There’s no reason to think that we’re better
There’s no reason to think that we’re worse
There’s no reason to think we’ve been chosen
Or are damned by some ultimate curse
There’s no call to put faith in the Torah
Or in any or all of its sequels
And without such a misguided compass
We are free to treat others as equals.
There’s no reason to think there is magic
There’s no need for an ultimate cause
There’s no need for some stellar mechanic
Who’s unburdened by natural laws
There’s no need to infer a creator
Looking on as creation unfurled
And without all those misguided questions
We are free to examine the world.
So today’s title comes from a bit of musing on a religious blog–they don’t have comments there, so I had to write here.
The author starts out largely in agreement with me. He defines (for purposes of this essay) atheism as the privative, the empty category of faith systems, the “none of the above“. It is a “lack of belief”. (The author notes that this view clearly does not encompass all of atheist thought–including things like atheism plus in his additional examples. He is addressing only the “lack of belief” view.) He points out that this non-belief, while it may be associated with any number of positive beliefs, is not itself a positive belief at all.
And this is true. But then, he makes some judgments that are poorly framed.
Atheism Is Not Pro-Reason or Pro-Science
This point is just a clarification of the prior section. Because atheism cannot offer support for any positive belief, atheism is not intrinsically pro-reason or pro-science. Individual atheists might be in favor of reason or science, but they are not in favor of reason or science because of their atheism.
True. More on this later.
Atheism is Not Morally Progressive
If atheism cannot offer support for any other belief, then atheists may or may not value the abolition of slavery, gay marriage, equal pay for women, abortion, communism, and greedy Wall Street bankers.
Also true. And more on this later as well.
Atheism Is A Comfortable Belief
Christians are often accused of believing in God because it is such a comfortable belief system, especially when we consider death.
Note, this stands in opposition to the recent “Where are the honest atheists?” moaners and groaners. Atheism, if the author is going to be consistent, cannot be seen as either comfortable or uncomfortable.
It depends on what you are comparing to. Ay, there’s the rub. Atheism is a comfortable belief, if you compare it to the notion of original sin, fallen humanity, and grace only at the whim of a deity known for death, destruction, and the threat of eternal punishment for simply not worshipping Him. And not, if you compare it to the notion of psalm 23.
But then, let’s be consistent. Atheism is not pro-reason or pro-science… unless our standard of comparison is religion, in which case, religion’s giant step back leaves atheism looking quite pro-science by comparison. And atheism is not morally progressive, unless our standard of comparison is religion once more.
Conclusion: “Atheism” Is Unworthy of Our Respect
Because this kind of atheism is such an impoverished position, unable to establish any other beliefs, and unable to support a pro-reason, pro-science, morally progressive worldview, it does not deserve our respect. Furthermore, because this atheism is clearly appealing to people who want to live selfishly, and not necessarily for the good of others, this “lack of belief” is not worthy of anyone’s respect.
As a Christian, I believe that every human being is made in the image of God, and that Jesus died out of love for every human being, and that God offers forgiveness to all who trust in Christ for salvation. Christianity ought to lead me to respect every person, which most certainly includes these atheists. So I believe in treating all people with respect.
Even though he concludes atheism is not worthy of our respect. Love the sinner, hate the sin. It’s the idea of atheism that is bankrupt, but even heathens deserve respect. Mind you, the notion of atheism being appealing to people who want to live selfishly does not stand up to scrutiny–witness any number of counter-examples from prosperity gospel to the recent study of religious beliefs of criminals justifying their actions (Jesus forgives all!). And mind you, “unable to establish any other beliefs” does not mean “incompatible with other beliefs”. The often-cited fact that there are scientists who are christians has been used to argue that christianity and science are compatible. Well, they are, if you compartmentalize; atheism, even “lack of belief only” atheism, need not even be compartmentalized. It is perfectly compatible with a pro-reason, pro-science, morally progressive worldview.
There are times when it is better to start out from nothing, when the alternative is worse. Better to avoid making up answers to questions, and to avoid making up questions that can’t be answered, than to take bold steps in the wrong direction.
Atheism, as just a lack of belief in god, doesn’t have much going for it (which is why we have A+, and humanism, and naturalism, and more). But at least it’s not actively telling lies and doing harm. And that makes it a better starting-off place than religion.