11.14.2006

The kind of faith an atheist has

This recent(ish) post by Rabbi Josh Yuter is fascinating, as is his commenter Yossi's comment. I especially appreciated it in light of Julia Sweeney's show and my reactions to it.

1 comment:

alg's dad said...

This reminds me of a book review I read recently of Richard Dawkins' new book, which also attacks religion. I actually very much liked Dawkins' last(?) book, The Ancestors Tale, about the evolution of life, though he would occasionally throw in an annoying comment promoting his theological beliefs. His new book, though, seems to be entirely about that. According to the reviewer, Dawkins would tolerate people who are already religious, but wouldn't allow religious people to raise their children as religious, because children are not capable of critically judging the validity of religions they are brought up in. Presumably, he would require children of religious people to be brought up by atheists, so that they would remain objective.

The problem with this attitude, and that of the atheist quoted in Rabbi Yuter's blog, is that he doesn't understand that atheism, or each of its various varieties, is a religion like any other, with its good followers and its bad followers. Surely more people were killed in the 20th century by fanatical followers of Communism, a variety of atheism, than by followers of any other religion, mostly in Stalin's Russia. And yet, at almost the same time, in the early 1940s, in nearby Poland, the Communists were almost the only decent people, allowing Jews to join their partisans fighting the Nazis, when the Polish nationalist (Catholic) resistance was not allowing Jews to join them, and was even killing Jews.

Atheist religions, like theist religions, are capable of inspiring the best and the worst in people. And it doesn't help to say that you are using a scientific, empirical method to determine what is moral behavior. That is precisely the claim that Marx made for Communism. It is the very "ends justify the means" philosophy of Communism, which would surely claim that it is seeking the greatest happiness for the greatest number (eventually, in a future utopia), that made possible its worst behavior.