Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A.N. Wilson on atheism

A.N. Wilson, who "converted" to atheism and back to Christianity, writes,
By nature a doubting Thomas, I should have distrusted the symptoms when I underwent a “conversion experience” 20 years ago. Something was happening which was out of character – the inner glow of complete certainty, the heady sense of being at one with the great tide of fellow non-believers.
We don't need to read any further. His self-characterization as a "doubting Thomas" is immediately revealed as nothing but irrational vanity: a doubting Thomas would not merely distrust but never have the "inner glow of certainty" or the "heady sense of being at one" with any group... at least not long enough to matter. Wilson reveals himself nothing more as an outer-directed crowd-pleaser and dogmatist, not as someone who came to atheism by honest skepticism or intellectual inquiry. His reconversion to Christianity, comprising a much larger crowd with an actual dogma, is entirely unsurprising and completely uninteresting.

There are no small few atheists who have simply transferred their credulity and outer-direction to the atheist community. We'll take 'em — we'll take anyone — but we ought to remind them that just "being an atheist" isn't enough. You can't just change what you think, you have to change how you think.

No matter how much you feel "at one" with the atheist community, you're not: such a feeling is an illusion, because the atheist community isn't something anyone can be "at one" with. Indeed the skeptical atheist community is by definition a "community" of people who insist on the intellectual authority of each individual and fundamentally reject not just specific dogmatic beliefs but the idea itself of any sort of collective dogma. The only "strictures" of the skeptical atheists is: think for yourself, pay attention to the arguments of others (even if you're not persuaded, you'll usually learn something), and, most importantly, cowboy up and argue for what you believe to be true: if you can't argue it, you have no epistemic right to the belief.

If you're not a skeptical atheist, you are — like the unfortunate Mr. Wilsome — just some dumb schmuck with one fewer stupid idea than a theist.

1 comment:

  1. "No, the existence of language is one of the many phenomena of which love and music are the two strongest which suggest that human beings are very much more than collections of meat."

    Oh good grief.

    Phenomenon X exists.

    Phenomenon X is really complicated and I can't understand how it could have a natural explanation.

    Therefore, I believe in magic.
    These idiotic arguments continually reinforce my non-belief.


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