Are New Atheists NPCs?

As any web-surfer knows, in the first few weeks of October 2018, the so-called NPC meme exploded all over the internet. Articles were written about it and it was both widely embraced and widely condemned, by the so-called political-right and the political-left respectively.

Now, for anyone who does not know, NPC is a gaming term, which stands for ‘Non-Playable Character’. It means the character in a video game who is controlled by the game itself, and thus only has a set number of pre-programmed responses to any queries that are put to it. Consequently, the NPC often appears robotic and inhuman when interacted with for a long period of time. So, from a political perspective, the NPC meme is meant to represent many individuals on the progressive left, who all seems to parrot the same talking points without really understanding them, and who constantly respond with the same insults, accusations, and catch-phrases regardless of the situation that they find themselves in. In 2018, we all know the type, as they are impossible to miss in modern political discourse across the West.

However, this issue got me thinking: were the New Atheists the proto-NPCs? In fact, are they still NPCs now? I mean, in over a decade’s worth of interactions with the so-called New Atheists—not atheists, but New Atheists—it is undeniable that they often put forth nearly identical catch-phrases and responses. I mean, just ask yourself how often you heard these New Atheist talking points:

  • There is no evidence for God;
  • God is not great;
  • Religion poisons everything;
  • Faith means believing something without evidence;
  • Atheism is just a lack of belief;
  • If you don’t believe in evolution, you’re a fool;
  • If everything has a cause, then what caused God;
  • That’s just a God of the Gaps argument;
  • Well, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence;
  • Religion is just wish-fulfillment;
  • Jesus is a zombie;
  • Metaphysics is bunk, I believe in what works;
  • I want evidence, not arguments;
  • God is just a delusion;
  • Religion is a mind virus;
  • Why doesn’t God heal amputees; and, finally
  • God is evil or a dictator or a maniac.

And these are just some of the catch-phrases that are routinely put forward by New Atheist types. Of course, the problem is that when you dig down deep into each of these issues, it is apparent that many New Atheists simply don’t have much idea what they are talking about when they put out these slogans. Nor did they have much idea in the past either. That is what makes them potential NPCs. They are just repeating slogans that they could not really back up upon questioning.

So, this raises the question: Are the New Atheists NPCs? Well, upon assessing the available evidence, it’s only fair to say that some are and some aren’t.

Now, at this point, the more important question is whether the fact that some New Atheists are NPCs should lead us to labeling them as such? Well, on the one hand, it is true that worldview battles are not just fought on the plains of reason. It is also true that some people, including some New Atheists, are simply unreachable by reason alone. Consequently, the use of forceful rhetoric—which is what the NPC meme is—could be an appropriate apologetic strategy in some cases, precisely because it is emotionally powerful and points to the truth. Furthermore, a rhetorical punch can often be the thing needed to wake a person up from their philosophical slumber, so again, using such a meme against certain New Atheists could be appropriate in some cases. However, I would still recommend using such a strategy sparingly.

And in terms of objections against using harsh rhetoric as a Christian argumentative strategy, it can be pointed out that Christ calling the Pharisees a ‘brood of vipers’ and ‘whitewashed tombs’ is quite similar to a rhetorical label like NPC. Thus, it is hard to claim that employing the NPC meme against certain New Atheists is either unchristian or unwise. Granted, as said, it may largely be a prudential matter as to when and where to do so, but it is not necessarily illegitimate or immoral to do so.

So, if you think it might be beneficial to label some New Atheist an NPC, then meme away, because sometimes, that is the only strategy that will work.

Alright everyone, that’s it. Until next time, Godspeed.

Non Nobis Christus, Non Nobis, Sed Nomini Tuo Da Gloriam

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