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Friday, March 14, 2014

Atheistic Snobbery

Emma Green reviews The Age of Atheists, by the British historian Peter Watson. You should read her whole piece, but this is the meat of it:
Watson assumes that because a group of smart, respected, insightful people thought and felt their way out of believing in God, everyone else should, too. Because intellectual history trends toward non-belief, human history must, too.
I cannot agree with Watson's basic thesis that more education equates to a reduced faith in God because I see his hypothesis violated every Sunday. I belong to a church (the LDS church) where statistically, the more educated you are, the more likely you are to be active in the congregation and a faithful member. Professors, medical doctors, engineers, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals and business people generally make up the core of much of the leadership, even at the local level. In my case, the congregation I attend probably has enough doctors to run a small hospital, and enough engineers to man a medium sized tech company--and we are surrounded by congregations that could boast the same.

I also reject his underlying argument--that atheism is more rational. From the review, it appears Watson's argument is based on an appeal to authority--one of the great logical fallacies. It is one thing to present a history of atheism, and another to argue for atheism because certain cherry-picked persons from recent history also believed in atheism. (I'm confident that if I were to examine his picks, I would find that most were convinced of the superiority of socialism, too).

I also have to reject his thesis because atheists assert, through their actions, that atheism cannot survive the marketplace of ideas without a government subsidy.  A hundred years ago, atheists often were great defenders of religious liberties because they were so confident in their atheism. Now, they act as if religion is an addictive drug so powerful that the mere whiff will cause a non-believer to abandon his atheism. Accordingly, they use the government to drive religion out of the public life in order to protect atheism. If they are so confident about (as they contend) the truth and superiority of atheism, why are they so afraid of the competition?

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