The Rev. Dan Erickson, Senior Pastor at Chisholm Baptist Church, has managed to publish an op-ed in the Hibbing, Minnesota Daily Tribune titled “It’s not easy to be an atheist.” Apparently, the Daily Tribune is so desperate for content that they’ll publish tired religious cliches, and Rev. Erickson has never actually talked to an atheist.
In his book, “When God Goes to Starbucks,” Paul Coppan notes that there is plenty of evidence we, as human beings, have a disposition to believe in some type of deity or spiritual reality. Thus, he says, if someone wants to overcome this predisposition to believe in God and be an atheist, it may be necessary to make some intentional choices in order to avoid being a “default theist.”
I’ve never read Coppan’s book; it seems to be a collection of apologetics for Christians to use in every day situations. I already disagree with him. Many of us have no such predisposition — despite being brought up Lutheran, being exposed to to all of the doctrine and dogma, when I was asked to accept the church’s belief in a deity, I couldn’t. I guess I can say that at least some of us have no predisposition to believe at all.
I would also point out that believing in a specific faith seems to require an awful lot of indoctrination — it’s not as if children born in China suddenly, as their first words, start professing a belief in Jesus without being first told by authority figures that they should. How does Rev. Erickson explain all these people — somewhere between 10 and 15% of the American population — who despite all the cultural bellowing about Christianity still reject it?
Erickson then give us four prerequisites to be an atheist.
First, the aspiring atheist should sequester him/herself in urban settings and avoid the majesty, power and beauty of nature. The Bible says, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies display his craftsmanship.”
I’m an atheist, and I’m a biologist, for dog’s sake. I suspect I know more about nature than some small-town Bible-walloper. I also don’t think Morris, Minnesota counts as “urban”. My town is a third of the size of his, so I get to dismiss him as too cosmopolitan to actually appreciate country living.
Second, someone who does not want to believe in God should avoid spending time with religious believers and taking their experiences seriously.
Oh, trust me, I would love to spend less time exposed to Christian believers. Does he even realize that Christians are an overwhelming majority in this country? That if I turn on the radio or the TV, I’m going to be incessantly dunned with Christian messages?
I don’t believe in God for many reasons, but one is that many of his followers seem to be smug wankers oblivious to reality.
Third, one who wants to maintain his/her atheism should avoid urgent or life-threatening situations. During those times people are tempted to call upon a supernatural outside agent for help. There seem to be very few atheists in battlefield foxholes or in classrooms during final tests.
So god is a supernatural agent to rescue people as a very last resort? It seems to me that if god was such a good protector of soldiers, they wouldn’t bother digging those foxholes. That they do suggests that they don’t have that much faith.
I think my students would also testify that praying at final exams is not as much help as studying for them.
Also, I must be an completely anomalous human being, because I’ve been shot at, I’ve been in a few desperate situations in which I feared for my life, and I took a whole lot of exams, and never once prayed. It seems like such a silly and pointless thing to do, you know?
Fourth, a person wanting to avoid theism should hole up in a university-like setting, where atheists tend to congregate. They do so not because they are more intelligent than theists, but because this setting allows for greater energy devoted to explaining away God’s existence than most.
Yes, isn’t it unusual that the loci that attract the most intelligent men and women in the country always also seems to have the highest concentration of atheists? Erickson can argue that it’s because they have the free time to argue about religion — but that just means that when educated people argue about gods, they tend to conclude that they are nonexistent.
Also, in all of my years of training, guess how many lectures to rationalize away gods I have received? One hint: it’s the same as the number of lectures I’ve given in my classes to explain why there is no god.
Answer: zero. Did Rev. Erickson ever attend a secular college?
No friends, being an atheist isn’t easy. I am also convinced any effort to maintain atheism is unwise, because theism is really a much better choice. Belief in God, especially the God described in the Bible, provides a foundation for an individual to experience purpose, meaning, love and hope. And, there is every reason to believe this God actually does exist.
And those reasons are…?
Oh. That’s the end. Isn’t it odd how they always insist that there are so many good reasons to believe in a deity, yet somehow they always run dry before they can deliver them?
Maybe I should swing by Hibbing to deliver a lecture to his congregation. They seem to be lacking in intelligent input.