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why is atheism so attractive?

October 30th, 2003 by Jason · No Comments

I’m not sure if it’s my character, social position (educated and middle-class), or philisophical leanings (still am wrestling with a modernist, rationalist mindset), but in my doubting the pull is always towards atheism. Why am I not pulled towards Buddhism, Judaism, or Islam in my moments of doubt? Likely it’s a matter of all the aforementioned factors, but it intrigues me that atheism is my primary struggle. Historically, it seems to be that people struggled not with whether to believe in God or the no-god, but which god to follow. Time and time again the prophets of Israel warned the people against the perils of idolatry. Whether it was Baal or the emperor, the Israelites problem was not if they should believe in a deity, but which deity to worship.

Part of it, I’m sure, is the age in which I live. Materialistic naturalism is the worldview I see and hear discussed most often. Some of that has to do with the reign of scientific empiricism that has become our matrix for discerning truth in the last couple hundred years. Any truth which can’t be demonstrated empirically or proved rationally has to be taken on “faith” or regarded as “superstition.” And since atheism only has to deconstruct theism and show how it is implausible (but doesn’t have to construct many positive arguments proving its case), it becomes an attractive position. In other words, if it can explain some plausible way that the earth could “get on” and “be explained” without a god then, following Ockham’s razor, it should be accepted, since it is the simplest solution. It obviously has no way to empircally prove that a god doesn’t exist, but it can make any god out there so irrelevant as to be unneeded.

Another reason I think atheism is attractive is because of social factors. As someone who has a position of some power in society atheism supports that position and gives me the freedom to use that power for whatever means I see fit. More importantly, perhaps, is that our society has done a good job of removing any mystery from life. Love is boiled down to cheap sex or as an adjective for a good beer and so it is easy to not be perplexed by our odd craving for it and the powerful emotions that arise when another sacrificially loves us. Any scent of death is removed into the recesses of hospitals or trivialized in a video game, making it easy to not ponder why something so “natural” as death continually feels “unnatural” and evokes our strongest emotions of sorrow and anger. Lastly, our educational system leaves us with the impression that science has explained all but the trivial matters, and so we have no need of a god to explain the stars, galaxies, light, or life. But ask any good scientist and she will tell you that the more we plumb the depths of nature the more questions with which we are left. The irreducible complexity of a cell (only a hundred years ago thought to be a simple blob of jelly-like substance), the staggeringly tiny chance that a bang of sheer energy would result in a world in which life was even possible, or the unexplainable ability of matter (myself) to be able to think and contemplate about itself (resulting in a blog 😉 are mysteries that force beyond ourselves and our simplistic solutions.
Summing it up, I think atheism attracts me because it appeals to my modernistic conception of truth and my not-very-mysterious view of people, the world, and the universe. Then why do I continue to believe in a god, and in fact the particular God whose character and actions are made clear in Jesus? In part, because my test of a worldview has broadened from just “explaining what I see and experience” to also include the effect a worldview has on my emotions, its ability to form in me a good character, its historical anchor, and the explanatory power of its story for my life and the world around me.

Tags: theology