September 1, 2007
The Other Clash of Civilizations
Whenever overzealous Atheists affirm their intellectual sovereignty over questions of final causes, they risk engendering the same mistrust from a public that once viewed their theological counterparts as equally suspect, because of their purported claims of pre-eminence over other disciplines of inquiry.
Most people are almost instinctively suspicious of any discipline in the philosophical or scientific realms that bills itself as the purveyor of absolute truth. Yet many Atheists are often guilty of this sort of intellectual arrogance when they perfunctorily dismiss religious affectations as the scattered residuals of a bygone era in which people were more prone to liberally entertain naïve notions of the supernatural.
Which is why one has to wonder why so many Atheists today still feel the need to engage as its adversary that which they already consider to be an intellectually vanquished foe: the Christian religion.
Some of these "skeptics" challenge the tenets of Christianity in a sincere but misguided effort to rescue those whom they view as poor souls, beguiled by fables that offer no practical benefits to their daily existence, and may even cause eventual harm; others are simply driven by a latent grudge towards some past, probably highly personal and negative experience with religion in general, and their approach consists of little more than a lashing back in reprisal for the unsettled injustice.
This acrimony is compounded by the urgency with which Atheists feel that - in order to persuade a world that appears to be obstinately latched to the numinous - they need to assert their worldview as being the more consistent and credible choice of the two alternatives; a fear that the their own credo may be running out of steam and losing respect from the disconsolate masses.
Yet as claimants on each side reckon to be in earnest pursuit of the truth, they are both, in a very real sense, equally engaged in a supremely moral dialectic, since claiming that one possesses at least a portion of the truth constitutes a moral claim of the highest degree.
This places the atheist in somewhat of a predicament.
As one who typically operates within a relativistic framework that necessarily excludes any notion of absolutes, an Atheist cannot convincingly argue that his claims correspond to the truth per se, unless he is prepared to accept the self-contradictory notion that his "truth" is applicable to the unenlightened masses and simultaneously valid for only himself - which is how they typically patronize the tenets upon which Christians place their fidelity.
In other words, an Atheist cannot count on his claims of truth as viable currency outside of the proverbial corner of relativism he has painted himself in by declaring at the outset that any exclusive claims to truth, such as the ones that a Christian espouses, are incompatible with reality.
The Atheist may respond that his claims to truth are accorded unquestionable validity on the basis of overwhelming scientific data; but these claims cannot apply to questions of ultimate causes unless the Atheist presumes that the same research is capable of ascertaining with scientific certitude questions that belong to a wholly different path in a realm that science is ill-equipped to tread.
This leaves the Atheist with the option of attempting to regain lost ground by demystifying the principal reasons for faith, which they often try to do in cleverly subtle and imaginative ways.
But the God that many Atheists sometimes revile is, in essence, such a caricature of the actual God that is presented in the scriptures, the honest Christian has to concur with his adversary that it would be madness to place one's trust in such a capricious and volatile deity.
In fact, Atheists rarely advance even sufficiently coherent arguments for dismissing the God that is actually revealed in the scriptures. Personally I have yet to come across reasonable grounds for embracing Atheism as a consistent worldview even from those who are lauded as the most erudite minds in the field.
Many of them base their findings on grossly misinformed perspectives, often nurtured by assumptions for which no evidence has been admitted other than their own personal prejudices or animosities that have little if anything to do with the actual picture of the God revealed in the scriptures; but the maxim that conclusions will always be as accurate or erroneous as the premises upon which one bases those conclusions applies even to Atheists, no matter how sincere their convictions.
Yet in retrospect Christians should thank the determined Atheist who, after all, does provide a well-needed service.
Every creed is cultivated partly through the stirring of its soil by challenges from those who may only have a vested interest in its destruction. A creed that is indulged with entitlements in the milieu in which it seeks to exercise its professions rarely experiences any substantive growth; to thrive it must be continually pruned and tested in the fires of doubt.
Given that the Christian faith has been attacked, maligned and ridiculed since time immemorial, and that is has time and again patiently endured the most severe forms of scrutiny, what is a few more millennia of testing it if will only result in furthering its maturity.