Jeffery Johnson, “From Friendly Atheism to Friendly Natural Theology: The Case for Modesty in Religious Epistemology” Minerva – An Internet Journal of Philosophy Vol. 7 2003.
Philosophical theists argue with great ingenuity and sophistication that there is excellent evidence in support of the existence of the God of western theism. Philosophical atheists argue with equal skill that the evidence is negative. Both sides can’t be right. But, this seems to imply that one camp is guilty of serious epistemological error. I explore in this essay a way of understanding good theological evidence that mitigates charges of intellectual error or blindness. According to a position that Rowe calls friendly atheism, the atheist can argue that the relevant evidence supports his or her view, but that theists are rationally justified in believing that God exists in spite of the intense suffering that manifest in this world. I will argue that friendly atheism, and more generally friendly natural theology, when articulated in more detail, and with great care, represents an important metaphilosophical insight about use of evidence in theological contexts.