Monday, November 26, 2012

There Is No Dilemma - An Open Letter To John MacArthur

Mr MacArthur,

Your recent piece in the Washington Times has been making the rounds, and I feel a responsibility to respond.

In it, you expressed confusion about what atheists can thankful for without a god to thank.  However, you answered your own question.
One atheist has practically made a hobby of writing articles to explain why atheists feel the need to be thankful and to answer the question of whom they might thank. His best answer? He says atheists can be grateful to farmers for the food we eat, to doctors for the health we enjoy, to engineers for the advantages of modern technology, to city workers for keeping our environment clean and orderly — and so on.
It's a pity that you so easily dismiss the answer to your question in the very next paragraph.
Here’s the problem with that: Tipping the waitress or tipping one’s hat to sanitation workers doesn’t even come close to resolving the problem of whom Mr. Dawkins should thank when he looks at the stars, stands at the edge of the Grand Canyon, or studies the world of countless wonders his microscope reveals in a single drop of pond water.
The problem here isn't that Richard Dawkins doesn't know who to thank when he looks at the stars.  The problem here is your assumption that there is a who at all.  Sometimes there is a who to thank, like the waiters and sanitation workers.  Other times, there may not be anyone behind it.

You assume there is someone behind it all.  People like myself and Dawkins are not so presumptuous.

Throughout the entire article, you're attempting to figure out what atheists think but do so only through your own theistic mindset.  If you truly do wish to know what atheists think, I suggest you try to see things through our eyes.  Not yours.  

When you can only look at people different from through your own worldview, you make counterproductive, inaccurate assumptions about them.  For instance, 
That’s an odd and ironic answer from a point of view that repudiates theism on the grounds that it is not “rational” to believe in God. After all, the starting point for atheistic materialism is the equation nobody times nothing equals everything. What could possibly be more irrational?
No one has ever claimed "nobody times nothing equals everything."
Furthermore, chance (luck, fortune, happenstance, fate—whatever label you want to put on it) is not a force or intelligence. “Chance” has to do with mathematical probability. Flip a coin and there’s a 50-50 chance it will come up tails. But “chance” has no power to flip the coin, much less design an ordered universe.
Nevertheless, that’s how atheistic materialists have trained themselves to think. Chance is the ultimate creator. In the words of one Nobel Prize-winning atheist, “Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, is at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution.” Fortune has thus been personified — imbued with the power to determine, order and cause everything that happens.
That’s mythology, not science. At the end of the day, the atheist is no more rational and no less superstitious than the astrologist who thanks impersonal “lucky stars” for good fortune.
Your assessment of what atheists think is grotesquely inaccurate.  I suppose it could be seen as mythology if you go to such lengths to over simplify an extremely complicated subject such as this.  I'm not aware of a single atheist who thinks the way you have described.  Perhaps one does out there somewhere, as we are a diverse bunch, it certainly is not even remotely a common occurrence.

Also, why would you refer to someone as a "Nobel Prize-winning atheist"?  No one wins the Nobel for being an atheist.  The science people do to win the Nobel is entirely separate from their belief in a god, or lack thereof.
On some level, atheists themselves surely realize this. Proof of their internal angst is seen in the fact that so many of them are not content merely to disbelieve. They are militant in their opposition to God. They hate the very thought of God and would love to have every mention of Him removed from public discourse — as if that would somehow remove the burden of their own ingratitude and relieve the pangs of a guilty conscience.
Again, no.  On both issues in that paragraph.  Firstly, I most certainly do not "realize this".  I have never believed in any god.  I've never been inclined to.  I've never felt angst over it, and angst is certainly not the source of my disbelief.  As I'm sure you've already been told countless times by atheists, my disbelief is the result of a lack of evidence to prove any god's existence.  That's it.  There's no angst, no desire rebel, no desire to escape accountability, no all the other strawman claims about why we do not believe.

On the second issue there, I am an ardent proponent of the Freedom of Religion and would oppose any effort to restrict your right to believe in your god or speak of it, even in public.  I do have a problem when people attempt to force their religion into government, just as I would have a problem with an atheist attempting to put atheism into government.  This is to protect your right to believe as you wish as much as it is to protect my right to not believe in your god or anyone else's.

It's a pity that you put your effort into writing an article attacking atheists instead of actually trying to understand us.  Your use of the term "dogmatic atheists" is as insulting as it is in error.  Atheism has no dogma and it's irresponsible, dishonest, or both of you to use the term.

Before you ever speak or write about atheism or atheists, please take the time to actually talk to, and more importantly, listen to some atheists.  I say "some" on purpose.  Don't just talk to one.  Talk to many.  Atheists are far from a homogeneous group, as the only thing we all have in common is that lack of belief in god(s).

Sadly, I don't expect you to heed any of this, or to ever actually take an effort to understand us instead of simply doing what you did this Thanksgiving by blindly attacking us with what amount to lies about what we believe.  So, I'll just have to take the consolation prize of the ad next your article being for the American Humanist Association's new endeavor, Kids Without God.  They're doing good things for good kids.  

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