The Scotsman‘s John Burnside reviews Michel Onfray’s new book ‘In Defence Of Atheism’ arguing that Onfray, like Dawkins and others are as irrational in their assertions as the religious believers that they so hate. “What I would ask is that atheists, in their public utterances at least, would refrain from appealing to the….faculty of human reason to support their irrational position.”
He continues “The only rational position is that of the agnostic, not because, or not just because, there can be no rational proof of god’s presence or absence, but because that argument itself is a pointless distraction….As far as I can see, the whole god question is the basis for a deliberate, mostly fearful limitation of the possibilities that the world offers, a little like pondering whether to vote Labour or Conservative, or choosing between various brands of identical detergent.”
I would agree whole heartedly with this view. I would define myself as both agnostic (we can never be sure) and an atheist, perhaps a weak atheist (it is the most attractive position for now). And a humanist of course (a label critical for practical reasons to highlight we are not some how deficient without religion). But having spent the last 9 months or so in the world of on-line atheism I have been struck with the near obsession people have with debunking, ridiculing and attacking religion. It is not something that interested me for very long me after I gave up on religion and I don’t think is the best use of anyone’s time, although it might give atheists a self congratulatory feeling of being clever.
People rarely find or lose religion as the result of rational enquiry. We rationalise whatever position we happen to find ourselves in (although to be fair rational and scientific enquiry has undermined large sections of traditional religious understandings of the world so perhaps it does have some value).
Even if an atheist really wants people to stop people believing in God (that’s not my position), isn’t a better approach than saying ‘religion is dumb and so are you’ to support things like international development, anti-poverty initiatives, efforts to raise literacy rates? And if people still believe after that, you’ve still made the world a better place. Everyone’s wins!