Of all the charges I usually see leveled at atheists who publicly profess their addition of the Abrahamic god to all the other gods we Westerners don't believe in, the one that tickles my fancy the most is that we "hate" God. It took me a while to appreciate the subtlety of the charge. And what I mean by "a while" is, I just figured it out a few hours before composing this.
Hatred is, to the Western mind, completely irrational. It is emotional, incoherent, undesirable, the province of a childish mind. We associate hatred with bigotry or loss of control. It is the latter part that holds the most power. Picture a young child in a tantrum, disappointed by a parent's decision. "I hate you!" the child screams, face turning red. This is the image conveyed when we are accused of "hating" God. The charge brilliantly marginalizes and infantilizes the atheist in question.
The very illogic of being accused of hating something one doesn't believe exists is part of the brilliance of the charge. Again, it's like that child: "I don't love you anymore!" we can picture the tantrum concluding. Oh, the intemperance and irrationality of a child, sighs the parent. So, too, sighs the theist. It's an attack both subtle and completely spurious; hatred of God might lead to denial of worship, but why a denial of belief?
When I hear of "hatred of God," I think of my wife. She has an absolute and unwavering faith in God and Jesus Christ as His Son. She also hates God with a passion she usually reserves for myself or the children she works with. There is a real depth of feeling to her hatred: She thinks He is an asshole, a bastard, a complete waste of her time and devotion. She is absolutely convinced He exists, of the veracity of the Christian Scripture she was taught as a young Seventh Day Adventist. She is convinced that she is going to Hell for marrying an unbeliever, for having sex outside of marriage, and for eating freaking shellfish, among other various and sundry ridiculous sins. But she doesn't care. She's pissed at His ass, and so He can kiss hers.
I love my wife with a devotion that makes the sun seem a cold and puny thing.
I don't hate God. I find the iteration of the Abrahamic god offensive in the extreme. Any way you cut it, the Torah is a story of hatred, bigotry, genocide, and blind submission to authority, all of which I abhor as an empathetic being. But I don't hate God, because I don't think the Torah was dictated to man by it; it is a human conceptualization of phenomenon man required an explanation for.
I am not one of those evangelizing atheists; not because I believe in accommodating the beliefs of others for pragmatic purposes, but because I don't hold my atheism stridently. Ultimately, the truth of my atheism isn't something I can "know." By the time I would have my answer, if I'm right, then I won't exist to receive it. And if I'm wrong, there's nothing I can do about it at that point (especially if any of the Abrahamic conceptions are correct). That doesn't make Pascal's Wager attractive, though: As Colin McGinn has said, you can't make yourself believe anything you aren't predisposed to.
Since I like to consider myself an honest and intellectually curious person, I remain open to the possibility of the phenomenological experience of God. "Revelation" is the argument for God that has the only real chance of "proving" its existence to me. But that cuts both ways: If I haven't experienced revelation, what makes my lack of experience less valid than someone's positive experience?
It's like trying to explain the beauty of a sunset to a blind person trapped on the dark side of the moon. With nothing to compare it to, no shared point of reference, how could I impugn their skepticism and doubt? It's an imperfect analogy, I know, but it's damned close. This is why the theist has to use arguments like the atheist "hating" God or "turning a blind eye." It has to be willful or personally motivated because they can't fathom that someone can find simplistic beauty in nature or look at the vastness and complexity of the world and not see the divine.
Since I haven't experienced "revelation" or a dispositive moment, I retain a form of personal intellectual agnosticism towards the existence of God. No, I can't say for sure that it doesn't exist; but, barring revelation, I may never. And without that moment of revelation, with so many rational -- that is to say, historical, cultural, social, and psychological -- explanations for religion, belief in iterations of God, and morality, so many opportunities for community and companionship, I simply see no need for God.
This is why I'm not a strident atheist on the matter of the existence or not of God. I really, really don't care. Its existence doesn't matter to my life. I have a wife I love. I'll have kids some day. I have family and friends, a job that, while not as financially rewarding as I'd like, fills me with a sense of purpose and contributes positively to the lives of others in my community. I am ethical, giving, compassionate, and intelligent. I have a world to explore, things to do, books to read, thoughts to have, actions and feelings to experience. Who has time to worry about God, about the afterlife, or about questions that are ultimately unanswerable with so much around them? Who needs Abrahamic teleology when one's neighbors and children and grandchildren will inherit the consequences of one's actions and the world they build? I pity those people who need a God to get them through life, to give that life meaning. I don't think they're actually living much at all. I pity the people who need any more authority to govern their actions than their empathy for their fellow man and their own reason.
I do believe in rare, genetic evil. I believe, even more so, in the evil that self-interested, fearful man can do to its fellows, especially when enabled by false authority. Such evil should be confronted and excised, through the violence of decisive action or the violence of subversive, deconstructive reason. This is why, when I am a strident atheist, I am in strident opposition to the human construction of religion, to its inherent, logically inescapable dogmatism, and its adherents. Dogmatism is my enemy, be it secular or theistic. Actions have consequences. I tolerate the quiet, "moderate" believer because their actions demonstrate that they have positive regard for others, and there's not enough of that to go around.
[This post originally appeared at Often Right, Rarely Correct.]