Atheism & Civilization

7338586-3x2-700x467The thinness of the new atheism is evident in its approach to our civilization, which until recently was religious to its core. To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy. And in my own view, the absence of religious faith, provided that such faith is not murderously intolerant, can have a deleterious effect upon human character and personality. If you empty the world of purpose, make it one of brute fact alone, you empty it (for many people, at any rate) of reasons for gratitude, and a sense of gratitude is necessary for both happiness and decency. For what can soon, and all too easily, replace gratitude is a sense of entitlement. Without gratitude, it is hard to appreciate, or be satisfied with, what you have: and life will become an existential shopping spree that no product satisfies.

To regret religion is to regret Western civilization.

— Theodore Dalrymple

Wishful Thinking

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Sigmund Freud popularized the notion that belief in God is simply a projection of a deep-seated wish for protection, and that theists create God in their parent’s image. He insisted that God exists only in our minds, and he called upon people to grow up and give up the “fairy tales of religion.”

However, the wish-fulfillment argument works both ways. Who is to say that the atheist does not arrive at his belief in the non-existence of God because he wants no one to interfere with his life? He prizes his autonomy, and atheism appeals to his deep-seated wish to be left alone.

A person’s attitude toward God may well arise from a wish for or a wish against God’s existence.

And, far from ruling out the existence of something, “wishful thinking” may actually be evidence for its existence. C.S. Lewis argues: “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Well known atheist, Stephen Hawking, declared, “Religion is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” It may well be the other way around—that atheism is a fairy story for people afraid of the light.

The refusal to acknowledge the existence of light does not remove the existence of the sun. We cannot blot it out. Those who dwell in darkness may choose to be obstinate, but it only makes the final inevitable encounter with reality highly unpleasant.

–J. O. Schulz

Faith in Reverse

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Absolute atheism starts in an act of faith in reverse gear and is a full-blown religious commitment. Here we have the first internal inconsistency of contemporary atheism: it [often] proclaims that all religion must necessarily vanish away, and it is itself a religious phenomenon.

–Jacques Maritain,
The Range of Reason

The Cult of Reason

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You meet a thousand times in life with those who, in dealing with any religious question, make at once their appeal to reason, and insist on forthwith rejecting aught that lies beyond its sphere, without however being able to render any clear account of the nature and proper limits of the knowledge thus derived, or of the relation in which such knowledge stands to the religious needs of men. I would invite you, therefore, to inquire seriously whether such persons are not really bowing down before an idol of the mind, which, while itself of very questionable worth, demands as much implicit faith from its worshipers as divine revelation itself.

–Theodor Christlieb
Modern Doubt and Christian Belief