So there’s this Catholic rag… Aleteia they call it. Y’all know how I feel about the Catholic Church and defenders of it, so I don’t approach new posts on Aleteia very charitably. A while back I was emailed this one: Why I cannot go back to being an atheist by Melinda Selmys and I thought to myself before reading any of it, that the answer to why this person can’t go back to being an atheist is likely because they became convinced a god exists. I thought I’d give it a read, in any case, and find out what her reason is.
She starts out very generously,
I don’t think it’s true that all atheists are fundamentally driven by selfishness, pride or immorality.
Well, thanks, Melly Belly. That’s awfully kind of you. You’re quite correct. If I had to think of a standout group driven by selfishness, pride or immorality, it would be the kid-poking Catholic clergy and those who donate money to pay for their protection. I mean, you don’t get much more immoral than forcing sex on pre-pubescent children, do you?
Hey, Mel, do you tithe? Just curious.
She goes on to explain why she thinks we’re atheists,
Sometimes people are atheists because they’ve been intellectual or morally scandalized by poor catechesis or by the bad behavior of those who represent the gospel.
This may be the case for one or two oddball atheists, but in my conversations with thousands and thousands and thousands of atheists over the years, I can tell you I’ve not come across a single atheist for whom this is the case. You can still believe in a god even if you disagree with the church and the practices and teachings therein. Even if you were fondled by Father Slimeball in the Church of Stolen Childhoods, you can still believe in an almighty. No, there is a whole other reason why the vast majority of atheists are atheists. Let’s see if you’ve got it figured in the next part of your explanation of us,
Others may just be like those laborers standing around in the marketplace who haven’t yet been called into the fields.
Oops. Nope. Foul ball. The vast majority of atheists used to be wholly convinced of a god’s existence, some even studying to become or had already become church leaders and pastors, imams and priests.
No, Melinda, the reason we’re atheist is simple. In fact, it’s so simple that it makes your refusal to see it quite transparent – there’s really not a soul on the planet who can’t understand this reason. My kid understood when he was six. We’re atheists because there is no evidence for god and we prefer to be honest with ourselves. That’s really the end of it. Short and sweet, just like the innocence of Catholic kids.
Melinda goes on to explain that though she is not an atheist, she is a skeptic,
I have tremendous respect for those who are capable of simple childlike trust in God and in the Church. I’m just not that kind of kid.
Can I ask why you have “tremendous respect” for someone who can be talked into any wild story without question? Like, why is that a good thing?
This kind of skepticism does, I think, represent a kind of sincere fidelity to truth.
Because religious truth is so often abused and misused, it can be tempting to just be done with it. For me, though, that’s not really a live option. Basically, whenever I get to the point where I can no longer see God through all of the mirages and smokescreens that men have erected in order to make God into an instrument of human purposes, I have a crisis of faith. Usually, I decide that I’m for sure leaving the Church. Often, I conclude that atheism is the only intellectually honest option.
Atheism is not a choice you can make. You’re conflating being without religion with lacking a belief in God. If you are wholly convinced that something is true, you cannot then decide it is not. You have to become unconvinced. If what you’re saying is that you’re already unconvinced that a god exists, well then you’re already an atheist whether you want to admit it or not. Let’s face it, admitting the truth to yourselves isn’t necessarily the Catholic’s strong suit.
Now, this is the point where I do something that I wouldn’t do if I actually were an atheist. I go and talk to God about it. And God listens very patiently while I explain all of the reasons why I can’t believe anymore. And we talk it through. And usually there are some jokes at my expense. And by the end of the conversation, I remember that ultimately religion is about forging a relationship with a Being who is my author, my creator, my lover and my friend.
Doll – and I mean this in the kindest, most generous way – you are not well.
When it comes right down to it, this relationship is sufficiently real, sufficiently profound, and sufficiently important to me that I’m not sure that I’m actually capable of atheism.
Of course you’re not capable of atheism if you believe so strongly in a god that you actually think you’re having two-way conversations with him. Hun, atheism is a lack of belief in god. You’re not capable of atheism unless and until you’re unconvinced a god exists. Period.
Atheism is not the place you turn to when you’re disillusioned by your church or put off by your fellow believers. Atheism is not an all-night party when you find you don’t like god’s rules. It’s not a waiting room for people who haven’t been called to god yet, nor is it a place for god believers who don’t like the idea of organized religion. Atheism is merely the state of being unconvinced there is any sort of god and this state is immediately cancelled out by belief in one.
You can come up with 101 reasons why you’re not an atheist, but there’s really only one that counts: you can’t be an atheist, Melinda, simply because you believe in a god.
Image: Creative Commons/Pixabay