5. They’re intelligent and well read This one is controversial because, I have to be honest, I’ve come across some pretty ignorant, arrogant and down right stupid atheists. I’ve also come across a lot of atheists (like Asimov in the quote above) who combine an extraordinary amount of arrogance with their ignorance. However I’ve also come across a good number (and I’d say most of them) who are intellectual, well educated and thoughtful. Sadly, they are usually not very well educated or thoughtful when it comes to religion itself, and that’s probably why many of them remain atheists. They have often become well educated and informed in some other system of though or belief matrix, but not religion. Nevertheless, they often bring real learning and insight into a discussion, and are often more informed about philosophy and science than I will ever be.
6. They want goodness, truth and beauty This is the thing I am most grateful for. Most of the atheists I meet really are passionately interested in the pursuit of goodness, truth and beauty. They want goodness, truth and beauty and are searching for it. In fact, they often want goodness, truth and beauty more than the religious believers. The fact that they believe in goodness, truth and beauty convinces me that they are not true atheists. The true atheist, in my opinion, is the brute who never once thinks of anything but money, sex and food. The true atheist never seeks truth, beauty and goodness. In fact, that sort of subhuman individual hardly has those concepts in his mental furniture.
7. They believe in humanity The kind of atheist I’m talking about really believes in the goodness of humanity. I find this trait to be charming and childlike–almost naive in its optimism. They believe that humans are really good at heart and that with mere human effort they can be better people, make the world a better place and help to bring in peace, justice and happiness for all if only they work a little bit harder towards it. This is not to be sneered at. We should all believe in the goodness of each human being. We do so because we believe each one of us are created in the image of God, but the fact that the atheists I know of do believe in the goodness of humanity is a strength not a weakness.
8. They have a passion There is nothing worse than a drone and a drudge–nothing worse than a human being who has nothing to live for. The atheist has a cause. He has a passion. He has a campaign. He wants to free people from the slaves of religion as he has been freed. Okay, I think his campaign is mis directed and false, but at least he is out there fighting a good fight and rallying the troops and battling for what he believes to be true, and I like that. It reminds me to do the same for Christ and his kingdom.
9. They make me examine the big questions Because they ask the questions they make me ask the questions. Do I really only believe because I was brought up in a Christian home in a Christian country? What would my life be like if I did not have my faith and my relationship with God? Do the “proofs for God” make any sense? If not why not? Is there evidence for belief or not? Where is it and why do I believe it? Can I put myself in their shoes and see the world as if there was no God? If I could do that would I deduce the existence of God from what I see and if I did, what sort of God would I come up with? Would it be the Catholic god or would the conception of God be Buddhist, animist or pantheist?
10 They help me see my own faith from a new perspective.The atheist makes me stand things on their head. I begin to see that the things I believe and the reasons I believe them might only make sense to fellow insiders. I begin to see that my Catholic faith is an extraordinarily complex belief system which is unintelligible to many people. I begin to see that the things I take for granted–transubstantiation, prayers to the saints, miracles, heaven and hell and the Virgin Birth etc. are difficult and perhaps impossible for a modern person who has been raised without religion. The atheists help me to see this and ask myself what I can do about it and come up with new ways to express and explain the faith which is dear to me