you take into account that for a long time only the religious were educated. And then, after that, religious institutions were still the ones that often had the money to set up colleges.
Furthermore, try switching DeStefano’s argument here to a different endeavor, to see how ridiculous it is. How about peeling potatoes? The vast majority of people who have peeled potatoes in history have been religious, statistically we are safe to assume that without doing further research. But do you need to be religious to peel a potato? No.
Digging deeper, Isaac Newton was indeed Christian, but he also believed in alchemy. And his Christianity added nothing to his scientific work. In fact, you could argue that it hindered him. He wasted a lot of time looking for hidden codes in the Bible which he could have spent further pursuing scientific study. The same way he wasted time studying alchemy. He was a great scientist precisely when he was not indulging his religious beliefs.
This argument is also weak for another reason. I can name lots of atheist scientists, more than the number of religious ones that DeStefano named. But that is not as important as the fact that a lot of the ones he named come from, again, a long time ago. The truth is that there is a much higher percentage of scientists who are atheists than in the general public, as this Pew survey shows, and if the percentage of non-believers is growing among scientists as it is in the general public, then the numbers could be much greater since that study was done.
After his ridiculous scientist argument, DeStefano uses the tired old argument using names like Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot. DeStefano even tries to make the false claim that Hitler was an atheist, which has been debunked many times. DeStefano’s proof of Hitler’s atheism? Bogus quotes that were disproved a long time ago. Just read Hitler’s own book, Mein Kampf, in which he discusses how he is doing the Lord’s work. To quote him directly, “This action is the only one which, before God and our German posterity, would make any sacrifice of blood seem justified.” That does not sound like an atheist.
OK, so Hitler is out, but what about the others that DeStefano mentioned. Pol Pot was raised a Buddhist, and Stalin was raised Catholic. Stalin even trained to be priest in a seminary. He and Pol Pot may have shed these beliefs as they aged and assumed power, but when Stalin assumed power he walked into a pre-existing religious tyranny built by the Russian Orthodox Church.
As people like Michael Sherlock, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris have pointed out, the problems with these regimes were not atheism. They were other dogmatisms run amok. Dogmas like fervent nationalism, stoked by propaganda campaigns.
To see this, just look at some of the most secular countries today, like Sweden. Most of the more secular countries today are not the dens of debauchery and suffering that people like DeStefanos believe we will slip into without religion. Richer, more prosperous countries in general tend to have less faith, as this Pew study found. The United States is actually an outlier among prosperous nations because of the high percentage of religious believers.
DeStefanos closes his article with a call to action, “there is only one way to deal with bullies (atheists), even in this politically correct world—and that is to stand up to them and fight them; to fight them in a bold, aggressive, and fearless way, and to fight them now.”
This reminds me of the recent speech that Newt Gingrich gave in Florida where he essentially declared war on atheists. Gingrich had a similar “atheists are the most dangerous thing ever” kind of vibe.
Christians mistake compromise for persecution, and criticism for attacks. Their hyper-sensitivity to any kind of critical look at their faith provokes some of them into spreading this kind of ridiculous nonsense and advocating for all-out war against anyone who does not share their beliefs.
But hey, if it is war they want, then they better watch out. They are losing numbers fast. We are winning the war of attrition.