Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Concern-Trolling For The Sake Of Atheists

Kevin Drum's reply in an exchange on the social costs and benefits of atheism versus religion offers an interesting point-of-view, one encountered far too often on the Internet. While I have issues with the so-called "New Atheists", they are, for the most part, intellectual rather than "spiritual" or "religious". That is to say, I have no worries one way or another that they pose a danger to my own or any one else's faith (precisely because the big three - Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens - are all recycling the same arguments that atheists have been touting for centuries, adding in a kind of nonsensical, barely-veiled hostility that is kind of frightening).

When "defenders of the faith" read Drum, say, or some other person who offers the personal view that, not only does religion not play any part in his or her life, but this individual really feels nothing lacking because of it, for some reason they take to their keyboards to point out that there is, indeed, an ache, a hollow place in their lives they aren't even aware of. I might take issue with this or that point in a discussion with Drum on the net social benefits of Christianity in the west; I would never insist, however, that his life is hollow and meaningless without him even understanding it to be so.

Part of this stems from my own sense of the give-and-take on the Internet, and my own sense of my beliefs. As I have said on numerous occasions, I am not interested in arguing with people. I explain, to be sure, why I believe or live the way I do; I cannot for the life of me imagine anything I have to say is so convincing to others that they would immediately change their whole lives, shouting, "Yes! Yes!". If someone out there reads my words and thinks, "Hmmm . . .", that's enough for me. On the other hand, I'm not interested in apologetics or proselytizing. I figure if someone has no personal, psychological yearning for specific religious beliefs, that's their business, and it certainly isn't mine to show them how empty their lives are.

Which does not mean that my own participation in the larger life of faith is meaningless for me. On the contrary. I just take it for granted that, like everything from liking wax beans to modern art, religious belief is for some and not for others.

At the heart of so much Christian-concern-trolling when atheists explain themselves stems, I am convinced, from what theologian Jurgen Moltmann calls "a pusillanimous faith". Too cowardly to admit its own weaknesses, it compensates by being belligerent and triumphal. Me, I figure even if no one on planet earth or the rest of the Universe believed in God has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not God exists. Or has anything to do with salvation, or Divine Providence, or anything else. The human race will go the way of the dodo, the passenger pigeon, and about 100 species a day at some point, either through our own stupidity or the ravages of time and biology; that does not mean that God will cease to exist, that the death and resurrection of Jesus has no efficacy for the eternal Divine plan.

So, if Drum is living a happy, fulfilled life, who am I to insist there is a hollow place in his life where God should sit? As far as I'm concerned, God really isn't hurt by Drum's lack of belief, and Drum might just be living the life set out for him by God precisely as someone insouciant about religious belief in general, and for himself in particular. There are far more things to worry about than whether or not someone believes in God.

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More