The On Faith dialogue had an apropos question this week:
Atheism is enjoying a certain vogue right now. Why do you think that is? Can there be a productive conversation between believers and atheists, and if so over what kinds of issues?
We’re in vogue! You hear that, everyone?! Coolest. Religious. Minority. Ever.
What are the expert panelists saying about this topic?
Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo, professor of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College:
I never met an atheist I could like. Surely, somewhere on this planet, there is a friendly atheist, but I haven’t bumped into one yet.
*ahem* Hi. I’m Hemant. Please read the banner at the top of this page. Or use this thing called Google.
John Dominic Crossan, professor emeritus in the religious studies department at DePaul University in Chicago. (Where I go for grad school, incidentally):
A-theism validates theism by having only a negative to replace it. What atheism needs is a positive vision which would evacuate the need for that negative title. What might it be?
Yes… just like a-FlyingSpaghettiMonsterism validates the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
The positive vision for atheism is a world where everyone is equal, rational, and able to live a good life. That doesn’t happen when you have one group condemning another for believing in a different invisible being. It doesn’t happen when you think poor people in Third World countries need a church to fix their problems instead of focusing solely on physical health issues.
The award for least original thought ever comes from syndicated political columnist Cal Thomas:
It takes more faith not to believe in God than to believe in Him. It is also intellectually lazy. You have to believe the vastness of the universe “happened” without a Designer and that unique things like fingerprints and snowflakes occurred by pure chance.
An atheist wagers his or her present and eternal future that he or she is right. If the atheist is right and there is no God, there are no consequences. But if the atheist is wrong and there is a God and a Heaven for those who come to Him on His terms, and a Hell for those who reject Him, then that has the most important consequences.
Here is someone who doesn’t understand that “Snow is commonly formed when water vapor undergoes deposition high in the atmosphere at a temperature of less than 0°C (32°F).” (Thanks Wikipedia!)
And Pascal’s Wager (the common name for Thomas’ argument) is shot down here.
Isn’t it fascinating that the voice of God always sounds suspiciously like one’s own voice? When politicians start citing God as the authority for whatever they want to do, they are usually promoting some policy that defies human reason.
There is still a deep prejudice against atheists in this country, and this prejudice is expressed in the ridiculous notion that belief in God is some sort of qualification for public office.
What we ought to be talking about are decent human values that can be subscribed to by Americans of any faith or no faith. I could not care less whether any elected official believes in God: I care about what he or she does on earth. As an atheist, I believe precisely what the Bible says on this subject: “By their fruits ye shall know them.”
I like Susan Jacoby…
How would you answer the question originally posed (“Can there be a productive conversation between believers and atheists, and if so over what kinds of issues?”)?
I believe there can be a dialogue. And it can be positive. But it needs to focus on what people do with their beliefs, not what those beliefs are.
And what we do must be supported by hard data whenever possible. Relying on faith in any way simply doesn’t give us definitive, reliable answers.
This is to say, we can have the God/NoGod discussions, but we won’t reach a compromise anytime soon. How productive are those? Not so much between two people adamantly on opposite sides. But they can be useful to those in the middle.
(Thanks to Krystalline Apostate for the link.)
[tags]On Faith, atheism, atheist, Christian, Christianity, Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo, Brooklyn College, Friendly Atheist, Google, John Dominic Crossan, DePaul University, Chicago, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Cal Thomas, God, Wikipedia, Pascal’s Wager, Susan Jacoby, Freethinkers: History of American Secularism[/tags]