Sunday, August 26, 2007


The fool hath said in his heart, no God.
  -Ps 14:1 [KJV]*

'No God' symbol Public professions of atheism are becoming more common. In many cases, they are also becoming much more militant, demanding prohibitions against religious activities, the removal of religious symbols and names, etc. Moreover, a number of books have recently appeared that could be characterized as atheistic evangelism, seeking to win the minds and hearts of their readers over to atheistic beliefs and values.

Such atheistic activism strikes me as highly oxymoronic. How so? Glad you asked...

If I were convinced that God did not exist, I'm not sure what shape my priorities and values would take, but they would definitely pertain to this life on earth. I might be concerned with a peaceful home life, or a safe neighborhood. I might focus on earning a comfortable living, or staying as healthy and fit as possible. I might be interested in acquiring fame or political influence. But if I knew that God did not exist, I would definitely not be pursuing any other-worldly or spiritual goals.

I might secretly envy believers' faith, or I might snicker at their simple-mindedness. I might even despise them for their foolishness. But I can't see why I would want to bother to interfere with their religious practices. As long as I am not adversely affected by it, why should I care? Display all the religious symbols that you want, and I will happily ignore them.

And why on earth would I try to convert believers over to unbelief? What would be my motive? The motive for Christian evangelism is the hope of salvation beyond death, to avoid Hell and gain Heaven, and to help others to do the same. Without this eternal, other-worldly dimension, Christian evangelism makes no sense. Thus, atheistic 'evangelism' makes no sense, either.

Ergo, the kind of evangelism and activism we are witnessing cannot reasonably be ascribed to true atheism. Ah, but perhaps what we have here is pseudo-atheism. Perhaps what we are seeing is an increasing number of militantly active people who realize that God does indeed exist -- and who hate Him.

*The KJV actually reads thus:
    The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
with the words 'There is' italicized to indicate that they do not appear in the original, but were added by the English translators. Think about it.


Anonymous said...

I congratulate, the remarkable answer...

Anonymous said...

Well put, but you don't seem to realize that these modern atheists DO care. They are sounding the alarm: we live in an age when true believers are seeking to acquire WMDs in order to further their cause. It's no longer an option to say "go ahead, believe your superstitions, that's fine with me." I think that's the point people like Dawkins and Harris and hitchens are trying to make. But everyone gets too wound up in the existence of God debate, and as we see in your article, misses their most important message.

Jerry said...

I suppose that is a possible, if unlikely, explanation for 'evangelistic' atheism.

But, even leaving aside the problem of seeing religious terrorists as "true believers", your argument still doesn't answer. Even if such paranoia were justified, a genuine fear of religious terrorism would not rationally lead to lawsuits and diatribes over such things as peaceful displays of religious symbols, public prayers, etc. Indeed, such militant pseudo-atheism may provoke a zealous religious response that would otherwise have lain dormant.

I hope you are not proposing a simplistic future Utopia (a la John Lennon's "Imagine") where, having set all religious bigotry aside, this Brave New World achieves peace and harmony for all of humanity. That would be a superstition to top all superstitions! And a most dangerous fantasy.

Better to fear a world in which God is forgotten or ignored. The present world may be a dangerous place. A world devoid of religious sensibilities, with no religious checks on Man's selfish nature, would be far far worse.

To return to my original point: I have to think that a true atheist - one who does not hate God, but merely denies His existence - would recognize the above principle. He would acknowledge that true religion tends to tame Man's otherwise savage tendencies. Thus he would seek neither to destroy nor to stir up religious fervor by a zealous attack against religious practices.

Or - he may actually be a pseudo-atheist practicing his own religious or anti-religious zealotry.