Apparently upset by my link, two days ago, to an article in which an atheist faulted certain other atheists for arrogance and unpleasantness, a commenter on Facebook (himself, I gather, an atheist) cited a statement by the late atheist firebrand Madalyn Murray O’Hair:
“An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that deed must be done instead of prayer said. AN ATHEIST STRIVES FOR INVOLVEMENT IN LIFE and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war eliminated.”
I was very struck by this, not merely because Ms. O’Hair is so very problematic a character that I’m rather surprised to see anybody citing her favorably any more, at least without very distinct caveats and a bit of embarrassment — curiously, one of her sons ultimately became a Baptist minister, for which she harshly repudiated him — but for at least two other reasons:
1) I’m often told that atheism isn’t a religion or a unified body of thought, but simply a rejection of theism. Yet the quotation from Ms. O’Hair seems to come perilously close to defining a single atheist dogmatic position.
2) In fact, for all the posturing of many secularists — I’ve had to put up with complacent preening for decades, and I know that I’m not alone — about how I and other theists yearn for pie in the sky when we die while they, more courageous, more intellectually honest, and simply better than me and my ilk, seek to live fully in the here and now and to build a better world based on Reality, the actual evidence (as summarized by such well-regarded scholars as Arthur Brooks, Mary Eberstadt, and Rodney Stark, to name only three) comes nowhere near sustaining secularist pretensions on this score. Quite the contrary, in fact. It turns out that theists tend to build churches and hospitals, to pray and to work, while secularists, on the whole . . . well, not so much.