Mailvox: an atheist reconsiders

A former atheist sends a note regarding his abandonment of atheism:

I write today to point out that, despite the criticisms to which I am sure you are subjected, your writing does in fact have an effect. At about the age of 15, like so many other teenagers, I flatly rejected the concept of God and refused to acknowledge the validity or presence of religion as a determining force in human life. I believed that science and materialism had all the answers and that the very idea of God was ridiculous, having been disproven quite thoroughly by scientific examinations of, for example, the Big Bang and evolution.

However, as I grew older and (hopefully) wiser, and moved from Asia to Britain and then America, I came face-to-face with the natural consequences of secular materialism. I came to understand fully the true horrors that Godless secularism has inflicted upon Man, and as I read and learned more I came to realise that science does not, in fact, offer true answers but only raises more questions. That isn’t a bad thing- but pretending that science can answer all questions most certainly is.

It wasn’t until I became a libertarian and started reading the writings of other libertarians that I came across your blog and your books. Eventually, I did read The Irrational Atheist late last year after reading one of Richard Dawkins’s books. I was much struck by the fact that while I remembered almost none of Dawkins’s arguments in The God Delusion, and found the few arguments that I did remember to be quite poor, I remembered and found myself agreeing with far more of your arguments from a much shorter and more precise book. It was at that point that I fully and flatly rejected the arguments of the New Atheists.

Now that I have started reading the Bible, have watched Lee Strobel’s documentaries The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith, and have read more widely around the issue, I simply cannot call myself an atheist any longer. I’ve no doubt that you have a fair amount of contempt for agnostics- you probably view them as being a bit wishy-washy, and I’ll readily admit you’ve got a point- but that’s about as close as I can come so far to calling myself religious. It’s just that, as I realised not much more than a few months ago, I’ve made my peace with God- or at least, the Judeo-Christian conception of God.

And that brings up my final point in this missive: I’ve discovered that religions are not, in fact, created equal, and I now wonder why it took me so long to figure that out. For instance, the God of the Old Testament strikes me as having a massive case of OCD, judging by His incredibly obtuse fussing over the details of the Ark of the Covenant, His Temple, and the manner in which He is to be worshipped in the Book of Exodus. The various pagan religions of the world are often deeply disturbing in their lack of respect for human life, and offer only conflict between one divine entity and another as the answer to even the most basic questions about “why things happen”. And I have a particular dislike of the anti-Semitic, delusional, sociopathic, warmongering, deceitful paedophile that Allah calls his “prophet”. I doubt I can fully accept Christianity either, but I guess I’ll figure that out as I go along.

So I write to you simply to say thank you for forcing me to think more clearly about economics and faith. I think I’m a better man for it, and I doubt I would have been able to do so had it not been for your blog posts and books. I don’t always agree with what you write, but I do find your arguments to be thought-provoking, and that’s what’s important. I hope you continue to write and educate others, and look forward to much more of your writing in the future.

First, let me be clear in stating that it is Richard Dawkins and the New Atheists who think poorly of agnostics, not me. (For example, Dawkins addresses what he calls “the poverty of agnosticism” and describes it as “fence-sitting PAP”.) Having been an agnostic for more than two decades, I am deeply sympathetic to those who can neither believe nor disbelieve. And second, while I primarily write for my own entertainment, I am pleased to learn that from time to time some individuals believe it to have a salutary effect on their intellectual development.

On a tangential note, one thing I found particularly interesting was the age at which the emailer decided he was an atheist. It appears many atheists become atheists in their late childhood and early teens; this was the case for both Dawkins and Hitchens, among others. This is potentially signficant because in many cases, it also appears that their intellectual and emotional development largely comes to a halt at that point. One cannot read the New Atheist books without marveling at how fundamentally juvenile they are despite the age of the authors. The possibility of a connection between these two observations makes an amount of sense given how much more certain we are of our knowledge in our youth than we are once we have the benefit of more experience. And following this train of thought, it becomes apparent that it may even explain, at least in part, the disproportionate number of atheists in academic science. It is at least the very possible that this over-representation is more the result of a dearth of real-world experience than a surfeit of high intelligence.