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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Beyond the Theism/Atheism Divide

I came across a fascinating article today in the Huffington Post by John Thatamanil calling out faults in certain believes expoused by Atheist and members of religious groups.  (

In the article, Thatamanil points out that "the squabbles between fundamentalists and the New Atheists are especially tragic because left-leaning religious communities and progressive atheists cannot find each other in the midst of all the sound and fury. Cut off from a deeper dialogue that moves beyond antagonism, they fail to make common cause on behalf of a shared vision of ecological and social justice."

Thatamanil points out:
Too many atheists display the same aggression and smug self-satisfaction that they detest in their fundamentalist rivals. The tragedy is that the crossfire between these groups prevents robust alliances between modest liberal religious communities and humble non-dogmatic atheists on matters of real urgency.
What binds many atheists together is an unshakable conviction that they know everything there is to know about religion, namely that it is irrational bondage to immutable doctrine. No amount of counterevidence can convince such atheists otherwise. What irony! But where do they come by this knowledge about religion? Their expertise seems to be derived by virtue of sheer sentience alone.
By contrast, if a theologian were to broadcast her convictions about molecular or evolutionary biology without some years of careful reading and study, she would be met with jeering laughter and summarily dismissed. Why then are uninformed atheists who have never read in theology exempt from similar derision? Sadly, every pedant believes himself entitled to his unearned convictions about religion.
But perhaps most importantly:
But strong alliances are possible not only between Christians and persons from other religious traditions but also between religious communities and curious, open-minded atheists, especially those graced with genuine wonder at the mystery of existence. Deepening their shared appreciation for mystery should drive theists and atheists alike toward a disposition of humility.

Claimed by such humility, liberal theists and atheists can come to see that they have a great deal in common: curiosity, willingness to interrogate and revise fundamental convictions, reverence for life, and a deep sense of sorrow about the damage inflicted upon the body politic by militant fundamentalists, whether they be theistic or atheistic.
Common ground.  Common values.  It can be had without condemning our fellow man.

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