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Turnabout: Questions for Atheists

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Turnabout: Questions for Atheists

In my experience, atheists usually assume that atheism (or its approximations) is the only reasonable position.

They demand that Christians give an explanation of their beliefs. Thus, all the questions are directed to Christians: Why do you believe A? Why do you believe B? The assumption is that A and B are irrational positions.

But honesty demands equal turnabout. Jürgen Habermas, a well-known and highly respected atheist thinker, reports that when he began examining his own beliefs, he had to admit that he daily uses convictions that actually have deeply Christian, not atheist, sources.

For instance, the belief that science is capable of unlimited progress. This belief assumes that the universe is rational and understandable, so that human intelligence can keep penetrating to and uncovering its secrets. But, we need to ask ourselves, where does that belief in the intelligibility of the universe come from? As with other beliefs we had taken to be atheist, its actual basis is the view that an all-seeing, rational force governs the inner life of the cosmos. Intelligibility suffuses the universe through and through. It is in all its parts intelligible and able to yield up its secrets to science little by little, progressively.

This conviction is not itself based on science; rather, it is a belief, with obviously some after-the-fact evidence in its favor (namely, the progress of science until now). At the same time, an optimistic account of human intelligence faces immense obstacles: the immense folly, evil, and sustained irrationality humans are prone to, in almost every age. The death camps of Nazi Germany and the vast human cruelty practiced in the gulag of the Soviet Union, for example.

Other atheists have been willing to face the fact that two systematically atheistic regimes of our time, Hitler’s Nazism and Stalin’s Communism, laid down a record as two of the cruelest, most murderous, and most smothering of free thought in history. How do atheists defend the role of atheism in these regimes?

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