Monday, October 12, 2009

What Would the World Be Like Without Atheists?

I suspect most believers in God think that "atheist" is a dirty word. But is it really? Think of a world without atheists. Would we be better off? Absolutely not. A world without atheists would be a pretty scary place.
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Some of the most intelligent people in the world are atheists. They are often atheists because they are diligent seekers after truth.

In the October 2009 General Conference of the LDS Church, Elder Robert D. Hales make the following statement:
...we live in a time when the darkness of secularism is deepening around us. Belief in God is widely questioned and even attacked in the name of political, social, and even religious causes. Atheism, or the doctrine that there is no God, is fast spreading across the world.
Does that indicate that Elder Hales thinks that atheists are bad people? I don't think so. I think it indicates simply that believes that they are misinformed. It's not hard, however, it today's world to be misinformed, what with there existing so many confused religions who claim to speak in the name of God without any authority to do so.

Why is atheism on the rise? I think it's because many atheists are deep-thinking people, and they easily notice that so much of what passes as religion today makes no sense. They're right.

I think atheists are a very healthy part of society--they point out the very clear fallacies of religion. In the presence of a religion that makes sense, I am convinced that many atheists would come to accept God. Colin McGinn is one such person. In the documentary The Atheism Tapes, Jonathan Miller spoke with McGinn about how he came to be an atheist. McGinn told Miller:
I wouldn't say there was relief [that I became an atheist]. There was disappointment. Because I would like religion to be true. Because I'd like there to be immortality. I'd like for there to be rewards for those who have been virtuous, and punishments for those who have not been virtuous... There's no justice in this world. It would be good if there were some cosmic force that distributed justice. To me it's a constant source of irritation and pain that wicked people prosper and virtuous people don't.
I am very comfortable with the challenges of atheists, in part because their challenges are often pointedly correct. When they are correct in that way, it is usually
  • (a) because some apostate fallacy has become accepted by some members of the Mormon church (such as that Jehovah of the Old Testament is some spiteful being like Zeus, or that God is a relatively suffocating presence who watches and judges our every move) or
  • (b) because my religion can answer nearly all of the questions of atheists that apostate religions can't (such as how the Book of Abraham teaches that Abraham's father tried to sacrifice him as a child, indicating why Abraham had perfect faith that a just God would not ultimately require him to commit murder by sacrificing his son Isaac).
A particularly vile apostate vestige has crept into the beliefs (not the doctrines of the Church, mind you) of certain LDS Church members--that if you don't become a member of the Mormon church in this life you will burn in hell. The LDS Church does not teach that--because who are we to judge?

I fully believe that when atheists die and find out that there is something beyond this life, that many of them will readily accept that reality. Sincere Atheists encourage us to question our beliefs in a healthy way. They don't threaten our religion.

True, there are some atheists who do more than just encourage us to question our beliefs. Robert D. Hales went on to speak of the man named Korihor in the Book of Mormon. It wasn't the fact that Korihor was an atheist that made him socially destructive. Hales says:
Korihor was not content merely to reject God and quietly go his own way. He mocked the believers and demanded that the prophet Alma convince him with a sign of God’s existence and power.
The mocking sort of atheist is a drain on society, but the believer in God who mocks the non-believer is much more of a detriment. I prefer to ignore either sort of mocker, because I think they are few and far between. Many of the rest of the those who belong to the atheist category believe that way only because they've felt the need to inveigh against a supposed truth that is really falsehood, and because they don't know where to find the real truth.

Regardless of whether or not someone thinks that God does or does not exist, though, they can sit down to dinner at my table anytime.




5 comments:

  1. Nicely said, Frank. Overall, I agree. I'm not as convinced that the LDS faith answers "nearly all" of the questions of atheists. I think there are a number of very legitimate questions which our faith still struggles to answer, many aspects which are, logically speaking, very dubious.

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  2. ...or that they haven't been very clearly (at all?) answered by revelation, so we've made up the answers to satisfy our curiosity (but in the process give ourselves a black eye)?

    I'm curious which issues you're thinking of.

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  3. Which "God" would you be referring to Frank? You make it sound like there is only one.

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  4. or that they haven't been very clearly (at all?) answered by revelation, so we've made up the answers to satisfy our curiosity (but in the process give ourselves a black eye)?

    Same thing, imo.

    One of the most prominent issues I can think of is the historicity of the BofM (let alone The Book of Abraham). There is no meaningful archaeological/anthropological evidence supporting the origin of the BofM. No real evidence of civilizations resembling those described in the BofM.

    Don't get me wrong. I believe in the truthfulness of the BofM, because of the spiritual witness I've experienced. I'm ambivalent regarding the historicity of the BofM, which is really a different matter. But I can definitely understand how this lack of objective evidence is a real and legitimate challenge for many people, and the people in our faith all too often assume that the historicity is assured because they believe in the truthfulness.

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  5. I'm an atheist because it is the thoughtful way to be. There's no evidence to support a supreme being, what is the point of believing something without proof?
    Faith holds no charms for me.

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