On Thinking Christians, Thinking Atheists, and What Really Matters

by Tom Gilson

When the Thinking Atheist mentioned my blog at his Facebook page, his commenters responded with a long series of smirks and harmless taunts directed my way, mostly to the tune of “There’s no such thing as a thinking Christian.” A couple dozen people said “thinking Christian” is an oxymoron. Oh, well. Such is life.

Apparently the Thinking Atheist has heard the same directed at him. I appreciate what he said: “I never assume anyone is thinking, atheist or otherwise.” I agree, and I’ll add that I never assume anyone is unthinking, atheist or otherwise.

I’m sure both of us would agree, though, that sometimes we can move beyond assumptions toward a reliable, evidence-based conclusion that some person is either a thinker or not. How might we do that? Commenters at his Facebook page seem to think they can tell just by knowing what conclusions a person comes to. If she’s an atheist, she’s a thinker; if he’s a Christian, he isn’t. This comment from Peter Grack represents the near-constant drone there: “Ack! They’ve got to be kidding! If they were ‘Thinking’ they’d be Atheists.”

I have to wonder what this does to poor Descartes. He wasn’t an atheist. Therefore he didn’t think. Therefore he wasn’t. Poof! He’s gone. How do you say, “I don’t think, therefore I am not” in Latin?

(I hope Descartes wasn’t a solipsist. Sometimes his skepticism seemed to tilt him in that direction. If he was, then I really hope he was wrong, or else we’re all gone, too.)

There’s no need to point out I did real violence to the logic of the cogito there; that was just for fun. What I’m trying to say is that a person’s atheism could not possibly the proof of their thinking. If it were, then not only Descartes but most of the great philosophers of Western history, almost all the leaders of the scientific revolution, and the majority of the founders of history’s greatest and freest democracies, were non-thinking dunces. It’s an absurd (dare I say unthinking?) thing to think…


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