Thursday, March 10, 2011

An arrogant incredulity

Rabbi David Wolpe wonders why his posts on religious sites always seem to draw responses from angry atheists. "It is curious," he says, "that a religion site draws responses mostly from atheists, and that the atheists are very unhappy." He suggests four possible answers to Why Are Atheists So Angry?:
  1. Atheists genuinely resent the evil that religion has done. No one can seriously deny that religion has been guilty of wickedness in this world and has provided cover for wickedness. I refer not only to abusers who hide under the cloak of clergy, but religious persecutions, the stifling of speech and dissent, the mistreatment of women — the crimes are legion. While as a believer I think there is much more to be said about this topic, it is certainly reasonable for people to be angry at religion for its abuses, particularly people who have themselves been victims.
  2. They are convinced that religion is a fairy tale made up of whole cloth that impedes science/progress/rational thought. No avalanche of counterexamples, from noted scientists who are believers to the way in which the scientific method has flourished in the monotheistic west (as opposed to say, the non-monotheistic eastern societies) will serve to dissuade. That which is understood to have happened to Galileo is all, apparently, one needs to know.
  3. Here is where I make my bid for more obloquy to be visited on my head. There is an arrogant unwillingness to engage with religion's serious thinkers. Too many atheists assume that a couple of insults will substitute for argument. They suffer from the incredulity of those who cannot believe anyone would disagree. It reminds me of the most self-assured of the faithful, who suffer the same intellectual imperialism. "I am right," a statement we all identify with from time to time, becomes "therefore you are stupid for disagreeing." A disagreeable sentiment, to say the least. And a narrow, thoughtless one, to boot.
  4. Finally, I will go so far as to say that there is sometimes in the atheist a want of wonder. In a world in which so much is still not understood, in which multiple universes are possible, in which we have not pierced the mystery of consciousness, to discount the supernatural is to lack the openness to mystery that should be a human hallmark. There is so much we do not know. Religious people too should acknowledge this truth. Epistemological humility — the acknowledgment that we are at the very first baby steps of understanding — is far wiser than arrogance on either side. After all, we comprehend with our brains, and who knows how limited are our only organs of understanding? .... [more]
Rabbi David Wolpe: Why Are Atheists So Angry?