Like everything in life, change apparently is coming to the atheists of the world.

John Moore reports in the National Post that,

frankly militant atheism is just so passé.

It appears a new trend among atheists is emerging. They are the “new atheists.” Their creed is quite simple. It can be articulated Moore says in just five words:

We really just don’t care.

Moore describes himself as a person who has

neither a holy book nor hymnal. I observe no special holidays and attend no services. My atheism is simply an absence of religion in my life. Outside of leaving me a few hours to myself on Sunday mornings this absence is not some kind of void that must be filled with something else.

I respect Mr. Moore’s absence of faith. I admire his honesty and appreciate his gentle, humorous authenticity.

But some of his traditional atheist arguments against faith are not tremendously convincing. Certainly, my faith has never quivered in the face of the oft-repeated refrain atheists love to trot out at every opportunity that

an awful lot of conflict and abuse in the world seems to be rooted in faith and sectarianism.

If we are going to trade horror stories between people of faith and leaders who were clearly not motivated by any religious allegiance, the actions of Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong,Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Papa Doc Duvalier, and Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia stand as stark reminders in fairly recent history that the nonreligious closet contains a few violent skeletons of its own.

And resorting to a childish caricature that lumps all religion into the same category as some of its fringe elements is about as convincing as arguing that because some atheists feel Friday the thirteenth is an unlucky day and that four leaf clovers bring good luck, all atheists are ridiculously superstitious .

Certainly I agree with Mr. Moore when he says of atheists that

the absence of faith is not some kind of character deficit.

I have my very own list of character deficits I could point to that support this argument more forcefully than I would wish. My faith does not necessarily make me better, smarter, kinder, or wiser than Mr. Moore or any of his fellow atheists.

I sympathize with Moore who explains, he has tried to have faith, but somehow it just has not taken.

It’s not that I didn’t try to be a believer. I was raised in the church. I taught Sunday school. I still have the Bible I was presented with at my confirmation. But it was seed cast upon stone because it never took. I passed time in church doing math tricks with the birth and death dates of the composers of the hymns. At the Easter vigil I fervently wished for the fire of faith but spent the hour listening to the clanking of the oil fired heating system instead.

I have the same problem with opera. I admire people who can sing a story and act convincingly. I envy people who find themselves transported by the soaring tones of a mezzo-soprano into another dimension. But, for me it just does not work. The opera chip is missing from my psychic hard drive.

Conversely, I cannot give an adequate explanation for the presence of faith in my life. It is just there. I have tried to live without faith. I have sought to content myself with a vision of life that sees nothing beyond the physical material realm.

Perhaps it is a weakness in my constitution or just fear, but I simply have never really been able to settle down and find adequate meaning in an existence that has no place for the transcendent mystery of life that I choose to call “God” and find revealed in the loving presence I experience at the centre of my being. The beauty, wonder, gentleness, and self-giving I see all around me move my heart to open to a reality that feels deeper and more profound than can be contained in a purely materialist view of the world.

I do not criticize Mr. Moore for his lack of belief. I am sorry for the faith that stirs in my heart; but it will not go away, even in the face of his kinder gentler atheism.


Thank you David for bringing Mr. Moore’s piece to my attention.