8. All babies are Atheists. Religions are taught depending on the location and era in which you are raised. Being born in the U.S. in 1974 does not make you right, it most likely just makes you another Christian. That’s no better or worse than the person born in Tibet in 1955, who proudly worships the Dalai Lama.
I’m aware that many atheists have been hard at work arguing that atheism is merely “a lack of belief in theism”, but simply using this definition to claim that “all babies are atheists” isn’t going to produce a rational reason to think that adults should be.
While it is true that one’s culture has a profound influence on one’s beliefs (though it doesn’t dictate them, as Smalley implies here), this argument assumes that this is less true of the atheist’s view of life than of the theist’s.
That is, if one can dismiss Christianity by saying “You were born in the U.S in 1974.”, why can’t one dismiss the currently trendy materialism with “You were born in the U.S. in 1992.”?
This is a point that the overwhelming majority of atheists in my acquaintance miss:
However we define atheism, the choice isn’t between theism and “a lack of belief”. The choice is between theism and materialism. And materialists have done little to nothing to defend their view.
But, rather than claim that all babies are a-materialists, and imply that everyone who is a materialist is so simply because of cultural pressures, I’ll say that I find the Tibetan Buddhist’s view more in touch with reality. True, we disagree on a great deal, but I see much less self-contradiction in that position than in materialism.
Admittedly, the Buddhist has a great advantage. There is a long history of philosophy, debate, and refinement in all the major world religions. Modern materialism, by contrast, tends to be held by people who are stuck inventing a philosophy on their own–and its chief defenders in this culture have spent a great deal of energy in studiously avoiding the criticisms which might help to refine it. The insistence that atheism is simply “a lack of belief” is merely one example of this.
Thus, the only real defense the typical materialist seems to have is to avoid the subject of materialism and shift back to (usually very poor) objections to God–as if rejecting God justified materialism.
But this is getting into Smalley’s next point. I’ll pick up the thought when I discuss it.