The final part will come tomorrow!
miller asked me to comment on “What I think the atheist movement gets wrong?”
My first response was to say “Yikes! This looks like a potential landmine if I ever saw one.” I don’t think I want to get into criticizing you guys or telling you everything that I disagree with. So instead I’ll just offer some advice that I think applies not just to atheists, but to Christians as well, and to anyone who desires genuine and constructive dialogue with others while still holding true to their own views.
Basically there are two ways to hold to one’s beliefs (again whether atheist or Christian or something else):
1) You can say “This is what I believe and it is the only valid/rational/intelligent/moral belief that a person could hold.”
2) You could say: “This is what I believe, but I can see that there are other possible valid/rational/intelligent/moral options out there. This just happens to be the option that makes the most sense to me right now.”
I hope you all have noticed that I obviously try to take the latter approach. I have my own beliefs – what makes the most sense to me – but I want to remain open to the possibility that I could be wrong so that I can continue to dialogue and learn from others who think differently from me.
This approach also has the added benefit of improving the public perception of one’s views. If some of you really are concerned about changing the public perception that atheists are arrogant or rude then it might really help to start learning how to frame your beliefs in terms of the second approach. I can guarantee that more people will be inclined to seriously consider your views if you give them the space to not have to automatically agree with you to avoid being called irrational, stupid or whatever. (BTW, I’d most certainly give this advice to Christians as well. We obviously don’t usually do a very good job of following the second approach either.)
Of course, to take the second approach with any degree of authenticity one would actually have to agree that your own views are not the only valid option. It won’t do any good to only pretend to respect other views. To do this requires a certain degree of what I call epistemic humility. We have to come to the realization that despite all of our intelligence, when it comes right down to it, we human beings don’t really know that much. We have to come back to what Socrates told us so many millenia ago: “He is wise who knows that he is not wise.” In other words, we need to recognize the limits of our own reason and admit that while we have many possibilities with varying degrees of probability, very often we are faced with two or more possibilities which we have no conclusive way to decide between.
In my opinion theism and atheism are two such possibilities since ultimately we are talking about the existence or non-existence of entities beyond the bounds of the observable universe. There is no final proof one way or the other, and most of the arguments basically come down to how one interprets the facts at hand. In other words, we just don’t know for sure one way or the other and each of us simply chooses the way that seems best to us, so in my opinion a little more humility on both sides is in order.
And ultimately I think we’ll all be better off if we realize that agreement on ethical issues (e.g. justice, peace, diversity, compassion, etc.) are far more important than agreement on metaphysical issues. There is far too much suffering and injustice in the world for those of us who are concerned about such things to go on demonizing each other based on whether or not we happen to believe in God. It’s time for us to start working together on those things we share in common.
[tags]atheist, atheism, Pastor, Mike Clawson, Christian, Socrates, God[/tags]
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