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Saturday, January 18, 2014

On the Unfair Maligning of Atheists

It occurred to me that a paragraph in Friday’s post probably warrants a disclaimer or two:
“What sort of miserable, twisted personality seeks to rob another human being of all the emotional and lifestyle benefits that come with the Christian life for … for what? So the successful converts to atheism can hit the bars, brothels and the casinos and ‘eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’? So they can swell the ranks of the overweight, the suicidal and the terminally miserable? So they can help bankrupt the health care system? So they can cheat their employers, slack off and go on welfare because, hey, why not? So they can scream and wail and fall on coffins at the weddings of loved ones because that’s all, folks? So they can camp out in the cold with the Occupy gang and resent the rich and powerful because their only hope is in this life?”
I’m not for a second suggesting that all those who are not believers in Christ end up abusing drugs, alcohol, food or the welfare system, are extra-grief stricken at funerals, hate the rich or kill themselves.

Obviously and evidently that is not the case.

Many people go through life without seriously addressing the issue of eternity at all. While probably aware of the religious convictions of people around them, and perhaps even conversant with a few Bible stories and theological points of view, they are occupied largely with making a living and entertaining themselves. For most people, work and family consume much of their time and mental energy, and there have always been numerous pastimes available to divert the mind. With the advent of the internet and the ubiquitous distraction of cellphones, I’m surprised anyone in the current generation has time to string together two coherent thoughts, let alone worry about eternity.

There are moments in life that intrude of course and make one wonder what it’s all about: Sickness, death, job loss, divorce — but many people have an amazing capacity to bounce back from these things and to continue with their lives seemingly without major impact. Of course I am looking at this from a very western perspective. I believe people suffering from poverty or under oppressive regimes in third world countries have considerably more reason to give thought to the meaning of life.

But as long as they have something they believe is worthwhile or enjoyable to occupy themselves, many non-believing westerners lead very moderate lives.

Unexamined, but moderate.

However, what I do believe — though it’s entirely unscientific and based purely on my observations of others over the years — is that someone who is seeks answers to the meaning of life, embraces the idea of faith in God and is later talked out of it — or apostacizes without external prompting, for that matter — is likely to be considerably more unhappy than someone who has never considered the issue at all.

I suspect also that once rejecting God, he or she is also less likely to feel the compulsion of certain moral restraints. That thought doesn’t originate with me.

And, allegedly, atheists and agnostics do have a higher suicide rate. That doesn’t originate with me either. 

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