Let’s Prove This Atheist Wrong

At HuffPo, Staks Rosch claims, “Let’s face it, religion is dying.” His reason, because religious people lack humility, imagination, and curiosity. I will say that those three traits — particularly the latter two — are characteristics that I strive for in my writing and blogging.

Rosch, of course, caricatures religious believers. And I’ve rarely seen those three characteristics displayed in the work of the New Atheists. Nevertheless, his points are worth considering.

As for imagination, atheists tend to be the ones imagining the vastness of our cosmos while religious believers are trapped within their holy book(s). Lawrence Krauss is imagining nothing, and even that takes more imagination than the limited concept of a personified deity.

And lastly, there is curiosity — This coming from religious believers who punctuate every question with, “God did it.” But don’t take my word for it; let’s look at the so called word of God. Perhaps the good Rabbi can remind us what happened in the story of Babel. Oh right, according to the story, people got curious and wanted to build a tower to Heaven and God knocked it down, scattered the people all over the planet, and scrambled up their language skills so that they couldn’t communicate with each other to try again. Fortunately for us, we have Google Translate now. Oh and we not only built towers high into the sky, but we also sent space shuttles to the moon. No Heaven was found.

via Staks Rosch: What Theism Lacks: Humility, Imagination, and Curiosity.

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  • joe carson

    Hi Tony,

    I attended Wild Goose last Sat/Sunday, I went alone this year because Karen really is not that much into it and I wanted to chat up as many people as I could with my perceptions that Christias priveleged to be religious professionals are too afraid/greedy to “rock boats” in how Christians privileged to have membership status in a recognized secular profession make a buck, most specifically by taking any exception to the lack of any collective and intentional Christian influence, salt and light or otherwise, in any secular profession.

    So here I am, Tony, as over-the-top/delusional as it may sound, an influential member of mankind’s largest and most global profession of engineering as well as the federal civil service, and Christianity really has little to say to me, other than to be kind and witness to my cubicle mates, give generously to my local church, arnd trust God will reward me in heaven for all my “suffering for righteousness’ sake” in my profession and employment in federal civil service.

    I don’t take it personally, the Church just has little to say consistent with its institutional self-interet and the self-interest of Christian religious professionals who comprise those institutions. I’m suprised the new atheists don’t make this point, but there we are.


    • ME

      Hey Joe,

      Maybe the institutions as a whole have lost their saltiness but there are a lot of pockets of people out there that haven’t. Hope you don’t get too discouraged!

  • “And I’ve rarely seen those three characteristics displayed in the work of the New Atheists.” Then you are not reading enough, or with an extreme bias. By definition, atheism IS curiosity, it says, ‘I don’t know, let’s look discover it together’. “Imagination” is more difficult to measure and define, but I see that also and Rosch explains it pretty well. “Humility also is part of the definition of atheism, we say, ‘Nothing can be proven 100%. We rely on a system that relies on premises that have been proven to work. If evidence arrives that demonstrates those premises are incorrect, we will humbly admit our error’.

    • Evelyn

      Atheists say they are 100% sure that there is no god. That is the definition of atheism. Agnostics say that they don’t know if there is a god. That is humility.

      “We rely on a system that relies on premises that have been proven to work. If evidence arrives that demonstrates those premises are incorrect, we will humbly admit our error.”

      How about the premise that all Christians interpret the bible literally which is what Rosch is banking on. There are Jews and Christians who don’t interpret the bible literally including Yoffie whose views are expressed in the article that Rosch is attacking.

      I think that Rosch proves that he has no humility, imagination, or curiosity when he addresses Yoffie’s argument with an attack on, basically, religious fundamentalism. Since Yoffie does not express fundamentalist viewpoints in his blog, Rosch is off the mark. The ideology of the new atheists is generally expressed by negating fundamentalism without expressing a positive ideology.

      This is not to say that atheists don’t have a positive ideology because if they didn’t many of them would be in jail (without something to believe in, people generally turn criminal). Take Richard Dawkins, for example. He spends most of his time negating fundamentalism and pointing out the problems with it. On the other hand, his TED talk reflects his positive ideology which is basically a worship of the power of science. That’s fine for him because he has been a practicing scientist for much of his life and a tenured professor which makes investigation of his faith possible for him. For those atheists who aren’t practicing scientists, you just have to believe what his tells you about his own infallibility. How is this any different from obeying a religious hierarchy? It really isn’t any different at all because you have to give over your personal authority. It’s like scientists are the new priests with their handle on the core of knowledge and you are just supposed to tithe to them so they can keep doing what they are doing without understanding the details of how they work.

      • thread_of_fire

        “Atheists say they are 100% sure that there is no god.”

        I’ll just stop there for a moment. I’d like to correct that for you.

        Especially the 100% bit. It is perfectly common and accurate for atheists to say they are quite convinced that no god exits, yet still say 100% certainty is not what they have. Atheist means something more like: “I don’t know for certain but I don’t think it is very likely there is a god, and I live my life as if there were no god.”

        Here is the Dawkins scale for what can be called atheist etc.

        Also, Greta Christina here has some great posts for people who want to see these things talked out by atheists themselves:

        Here is one of hers (apparently from years ago) when she was first getting to understand the distinction between atheist and agnostic:

        • Brian P.

          Indeed. That “100% percent” commend is sadly misaligned with what many non-theists actually do/don’t believe–an old canard that perhaps should be discard to aid getting further in conversation.

          Also, I wonder if this one is a strawman too: “Without something to believe in, people generally turn criminal.” I wonder if this one has provoked many non-theists to hop on the “God without God” bus.

  • “while religious believers are trapped within their holy book(s).”
    “religious people lack humility, imagination, and curiosity.”
    Wow, Really?

    We have been so blessed as a society with the freedom many “trapped religious believers” have found in their Holy books. 1. Nicholas Copernicus, 2. Isaac Newton, 3. Francis Collins, 4. George Washington Carver Etc… I wonder how much more freedom we would have if these men were not “trapped”. I guess what G.K. Chesterton said comes to mind… “The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”

    “if a man would make his world large, he must be always making himself small.”
    ― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
    “When I was young, I said to God, God, tell me the mystery of the universe. But God answered, that knowledge is for me alone. So I said, God, tell me the mystery of the peanut. Then God said, well, George, that’s more nearly your size.”
    —George Washington Carver

  • Greg Gorham

    I thought Rosch’s article totally failed to address the points the Rabbi was making. He’s comparing the most credible forms of atheism with the least credible forms of religious belief. Its understandable rhetorically, but undermines the point he’s trying to make.

  • Larry Barber

    An atheist claiming that theists lack imagination is laughable. How much art (good art, anyway) has been produced by atheists? Where is the atheist Bach? the atheist Rembrandt? Why can’t atheists produce any decent art? Might there be something missing in the atheist world-view?

    • thread_of_fire

      I think Staks Rosch’s claims are strange and nebulous. (I’m an atheist, I read a lot of atheist blogs, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Staks Rosch)

      However, I hope some of the believers around here can point out the strangeness of your own post.

      • Brian P.

        Not much non-theistic art indeed. But here’s another one:


        Tim Minchin’s Storm.

        Now, this doesn’t stand up to the cathedrals and their art and song of ages ago, but, at least it’s up to par (if not much better) in depth with the lyrics of CCW.

    • Brian P.

      As for art, according to Steve Martin, “Atheists have nothing… until now.”


  • R. Jay Pearson

    It’s hard to blame atheists for their atheism. We Christians, in our multitude of flavors and temperaments, have too often presented a god not worth believing in, a Jesus not worthy of following, and a community too broken to achieve any shred of genuine and sustainable human oneness. And in it all, many varying, inconsistent, and conflicting versions and visions of God, Jesus, and “true” religion.

    And then Tony, your words: “Let’s Prove This Atheist Wrong.”

    “This atheist.”

    And then you say, “[t]hose three traits [humility, imagination, and curiosity] — particularly the latter two — are characteristics that I strive for in my writing and blogging.”

    Keep striving Tony. Perhaps you could start with your subject headlines, exercising moreso the first characteristic instead of the latter two. For no doubt it is ultimately the lack of humility among Christians and other monotheists that inspires atheism, for who would believe in a god whose people exhibit more arrogance than humility? (see Luke 6:45)

    (By the way, I completely understand the gentle challenge behind your words, “Let’s Prove This Atheist Wrong.” In effect, I know it was more a challenge to us Christians than a shot at Rosch. I suspect it is simply the delivery on the words’ face that deserves . . . well, more imagination. Because it can be very, very easily misunderstood as bellicose.)

    Though Rosch speaks of a lack of imagination and curiosity among us Christians, I’ll disagree with him in large part because I know Christians are indeed imaginative and richly curious, just like any human being. What I suspect, however, is that his statements are more an indictment of theological hubris and biblical tunnel vision more than anything else (especially among Christian literalists). And such hubris and tunnel vision are really a demonstration of a lack of humility, which I believe was his core point, made pretty clear from the part of his writing that you did not quote.

    Like you said Tony, his points are worth considering. But only inasmuch as they inform us Christians where we can improve in our humility, rather than motivate us to compete unnecessarily and fruitlessly with worldviews contrary to our own.

  • I think you missed the point that the HuffPo article was a response to the exact same attacks made by a rabbi toward atheists. That’s kind of an important part of the context here.