The Words of the Guerra Family

Countering the New Atheism

Anthony Guerra
December 2010

Hyung-jin nim confers the certificate of appointment on new W-CARP Korea president Victor I. Kim on October 2, 2010.

CARP is resurging in Korea. Victor I. Kim, who last worked with W-CARP International as its acting vice-president (2006-2007) was appointed president of W-CARP Korea on August 4 and had his inaugural ceremony on October 2. As international CARP president, Hyung-jin nim has given CARP the mission to devise and implement a counterproposal to the "new atheism," which is making inroads in the Western world and is expected to do so in Korea.

In his inaugural address, Mr. Kim said that part of CARP's mission will be to witness to the existence of God, using "scientific, rational and logical" arguments to challenge atheistic thought on university campuses. Hyung-jin nim has invited Dr. Anthony Guerra to spearhead the development of this debate initiative. Dr. Guerra, who believes "we are confronting a monstrous force with the new atheism that has the potential of penetrating more deeply the hearts and minds of modern society than Communism did," outlined the approach they plan to take in his speech on the same day to the assembled CARP members and students. With his permission, we are reproducing here a major extract of what he said.

As we prepare for this debate, we all have to understand what our attitude should be. It is important that we cultivate an attitude of respect for our opponents. How can we show that respect? Most important is that we understand their ideas, their arguments, and that we can show that understanding by being able to clearly, accurately and fully express their ideas and thought. Why is this important? We want to defeat the idea and, most important, win the person. The modern controversy between the church and science, between religion and science, began infamously in the seventeenth century with Galileo.

Galileo is the father of modern observational astronomy, the father of modern physics, some would say the father of modern science. Galileo supported copernicanism, the heliocentric view of the universe. At that time, most scientists, theologians and philosophers believed in the geocentric view of the world -- that the earth was the center of the universe. The church forced Galileo to recant his support of copernicanism and placed him under house arrest for the rest of his life. The reverberations of that act are still playing out and enhancing the resentment of scientists and educated people in general, to this day. This put religion in a had light to educated people, and thus led to the weakening of the theistic position.

That's why it is so important for us to understand Father's attitude toward faith. Recall when in the late 1940s, in a North Korean courtroom, Father was confronted with a number of charges. He stood up bravely and objected to one charge in particular, the charge that he was teaching religion irrationally. It is that proud tradition and that robust affirmation of reason being used to defend faith that I believe is at the basis of this new mission that we all have been given.

So, what is debate? Debate really is rational argumentation. It's evidence-based, and there are two main categories of evidence -- philosophical and scientific. Most important to debate is a common mode of thinking, which is a syllogistic mode of thinking. Perhaps from an introductory philosophy class you will remember "syllogism." A syllogism has two premises and a conclusion. If you accept the two premises, you have to accept the conclusion. So you have to be very careful about those two premises. The classical example of a syllogism would be "All human beings are mortal. Socrates is a human being." Those two premises lead to the conclusion that "Socrates is mortal." This kind of logic will be the basis of any effective debating.

Some of us are going to be better with the philosophical material, and others with the scientific. In part because of that difference in intellectual strengths, I recommend you study and practice in pairs.

It's important to practice expressing the ideas of the opponent, as well as your own presentation of ideas. If you can do that, you will gain great confidence. Practicing in pairs means that one time one of you will practice the atheist argument and the other will express the theist argument; and then you will switch. If you do this, you'll be well prepared for a jousting debate. Debaters would be well advised to use flow charts. In a flow chart, one would put each main argument, next to it, the objection to the argument, and next to that the response to the objection. Such a flow chart, when you are debating, even in the heat of debate, will allow you to keep the logic of your argument in the forefront.

I want to talk secondly about our topic, the existence of God. I was thinking last night, What is the origin of atheism? The origin of atheism is Lucifer and the Fall -- he denied the existence of God and sought to replace Him. He put himself in God's position, displaced God and became the God of this world. If we look in the Hebrew Bible, we see that God is shut out by myriad other, false gods who are in effect hiding or covering over the true God. And that religious battle in the Hebrew Bible we can also see with the ancient Greek philosophers -- Socrates, who debated the so-called Sophists, who denied absolute values, Plato who affirmed the "one," and Aristotle who developed the notion of the unmoved mover. This battle against atheism was continued through the Renaissance and Enlightenment, in particular the culmination of that latter philosophical tradition was confronted by Immanuel Kant in the nineteenth century. But certainly, the greatest worldwide challenge to God was communism, in the twentieth century.

The fall of the Soviet empire and decline of communism did not spell the end of atheism. In fact just a few years ago a virulent form of atheism -- what is called the "new atheism" -- arose in this twenty-first century. In 2004 Sam Harris wrote a book entitled The End of Faith, and in 2006 Richard Dawkins published The God Delusion. That book was on the New York Times best-seller list for fifty-one weeks. It was quickly followed by Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (2006) by Daniel Dennett. The next year Victor Stenger came out with God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist. And following that, God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, by Christopher Hitchens. All of them were best-sellers.

When we hear those titles, I believe we all feel the same sense of imperative that we have to stop this avalanche of atheistic thought that is inundating our culture. We cannot be sanguine that such thinking will not dominate in America, will not dominate in Korea. We just need to look at what has happened in Europe already. In Germany, only 47 percent of people believe in God; in France only 34 percent; in the United Kingdom only 38 percent, and in Sweden only 23 percent. We are engaged in a mighty and fierce battle, as fierce as the battle we had in the last century against communism. Therefore, we have to learn how Father fought communism in the twentieth century.

Unificationism led the way with VOC thought. Father raised Dr. Sang Hun Lee to develop Unification Thought and the principles of Victory Over Communism. Now Hyung-jin nim is following in Father's footsteps in raising us to fight a new battle in the twenty-first century. Just as in the battle against communism, when our movement found allies in the conservative thinkers and political leaders, ranging from Morton Kaplan to Ronald Reagan, God has prepared people to work with us to win God's current battle.

About four months ago, Hyung-jin nim called me and he asked, "Did you ever hear of a William Lane Craig?" and I said no, I hadn't. After the conversation, I quickly went and looked him up and bought his books. It was inspiring to me to find that God has raised, over the past twenty-five years, a group of Christian apologists such as Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, Paul Copan and other philosophers, theologians and scientists who have been debating atheists and more recently the new atheists.

We have a recapitulation of the twentieth century battle against communism with both the right wing and the left wing engaged and Unificationism needing to play a critical central role. In the last century, as mentioned, right wing conservatives, such as Ronald Reagan and Morton Kaplan, were pitted against the left wing, the communists. True Father gave support to the right wing in their battle against communism but with the hope of saving communists. Thus, witness True Father's embrace of Mikhail Gorbachev and his concern for the economic development of the former communist lands.

Similarly, in this century, the right wing Christian apologists and the left wing new atheists are engaged. After we join in the battle to demonstrate the inadequacy of the ideas of the new atheists, we may also be called to refine the thought of the right wing. Father's philosophy is Headwing. The new theism that we develop now -- Headwing theism -- should make it easier for both atheists and theists to serve and love God.

Finally, I wanted to speak briefly about how valuable this mission is. What is atheism? Atheism is the denial of our Heavenly Parents. Thus, the mission we undertake, under the guidance of True Parents and Hyung-jin nim, is the highest expression of filial piety. We can call it divine filial piety. It should be not just hard work, but it should be joyful work. We can apply our minds fully to this most important topic. Can there be any more important topic than God?

Therefore we are emboldened to use our minds fully to defend and demonstrate the existence of God, the existence and value of our Heavenly Parents, and of True Parents, and then to love and serve them with all our heart, all our will, and all our strength.

Thank you. 

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