RESPONSE TO COMMENTS
ON THE "FRIENDLY ATHEIST" BLOG
ABOUT MY CHAPTER ONE, POSTED THERE
[Note: Yes, amazingly, Hemant Mehta, one of America's most prominent atheists, posted Chapter 1 of my just-published book The End of Unbelief on his popular blog The Friendly Atheist, knowing his aggressively atheist readers would attack it -- and me -- mercilessly. They did not disappoint. Over 500 comments made me feel their passionate contempt for my views. Then Hemant was kind enough to let me write a response to those comments. The response was in five parts (which drew over 1,000 more comments). Here is the second part.]
Gripping the Levers of Power
When I speak of the tide of intellectual culture, most of you know exactly what I mean, because you're a militant and articulate part of it. Skeptics are carrying the power centers of Western intellectual culture with them. The most acclaimed university professors, philosophers, psychologists, scientists, novelists, playwrights, TV talking heads, and print-media journalists tend to be in sympathy with their worldview – and to see ours as quaint and antiquated, laughable at best, evil and pernicious at worst.
Joining that sophisticated, free-thinking avant-garde was a major enticement for me when I was grappling with religious doubts in my late teens, and aspiring to be a novelist. It was an emotional factor in my final break with religion at age 20. (Philosophical factors were more compelling, but the emotional factors were there; they always are.) Today's New Atheist authors and their disciples are so proud of their intellectual superiority that they call themselves "the brights," because they're so bright and we believers are so benighted. They've found other rationalizations for the term, but pride is at its core.
Turn in Your Badge!
So I make no apology for saying that "the tide of modern intellectual culture flows strongly toward atheism." Imagine yourself telling your intellectual friends, and announcing by comment on the Friendly Atheist, that you've shed your atheism and become a devout believer. Imagine vividly how that and the derisive reaction would feel -- then tell me it wouldn't be swimming against the tide. It's like turning in your badge of intellectual superiority. I've done it, and that's exactly how it feels. (My book shows the contrary to be true.)
I refer to atheism as "a destination congenial to some but abhorrent to others." I was careful to make my Antarctica metaphor a statement of my subjective truth -- not an indictment of atheism for everyone: "For me it was like Antarctica...." (Emphasis added.) I know that for some it may be a Tahitian paradise. But not for everyone. So I make my appeal.