This won’t be a treatise on atheism per se, but just some of my thoughts that fall somewhat into that category. As such, the background in question will mostly be boring stuff about me. Read on at your own peril.
I am a regular listener to a great many podcasts (I enjoy multi-tasking – it lets me do things like translate Hebrew or study without going insane). One of the podcasts that I listen to is this one, hosted by Reginald Finley Sr, called The Infidel Guy show. It is basically a freethought discussion forum where he will have a guest for discussion of some issue of interest to atheists and freethinkers. For example, the most recent one to pop up on iTunes for me is “The Future of Humanity in the Face of Apocalyptic Belief”.
I also tend to regularly read, with interest, the writings of atheists and secularists, including people like Bertrand Russell and Carl Sagan and George H. Smith and Archibald McLeish, but also so-called “new atheists” like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. I would also include most of the reading that I do in physical science and philosophy as well, actually, though atheism as such isn’t always an issue in the things I read. The writers and thinkers may well believe in God, but it doesn’t factor into their discussion of the topic at hand.
I don’t want to say that I approve of or agree with all these things I read, just that I consistently read them and find it meaningful to do so.
I am also familiar with the atheist viewpoint from the inside. For a time in my life, I decided that I didn’t believe in God, that belief in God was essentially untenable, and that, painful though it was, I had to let go of it. Obviously, this previous standpoint probably colors all of the thinking that I do, theological and otherwise.
It also has to do with why I am more of a subjectivist than an objectivist. I was thoroughly convinced that there was no objective way to demonstrate that God exists, much less that God is concerned for me in particular, and that is what I desperately wanted. I wanted so much to be certain, to be secure in my own rightness, in the rightness of my beliefs.
In part, it is because of my acceptance of radical insecurity that I was able to find God again. Or, for a more Reformed way of phrasing it, God reached out to me in part though the experience of radical insecurity. Nonetheless, I think that God remains fundamentally indemonstrable. God is improvable, not even in the way that we can prove a scientific hypothesis to make it a theory (which always has the standing of ‘the best explanation we have now’, and never ‘the only correct explanation’). This, for me, puts God outside the categories of supposed objectivity in which we most often talk about things like “truth”.
So I feel that I am left in a position where I cannot make absolute claims in the realm of religion, and I find it hard to accept other people’s absolute claims for the same reasons I reject my own.
Coming next: A Strong Argument is presented and reflected upon.