Tuesday, 10 January 2012

of the Religious Atheist?

I read an interesting quote recently. Unfortunately where I read it, the quote stood alone, thus preventing me from seeing it in any kind of proper context. The quote said, “Atheists talk about God too much” and was credited to Nobel Prize winner (1972), Heinrich Böll (1917-1985). For some reason that struck me as both odd and funny at the same time. Could it be true? Do atheists talk about God too much? I wonder.

Atheists have sometimes accused me of talking about God too much, but given that I’m a Christian, this is perhaps understandable. But to suggest that an atheist may talk about God too much, well, that just seems odd. Yet the more I thought about it, the more it actually may make some sense (at least in some cases).

First let me digress and say that, in my opinion, many who call themselves atheists likely aren’t. I suspect that many self-proclaimed atheists are actually agnostics. What’s the difference? The way I see it, an atheist holds the view that there is no God. They are certain of their view, and aren’t easily swayed. Period. An agnostic, on the other hand, essentially says that he or she doesn’t know if there is or isn’t a God. In other words, if there is any measure of doubt in the atheist’s mind, then he or she likely is not an atheist at all, but is rather an agnostic. We could probably rightly say that the agnostic is sort of perched on the fence between the atheistic and religious view. For some this might just be a case of semantics; for me it is not.

Now back to the Heinrich Böll quote. Why might an atheist talk about God? Could it be that the reason is because he or she wishes to, or feels a need to, defend their view? Perhaps it is because of some Christians themselves that atheists feel forced into this. As Brennan Manning has said, 
The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.
Is an atheist’s discussion of God, in a strange kind of way, somewhat like Christian apologetics, in that it is also a defense of a faith? Do they wish to defend their faith and convert you or me to their religion?

Now hold on a minute! Did I just call the atheist “religious?” Well, sort of. If by the word “religious” we mean a specific view or set of beliefs concerning the divine, and if atheism is properly defined as the belief that there is no God, then it is also logical to say that such a set of beliefs is in and of itself, ironically, also a religious viewpoint.

Could it be that any discussion by the atheist to promote his or her view is ultimately no different than any other religious person (regardless of what religion we’re talking about) discussing their faith? And if that is so, could it also be exactly in that vein that Heinrich Böll was suggesting when he said, Atheists talk about God too much?” I wonder.

What do you think?
  • Do atheists talk about God too much?
  • Are Christian lifestyles, at least partially, responsible for atheism?
  • Can atheism actually be a religion?
  • Why might someone even bother to exert energy talking about something or someone they do not believe in (ie., God)?
For more on Heinrich Böll, see here and here.
Photo Credit:  Flickr Creative Commons

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