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by Margaret Manning
In the last decade, a rash of fundamentalist atheists has become a publishing phenomenon. Touting that God is a delusion destructive to human life and civilization, and heralding the end of faith, these authors see only positive results at the end of atheism. Reason and rationality will conquer any “zealous” adherence or devotion to a transcendent God.
It’s fairly easy to identify with the concerns that motivate these authors towards atheism. Like them, I grieve over the violence perpetrated in the world in the name of God and religion. I can understand how Mother Teresa would poignantly wonder about God’s presence with her in the suffering wasteland of Calcutta. And certainly, I, like many others, have had life experiences that raise questions concerning God’s involvement in my life, and God’s love toward me. I can understand the despair-filled temptation towards agnosticism, or even atheism.
Yet, the world many atheists envision without God or faith is ultimately unrealistic, overly optimistic at best. Their beautiful portraits of what the world could look like if we only jettison our faith are painted with glowing brushstrokes of romantic imagery and language:
“This universe is shot through with mystery. The very fact of its being, and of our own, is a mystery absolute, and the only miracle worthy of the name. The consciousness that animates us is itself central to this mystery and the ground for any experience we might wish to call ‘spiritual….’ No personal God need be worshiped for us to live in awe at the beauty and immensity of creation….love our neighbors, and [know that] our interdependence demands that people everywhere be given the opportunity to flourish.”(1)
I find this vision completely out of step with a world in which innocent civilians are being silenced and slaughtered by the thousands. Indeed, in light of the state of our world, an optimistic ending for atheism is as out-of-touch with reality as belief that the world is flat.
This vision of a godless world being a better world is, in fact, shattered by the writings of the prescient prophet and atheist, Friedrich Nietzsche as well. Nietzsche, the German philosopher who wrote in the nineteenth century, predicted what an atheistic society would look like…
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