More specifically, this is an open letter to one Christian blogger who apparently ‘liked’ my post from earlier today and who wrote an open letter to doubters of god. The letter I sent to him just a few minutes ago is quoted below.
[edited to fix formatting issues]
So, through and email notification, I was informed that you liked a post of mine from today. The notification linked me to this post of yours:
The reason I am writing to you is that you are making a common, but annoying, error here in your classification. In order to try and educate you, I want to give you a brief run-down of who I am and what I (dis)believe.
Philosophically, I am a skeptic first. Not in the tradition of radical skepticism from the ancient Greeks (although I appreciate that as well, to some degree) but as in the Skeptic movement, which is related (though there are tensions) to the atheist community. Skepticism, in this sense, is the position whereby one accepts a proposition as true iff sufficient empirical and logical evidence has been demonstrated which supports said proposition. In the case of theism a skeptic, if they are applying their skepticism, will hear the claim “god exists” and will ask for evidence, then iff evidence is presented (which should not be logically fallacious, is at least somewhat empirically demonstrated, and repeatable) then the skeptic can rationally accept the claim. They should keep themselves open to new evidence always.
You don’t want to argue, so my point in the following is not to refute theism, per se, but rather to clearly explain my position. I see no valid evidence for the existence of any gods. especially the ‘omnimax’ variety which tends to come from the Abrahamic religions. I see YHWH/ALLAH/Jesus as a non-demonstrated proposed being, and I also see no evidence for any “philosophers’ god” or even a deism. After many years of reading theology, religious apologetics, and criticisms of religion, I have concluded that no evidence for any gods exist. If there are any gods, then I want to know. So either none of the gods want me to know about them, the gods do not care, or there are no gods. And if gods exist that don’t care whether I believe in them, then so what?
I am an agnostic-atheist. That is, while I cannot, logically, disprove the general concept of god (specific gods which are logically impossible can be disproved, but not all gods are clearly defined enough for this), I lack belief because there is insufficient evidence.
In your post, you respond to agnostics and “militant atheists,” leaving out non-militant atheists. In fact, I will point out that despite having been part of the atheist community for more than a decade, I have never met a militant atheist. I’ve met some angry ones, and often their anger is justified (not always), but never a militant one. In what way are atheists militant? Have we taken up arms? Have we been violent towards the religious (as a group; individual examples are anecdotal and do not address atheism per se. Also, Hitler was a Catholic and Stalin/Mao/etc killed in the name of an absolutist political regimes, not atheism. What person or group has done anything militant in the name of atheism?)?
I do not wish to eradicate religion. I find that to be a fruitless goal. My concern is with faith. I see faith as a fundamental problem for human psychology, groups, and ultimately the progress towards greater understanding of the universe. I’m using faith as it is defined in Hebrews, where it is belief in things not seen. In other words, belief in things despite the lack of evidence. This is a dangerous phenomenon. Would you apply that methodology in any other aspect of your life besides religion or spiritual pursuits? Isn’t it fascinating that the more we understand the universe, the further away god is pushed into that gap of what we don’t know? Compare the concept of god as it was understood hundreds, even thousands of years ago, and how modern theologians talk about god (the “ground of being” and such). The more we can explain, the more vague and abstract gods become.
I find that fascinating–and telling!
But I don’t hate religion and want it gone merely because it does bad things. While I am very bothered by the many atrocities that people have committed in history, often in the name of some religion, god, or other type of doctrine, my larger concern is with the lack of critical thinking, skepticism, and willingness to transcend oneself towards a greater potential for humanity. Skepticism, science, philosophy, and even humanism are what is needed, not superstition.
Your post does not seem to carry sufficient understanding of what an atheist is, what many of our goals are, and even what “militant” means. So while I am not seeking to eradicate religion (I’d prefer people organically outgrew it, which I doubt will happen anytime soon), I am trying to eradicate poor comprehension of atheist arguments and tropes which perpetuate the othering of our community. I have seen posts like this many times from Christian bloggers. In fact, I looked at the date it was posted to make sure I had not read this post previously, since it was so predictable and trope-laden.
I suggest reading an atheist blog or two regularly. Perhaps read a book by a former-Christian atheist, who can communicate that issue much better than I can. I can refer you to some if you are interested, since there are many. In fact, this one, by my friend Jerry DeWitt
, was recently published and looks excellent (I have not read it yet).
But in general, keep up the conversation, so the next time you write a letter to agnostics and atheists, you at least have a better grasp of the relevant issues. I wish you the best.