The Arrogance of the Atheists: They Batter Believers in Religion with Smug Certainty
Witkin/Bloomberg; via Reuters; Caulfield/Getty
Writers Christopher Hitchens (left, 'God is not Great') and Sam
Harris (center, 'The End of Faith') embody modern atheism,
says S.E. Cupp. Bill Maher (right) rips religion in his film 'Religulous.'
S.E. Cupp December 29th 2010 Back in college, while I was busy pretending that a blottoed discussion of Nietzsche over $1 beers made me an intellectual giant, my fiftysomething father, who'd worked so hard to send me there, was quietly being saved. Having long eschewed any ties to his Southern Baptist upbringing, he suddenly found himself born again and on a quest to know God better.
As a longtime atheist, I was a little surprised. But eventually I came to be relieved by this development. While my friends' fathers were buying flashy sports cars and exchanging their wives for models, my own father was turning inward and asking: Is there more to life than this?
It was a revelation I'd experience over and over again - meeting faithful believers and discovering that, no matter how long they'd been in the fold, many were still on a dogged quest for spiritual knowledge.
And it's why I decided to go back to school as well and study religion in a more meaningful way. It wasn't necessarily an acknowledgment of a higher power, but a realization that I knew little about the beliefs I had railed so arrogantly against.
Which brings me to the problem with modern atheism, embodied by the likes of Harris and Hitchens, authors of "The End of Faith" and "God Is Not Great," respectively. So often it seems like a conversation ender, not a conversation starter. And the loudest voices of today's militant atheism, for all their talk of rational thought, don't seem to want to do too much thinking at all. As James Wood wrote in The New Yorker, "The new atheists do not speak to the millions of people whose form of religion is far from the embodied certainties of contemporary literalism. Indeed, it is a settled assumption of this kind of atheism that there are no intelligent religious believers."
What spiritual quest are they on, except to put an abrupt end to those like my father's? For them, the science is settled, the data are conclusive and the book (no, not the Good Book) has been written. Time for everyone else to pack up and move on to other business, like, presumably, accumulating wealth and fulminating at the sight of the nearest Christmas tree.
The militant atheist wants nothing more than to spoil the believer's spiritual journey. That's both meanspirited and radically unenlightened.
Though more than 95% of the world finds some meaning in faith, God-hating comic Bill Maher shrugs this off as a "neurological disorder." His version of a quest for knowledge was a series of scathing jokes at the faithfuls' expense in the documentary "Religulous."
The latest incarnation of the thought-eschewing secularist is American Atheists spokesman Dave Silverman, who sums up the argument this way on atheistnexus.org: "Religion is my bitch." He has also tweeted, "Yes it is a myth. Deal with it. All delusions are myths."
It's these snarky and condescending rejections, not of faith itself but of those who profess it, that reflect a total unwillingness to learn something new about human nature, the world around us and even of science itself. While the neoatheists pay only cursory attention to dismantling arguments for God, they spend most of their time painting his followers as uncultured rubes. The fact that religion has inexplicably persisted, even despite Copernicus, Darwin and the Enlightenment, doesn't seem to have much sociological meaning for them.
The truth is, folks like Maher and Silverman don't want to know about actual belief - in fact, they are much more certain about the nature of the world than most actual believers, who understand that a measure of doubt is necessary for faith. They want to focus on the downfall of a gay pastor or the Nativity scene at a mall.
I wonder what they'd say to someone like Immaculee Ilibagiza, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide who says that her faith in Jesus Christ got her through 91 days of hiding in a 3x4 foot bathroom while her family was murdered outside. Would they tell her she was crazy? Delusional? To just deal with it? I would hope not - but I am not sure.
When the esteemed theologian David Martyn Lloyd-Jones asked C.S. Lewis when he would write another book, Lewis responded, "When I understand the meaning of prayer." It was an acknowledgment that he - a thinker with a much sharper mind than, say, Maher's - didn't know everything. I implore my fellow atheists to take this humility to heart. There's still a lot to learn, but only if you're not too busy being a know-it-all.
firstname.lastname@example.org S.E. Cupp, whose column appears on Wednesdays on NYDailynews.com and often in the print edition of the newspaper, is a political commentator and author of the book "Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media's Attack on Christianity." She is also co-author of "Why You're Wrong About The Right." S.E. has a regular feature at The Daily Caller and is a contributing editor at Townhall magazine. She lives in New York City.