How Do They Not Believe…

Michael Novak counts the ways. It seems to me that he misses one category of atheists, or at least that he ought to have teased it out from the six that he lists: those who’ve made science and rationality (more correctly: rationalism) their god. He’s got good advice for believers, though:

Recall that in your own truth there is always some error, and in the errors of your current opponents, some truth. Each believing Jew and Christian has solid religious grounds for being respectful of the truths uttered by others, and humble about the degree of knowledge each of them has so far attained. No one of us “has” the truth. All of us, with very limited minds indeed, are held accountable under its infinite light.

It always gives me a feeling of unreality when others take me as the raving, narrow-minded theist. (Perhaps I’m just the closest thing that they’ve managed to encounter in New England.) But it’s always a mistake, in my view, to feel — much less assert — that one has the Truth. We manage no more than to suspect it, albeit sometimes very strongly.

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16 years ago

Wonderfull essay. Most of those he speaks about are more properly labeled agnostic or Deist.
Make no mistake about it. The #2 atheist he talks about, the kind found on Daily Kos or RI Future, has as much venom towards Christians as Hitler and his top leader’s had for Jews.

16 years ago

Some of us of faith are secure enough in our own faith not to have vilify those who are not of any faith.
Remember, those who took down the WTC were not atheists or agnostics.

F. Rottles
F. Rottles
16 years ago

Rhody, that’s right, they were nihilistic facists.
Mike, the Nazis sought to demolish orthodox Christianity, as well.
Justin, I agree with Novak about the infinite light of Truth; and I agree with you that we suspect the Truth.
But I think the deal with all but the first type of athiests on Novak’s list, their deal is that they instinctively disagree that Truth is available to light our paths; or that such paths to the Truth are real; or that Truth is detectable even if suspected weakly.
Thus, I think, Novak is overly generous when he used a broad brush to say,
— in answering the challenges put to Jews and Christians by atheists this season, we may concede that nonbelievers may well find in the law “written in their hearts” and recognizable by reason alone a quite decent moral code, and in ancient and modern moralists among pagans some good guidance for living rather good moral lives. Not, for the most part, saints, just good people; though among them, for sure, are some “secular saints,” of the kind observed by Albert Camus in his novel The Plague.
* * *
The challenges are not from the secular saints but rather from the folks who turn their sights anywhere but to a search for the Truth, as contentious as such a search might be.

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