08 May 2007

Mark Shea on "The Incoherence of Atheism"

Mark Shea on "The Incoherence of Atheism":

Indeed, one standard rhetorical ploy of atheists is to say, “Christians arrogantly say their God is the true God, but all these other religions can also point to claims of the supernatural and Christians denounce those as false. So why can’t I dismiss the Christian claims too?”

Two things are prompted by such an argument. The first, at the intellectual level, is to point out that the Christian is quite free to believe that every religion in the world has gotten something right (some more than others). You are even free to believe that adherents of other traditions have had real encounters with the supernatural (whether divine or demonic). However, if you are an atheist, you have to believe, a priori, that 99.999% of the human race is absolutely wrong about the thing that matters to it most. Christians have the luxury of being able to be humble before the facts. When it looks for all the world like the apostles’ behavior is best explained by the Resurrection, Christians don’t have to resort to lame theories like psychedelic bread mold at the Last Supper to account for it. When thousands (including atheists) witness the miracle of the sun dancing at Fatima, Christians don’t have to attribute it to mass hallucination. Atheist ideology has to take these desperate measures, being constrained to do so by its own ideology.

That said, it should also be noted that this tendency of atheism to cling to dogma in the face of countervailing evidence reveals something even more important about the cramped ideology of atheism.


Whatever that is, it is not the voice of reason. Rather, it is proof that the artillery of the intellect is subject to the will. That artillery can be ranged to defend against truth just as much as to defend truth. For atheism is often, though not always, driven by anger, pain or disappointment. Atheists (especially former believers) are quite often people who feel betrayed by God and who react by trying to punish him for the abusive relationship they were in or the treacherous way their pastor dealt with them or God’s failure to live up to their childhood expectations. Often they have very deep wounds. And often those wounds are caused by us believers. Not a few atheists are what they are because a Christian has behaved very badly...


Indeed, atheism is a very diverse phenomenon. Many atheists are, theologically, fundamentalists under the skin, often having the most childish and literalistic notions of what Scripture says (Richard Dawkins is an especially egregious example here). Some atheists are simply confirmed in cold hard pride. Some are honest people who just can’t, for the life of them, see what theists are talking about when they speak of their belief in and experience of the supernatural. And that just scratches the surface of the various causes of atheism.

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