Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"The dogmatic atheists of my youth"

From Mere Comments, David Mills reflects on why the confident atheists he encountered while growing up were ultimately unconvincing:
"....It was the secularist's dogmatism that put me off, and gave me some sympathy for the religious, as odd as I found them.

When the secularist declared that God did not exist or that a particular belief was incredible, I always wondered how they could be so sure. Friends and teachers would sweep away the supernatural with all the confidence of the Fundamentalists they laughed at, and with fewer arguments than the Fundamentalists offered. Beyond that old staple, the problem of evil, that is.

They would declare, for example, that Christianity was a myth based on the ridiculous claim that a man rose from the dead. When you're dead, you're dead. But since lesser men than we can't live with this reality, they invent the idea of an eternal paradise, and in the first century this wish was attached to a particularly popular preacher and was developed into what we know as Christianity.

This seemed to me likely, but still, I always wondered, how could they know? How could they be so sure that they knew the universe so intimately that they could rule out life after death? How could they know that the idea of an Incarnation was intrinsically impossible? How could they be so confident that the religious didn't sense something they didn't sense, like the possibility that we hope for a next world because we were made for that world?

I saw, as did many of my friends, that if God existed, he might not make himself known in the ways they required. How could we predict what God would offer us and why? If he existed, he didn't come to you on your terms. He came on his, and he might prove somewhat indifferent to your demands.

And even then I saw that he might make himself known in ways the secularist would refuse to see, and that the atheist may have made himself unable to see the evidence, no matter how clear it is. I had no confidence that my atheist friends and teachers wanted to meet God, because God was likely to prove excessively disruptive.
Source: Mere Comments: The Dogmatic Atheists of My Youth

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