This isn’t a new observation around here, of course, but it’s interesting to see an atheist come out and say it—in this case, conservative commentator S. E. Cupp; and in case you think it’s because she’s a conservative, in my observation, conservative atheists (such as the Denver Post‘s David Harsanyi) are no better about this than liberal ones.
Which brings me to the problem with modern atheism, embodied by the likes of Harris and Hitchens, authors of “The End of Faith” and “God Is Not Great,” respectively. So often it seems like a conversation ender, not a conversation starter. And the loudest voices of today’s militant atheism, for all their talk of rational thought, don’t seem to want to do too much thinking at all. As James Wood wrote in The New Yorker, “The new atheists do not speak to the millions of people whose form of religion is far from the embodied certainties of contemporary literalism. Indeed, it is a settled assumption of this kind of atheism that there are no intelligent religious believers.” . . .
Though more than 95% of the world finds some meaning in faith, God-hating comic Bill Maher shrugs this off as a “neurological disorder.” His version of a quest for knowledge was a series of scathing jokes at the faithful’s expense in the documentary “Religulous.” . . .
It’s these snarky and condescending rejections, not of faith itself but of those who profess it, that reflect a total unwillingness to learn something new about human nature, the world around us and even of science itself. While the neoatheists pay only cursory attention to dismantling arguments for God, they spend most of their time painting his followers as uncultured rubes. The fact that religion has inexplicably persisted, even despite Copernicus, Darwin and the Enlightenment, doesn’t seem to have much sociological meaning for them.
The truth is, folks like Maher and Silverman don’t want to know about actual belief—in fact, they are much more certain about the nature of the world than most actual believers, who understand that a measure of doubt is necessary for faith. They want to focus on the downfall of a gay pastor or the Nativity scene at a mall. . . .
When the esteemed theologian David Martyn Lloyd-Jones asked C.S. Lewis when he would write another book, Lewis responded, “When I understand the meaning of prayer.” It was an acknowledgment that he—a thinker with a much sharper mind than, say, Maher’s—didn’t know everything. I implore my fellow atheists to take this humility to heart. There’s still a lot to learn, but only if you’re not too busy being a know-it-all.