In reading blog commentaries posted by “evangelical atheists”- those that feel the need to attack faith, rather than just disavow themselves of it- I seem to always come away saddened and sometimes a bit infuriated. It amazes me how these folks, often so fond of touting their own intellect, repeatedly rely on the same stale “religion is divisive and responsible for all the world’s ills” sawhorse as the crux of their argumentation.
What they fail to realize, probably because “failing to realize” is frequently their stock in trade, is that so much of what is good in our society has been accomplished precisely because of faith. The abolition of slavery in Britain and later in the US; the children’s rights movement of the 19th century; women’s suffrage; the civil rights movement under Dr. King- all motivated at some fundamental level by courageous, committed (and yes, sane) Christians who desired to see God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
People of faith feed the poor, they clothe children, they organize relief from flood and famine. With all due respect, I’ve never seen an “Atheist Children’s Fund” or witnessed teams of atheists flooding a tornado-ravaged town with supplies, medical care and compassion. Yes, religion has been used as an excuse to mask self-serving and often vile behavior over the centuries; and even into modern society. Then again religion, even Christianity, is a man-made device and what convention of mankind hasn’t been exploited to these ends? Such exploitation was what my father, a United Methodist minister, frequently called “downstream” behavior because it does not taint the source. When infinite reality is left to be interpreted by finite minds, troubles will arise. However, this does not, in any way, diminish the greatness of the infinite. As C.S. Lewis says-
“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”
God has called us to something more than ourselves and something completely contrary to our own base natures. Faith in this calling has sustained soldiers in distant wars; it has awarded dignity and purpose to the disenfranchised; it has provided comfort to a grieving parent; it has given hope to the dying. To be an atheist is to live without these things and, some would believe, to live without grace. I pass no judgment on atheism or atheists; I’ve been there. However, I so often encounter those among that group who feel the need to consistently berate God as a fairy tale, brand faith as something silly and who consistently complain, aggressively and with arrogance, at having other people’s “close-minded beliefs” imposed upon them. This in turn compels me to ponder how it is that, in all their self-proclaimed wisdom, these evangelical atheists fail to see that particular irony in their own words.