I’m sure a lot of other people are picking over the piece by Tony Jones, Why Are You Still a Christian?. The “no atheists in foxholes” line and the argumentum ad populum that the piece rests on are enough to make make most of us start biting our keyboards.
But I wanted to focus in on the final paragraph, both because I think it can lead to a useful point and because it displays the kind of tact and sensitivity that has made Jones so popular at sites like Stuff Christian Culture Likes:
At this point, I simply cannot abide severing myself from the rest of the world’s population, from 7 billion of my fellow human beings. I have enough respect for the collective wisdom of humanity to stand in solidarity with them in proclaiming that there is, indeed, a God.
Yes, that’s right, all seven billion people united with a belief in … a God. Tell me something, ToJo, did you run that line by the Pagan Portal before you printed it? Maybe the Hindu? Buddhist? Did you maybe consult with the rest of the bloody world before lumping them all together into monotheism?
Okay, maybe I should cut him some slack. It’s an easy slip to make. After all, Christians have historically been so accepting and broad minded towards people who don’t accept monotheism that … oh … oh wait … never mind.Welcome to the western white male establishment, ToJo. I saved you a seat.
Anyway, I’ve run into variations of this argument before. Some Christians seems to look out at the world, see that most people are practicing something that’s called a religion – even if anthropologists comes to blows trying to come up with a broad enough definition to fit it all in – and come to the conclusion that it must all be the same. And somehow this justifies their creedal Christianity.
As an atheist, I look out at the world and see a tremendous diversity of approaches to the divine: polytheism, monolatry, monotheism, sometimes all blending into henotheism; dualism, non-dualism, spiritualism, materialism, atheism … and all that’s just in Hinduism.
Looking at that and saying, “well, I guess there must be some kind of divinity” seems the like most shallow response possible. Scratch that; “I guess I’m justified in being an Evangelical Christian” is even more self-serving and shallow.
There is something that’s going on here, something deep and innately human. I want to understand it, I want to understand where it comes from, I want to know how it’s played out in history, I want to know what drives people to perform this ritual rather than that one or recite that creed instead of this one.
Say what you want about atheism, it’s a safe neutral ground on which to stand while examining the religions that swirl around us. If it’s a ground I only have access to because of my privilege, so be it. I’ll work to expand it. The only way to discard a privilege is to make it so that everyone shares it. But let’s skip the faux populism, please.