Recently, Muscular Unbelief has reared its head again. The latest generation of Muscular Unbelievers declare themselves openly with vigor, courage and no little insight.
The faith community, apparently, must be cowed into silence, buffaloed by the smug critic, bullied by the intellectual. The whole thing seems rather bovine.
Heh, Heh, Heh.
In a short series of blog messages, I want to respond in conversation with some of the points made by our cultural opponents in the Muscular Unbelief category. I want to do this to remove the fear factor for believers, as well as to counter the frantic evangelistic activities of the Muscular Unbelievers (My term), or atheists, or moral relativists or free thinkers.
First, as to why I personally would reject atheism (Muscular Unbelief), I have the usual three criticisms. That is, atheism is a pessimistic end view, an unreasonable world view and an inaccurate historical view.
Think about it. Atheism is a pessimistic end view. Quite literally, atheism holds out no hope for anyone in the end. There is no recognizable personal survival, no actuated vitalization, not even absorption into Brahman.
Christianity, my own particular fetish, offers hope for the willing believer. Christianity does not even set limits on the perimenters of willing belief. Nat Tracy, my Philosophy professor in college used to say, "It seems to be enough for God if we want to want to believe."
An early Christian named Paul agrees. He cites the Holy Spirit as authority when he writes, "For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God and it is by confessing with your mouth you are saved" (Romans 10:10). Jesus promises one confessing man the right to be with Him in paradise immediately, even while under the direst circumstances (Luke 23:43). If Jesus and Paul are either right or honest, there is something beyond this life, that is worth living.
Christianity holds out hope to any who will believe, while atheism holds out the same cold comfort to all. That is, this life is all there is and death is the end of it. This is a pessimistic end view, to say the least.
Then, atheism is an unreasonable world view. I use the adjective "unreasonable" advisedly and with some trepidation. To be "unreasonable" can be the activity of a demented mind or of a deficient mind, while many of the Muscular Unbelievers are neither demented nor mentally deficient.
Some of the opposition are some of the most brilliant scientific researchers of our time. Richard Dawkins helped to map the human genome. Richard says he does not feel he loses anything of value by refusing to regard anything as sacred. Interestingly, Dawkins calls himself a level six agnostic tending toward atheism, rather than an outright atheist. He admits he can neither prove nor disprove, to his own satisfaction, the existence of God.
Isaiah Berlin was one of the great thinkers of any time. Undistinguished in some ways, his pursuit of an intellectual basis for social policy was magnificent. Berlin believed all religion was ancient superstition carried over into modern times. Interestingly, when he sat by the bedside of his dying father and the elder Berlin asked him if he believed in an after life, Isaiah Berlin could not tell his father he did not believe in an afterlife.
Emminent scientists, distinguished thinkers and famed politicians deny the existence of a personal god of any kind. Francois Mitterand, former president of France, told Elie Wiesel he would believe in God if only he could meet someone whose life had been authentically changed for the better by their belief.
Ah, there is the rub and the reason I call atheism an unreasonable world view. That is, its practioners are not unreasonable but force themselves by their atheism into unreasonable acts or confessions. Dawkins cannot know or not know and chooses to say there is not. Berlin cannot tell his dying father he will die and perish. Mitterand will leave off his atheism if he can find one person whose faith has sustained him at all and he seriously tells this to Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor who credits his religious faith for his survival.
If an emminent scientist, a brilliant philosopher or a famous politician decry God and offer their own feelings as testimony of God’s absence, the contrary testimony of any equally prominent believer has to be worth as much, unless the Muscular Unbeliever insists their unbelief must be taken as more valid as a "faith statement."
Nor is it "reasonable" to dismiss Christianity (or other faith systems) because of incompetent adherents, if one adherent can be found who is not incompetent in his/her faith. Believers should not, for our purposes, argue we are "good" Christians, as though to be any other kind is permissible, but for the sake of reasonable argument, we have to admit there are plenty of "bad" Christians, who use liberty for license. However, if there is even one who practices the Faith for good and right, the argument that religion poisons everything goes by the wayside.
Nor is it reasonable to argue there is no God simply because one is unacquainted with God personally, if it is plain there are those in every culture in every age who affirm they have cognitively experienced God. The weight of their contention cannot be trivialized if, indeed, persons of whatever ilk, sacrifice willingly life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness for their Faith.
Nor is it reasonable to dispute the existence of God solely on the basis of reason unless one is totally reasonable, fully informed and capable of intense humility. If we meet someone like this, they may dismiss us as easily as they dismiss God for they will have become God. It is never reasonable to say, "I cannot know so I will not look."
Then, finally, atheism, at least as preached in our day in its Muscular Unbelief, is an inaccurate historical view. Christopher Hitchens, for instance, titles his little book, "God is not Great…How Religion Poisons Everything…"
Hitchens is another one of those Brits, losing their cultural identity and so determined that Americans shall do so as well. I want to write a little book titled, "Britain is not great…How England poisons everything…"
Hitchens cites the religious unrest of the Middle East as evidence that religion makes humans militaristic (do not tell this to the Quakers, Mennonites, et al) and is good reason to ban all religion. He does not cite the peaceful examples of religionists across the world’s history, excuses Buddhists and Hindus as non-religious and demands Judaism, Islam and Christianity be banned.
He fails to note the genocidal mass murders of the last century have all been secular atheists; Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong and the Kmer Rouge in Cambodia. Genocidal mass murderers and secular atheists, each and every one.
Atheism is an inaccurate historical view, as well as an unreasonable world view and a pessimistic end view. I would have to reject atheism on those points even if I did not claim Christ.