Atheist Chris Arnade has written an article which has garnered some attention. In it, he talks about the shift in his view of religion.
Though he remained an atheist, he’s come to believe that religion can be a very positive thing–giving hope to those most in need of it. I definitely agree. In fact, I’ve made a very similar case in the past.
But, what interests me is the idea that this may be a sign of a bigger shift. If my personal experience is a good indicator (always a big “if”), then there are many atheists who have moved from zealous anti-theist to something much more resonant with Arnade’s closing words:
I want to go back to [my] 16-year-old self and tell him to shut up with the “see how clever I am attitude”. I want to tell him to appreciate how easy he had it, with a path out. A path to riches.
I also see Richard Dawkins differently. I see him as a grown up version of that 16-year-old kid, proud of being smart, unable to understand why anyone would believe or think differently from himself. I see a person so removed from humanity and so removed from the ambiguity of life that he finds himself judging those who think differently.
I see someone doing what he claims to hate in others. Preaching from a selfish vantage point.
At least, I hope this is where we are headed. It’s easy to respect Arnade’s willingness to change his view. It inspires me to take a look at my own life, and see how I can be a better, more open-minded person.
In fact, I particularly appreciate Arnade’s refusal to dismiss the poor–of those some would label “failures”–as people to be dismissed or mocked. He treats their religion with respect because he respects them as persons. It is this respect for those who lack one’s degree of privilege which, I agree, is lacking in people like Dawkins.
I’ve admitted that, selfishly, I want to see more atheists putting up angry billboards and resorting to mockery and memes in lieu of rational argumentation. It makes them look ignorant and childish to many. But God seems to have a better idea.
I don’t claim to know where all this is going, but I suspect that our culture, theist and atheist alike, is simply getting tired of the nearly content-free platitudes, sound-bytes, and slogans, that make up the whole of our answers to the great questions of life.
As it becomes more obvious that “Christianese” lines and New Atheist memes are simply more of the same sort of fluff, I think we’re going to see more like Arnade–people interested in answers that add up to more than a clever line in a web-debate, that treat these issues with the respect they deserve.
That’s what belief was supposed to be about in the first place.