I don’t really have much time this week, so my reply must be pretty inadequate. You write
Mark, you can be forgiven for the gross generalization of atheism since this is, to paraphrase you, a common trope among believers.
You don’t tell me what the gross generalization is. That atheism is due to ignorance or pride? I see no other explanation. True, it’s also due to laziness many times, but since sloth is rooted in pride (as are all the sins), I take it back to the root. It’s not due to some hard thinking, unless that hard thinking proceeds from deeply mistaken premises (i.e., ignorance).
My observation is that atheists and theists all strive to be good actors with the same vigor and have similar rates of pride. To an atheist, there is no greater conceit than to claim some special knowledge through revelation from a supernatural being.
And yet, of course, there is nothing necessarily conceited about it, just as there is nothing necessarily conceited about claiming to have seen something nobody ever saw before about the nature of gravity. The obvious question to ask about a claim of revelation is “Is it so?” not “Is the one making the claim an egoist?” Simply dismissing a claim of revelation without examination is, as I note above, lazy. Also, it’s worth noting that there is absolutely nothing in the Christian revelation to suggest that the revelation is given as a reward for the superior qualities of the recipient. It is, notably, given to the failures and human debris of the world. Atheism in contrast, notably advertises itself in terms of superiority over the primitives who toil in superstitious darkness far from the light of reason.
We would do well as a community to emphasize our similarities rather than dwell on our differences.
Why not pay attention to both?
As a non-believer I come to this site to get this Catholic perspective without undue moralizing, and I think you do a good job. The fact is that most of us in western civilization grew up in theistic households, but some of us feel that we achieved a realization that theism is not sustainable as a model for modern civilization.
Note the prideful word “achieved”. That’s the note of snobbery I was referring to earlier. As a former agnostic, I’m highly skeptical of the claim that an atheism which consists, as yours appears to, of a drowsy chronological snobbery is any sort of achievement. People who say things like “modern civilization” can’t believe in, say, the Resurrection aren’t demonstrating any sort of intellectual achievement that I can see. They are simply saying that something which people believe on Friday the 10th is somehow rendered impossible by it being Monday the 13th. It’s an argument only a wooly minded modern can believe.
What am I to do if I just can’t believe that a guy rose from the dead, or that Mary appeared in Green Bay, WI?
For starters, stop talking as though something you “just can’t do” is an achievement. It is, quite obviously, a weakness, a disability, something you are incapable of, not something you have “achieved”. In short, lose the snobbery.
After that, you might try asking yourself why it is you are so radically incapable of doing what other people of equal and even superior gifts of intellect are able to do—without that consoling self-congratulation that you are “achieving” something lesser beings cannot.
Shut up and pretend I do? Or seek a more sustainable framework with which to live my life?
There are other alternatives, such as asking God for the gift of faith.
In our culture, such a realization does not come easily—it is not a popular stance to take and goes against every cultural precept we have been fed, so in that respect I suppose admission to atheism takes some semblance of self-confidence… but “pride” in the pejorative sense? Many atheists I know do not “claim one is much better than the foolish believer”, although I suppose such atheists exist. “Phariseeism”? Please, you’re better than that, Mark.
In our culture, such realization comes extremely easily and is a very popular stance, particularly in urban environments among hipsters and other consciously disaffected people striking the pose of the disaffected cultural despiser. The *truly* counter-cultural thing in a place like NY, DC, LA, or my native Seattle would be to stand up and offer a ringing declaration of faith in Jesus Christ. One would be regarded with the same distaste as a pair of soiled underwear on a coffee table. Don’t kid me that it takes courage to be a blase atheist with a bemused air of having “achieved” superiority to the unwashed and backward suckers who believe all that primitive rubbish about miracles and such. It’s as easy as falling off a log in our culture. All you have to do is let prevailing winds carry you. As to whether one is a moralistic Pharisee, I made it clear that not all atheists do this. But a great many do, as any reading of an atheist list or chatroom will make clear. Even our own Sandra here is clearly playing the moralist card as she pulls out irrelevant accusations about the Iraq War to justify her rage-based rejection of the Faith (because the Church was such a huge supporter of the war).
For every annoying solipsistic atheist, I can name 3 annoying self-righteous theists, Pope Benedict notwithstanding. I would guess that such narcissism has nothing to do with one’s belief system (or lack thereof), but more to do with human nature.
We don’t disagree. That was my point in saying that “I’m just as moral as thou” arguments by atheists are true, but trivial. It’s another way of saying that atheists are sinful, since Christians don’t have some corner on sinlessness. What they have is a totally undeserved revelation (free for the taking by anybody) that sinfulness does not have to be the permanent condition of the human race. An atheist doesn’t escape the problem of sin by rejecting God. He merely loses the possibility of ever doing anything about sin besides being stymied by it, ignoring it, giving it a euphemistic name, or succumbing to it.