Can an Atheist be a Ger Tzaddik?

There are good theists, and there are evil theists. There are good atheists and anti-theists, and there are bad atheists and anti-theists.

What we should be focused on is NOT whether I can prove to Richard Dawkins in terms he will accept is whether God exists. I have enough proof for me and that should be enough for all of us to allow me to continue believing what I believe.

Better we should be having the more important debate – which Pope Francis appears to be trying to set up – which is “what does it mean to be good, and why?”

As for we of the Hebrew persuasion, we should ask – is there room within the construct of the Noahide Laws for an atheist to be a ger tzaddik, or at least a righteous non-believer? And if not, do we simply accept atheists and even anti-theists as one of the nations provided they don’t come after us?

As our theistic world is compelling non-believers to adhere to modes of belief that explicitly exclude God, how are we to address those who not only disregard our beliefs, but who (as in the case of Sam Harris) regard them as amoral and anti-intellectual?

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Is Moderate, Rational Atheism a Fallacy?

English: Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins after ...

English: Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins after Maher’s talk at the Atheist Alliance International conference in Burbank, CA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An erudite atheist friend said recently that every atheist he knew personally, as many as a couple of hundred, and (he contended) all of the Big Name atheists:

“..have said, explicitly, that to the limited extent I outlined above (‘there may, against all the evidence so far, be a god’) they are agnostic. There is zero conflict in this position if you claim to be an evidence-based rational thinker (which most, but not all, atheists will claim).”

It was an interesting claim.

Now, while I would love to test that statement against all of the Big Name Atheists, I thought I would try it for one, possibly the biggest name, Richard Dawkins. At best, he is conflicted. While he has been frequently quoted as saying “There probably is no God,” thus sounding intellectually honest, on at least one occasion in public he has said ““You are utterly wasting your time – all of you who are indignant at being attacked about your god – because there is no god.”

That doesn’t sound like the kind of intellectual honesty to which my friend alludes: it sounds like a statement of absolute faith, or at best a vacillation between two positions, one agnostic and quite acceptable in polite company, and one anti-theist, and steeped in faith.

The atheist might retort that God does not exist because his existence has not been proven. My response to that atheist is simple: we all have our standards of proof. God has met mine, he just hasn’t met yours yet.

A Thoughtful Point on Atheism

Furthermore, to say that religion is evil because religious people have committed heinous acts in the name of religion is like saying medicine is evil because Dr. Josef Mengele committed heinous acts against the subjects of his Auschwitz experiments in the name of medical research. One can take any constructive enterprise and use it for destructive purposes. This offers no grounds for condemning the enterprise itself.

via The Atheist Crusade.

I would not condemn an atheist or secularist because of the acts of Josef Stalin. Why is it that Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens would condemn my faith for the acts of a totally unrelated fanatic?

A Final Thought on the Late Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This writer was no great fan of the late Christopher Hitchens, primarily because the correspondent, journalist, and author made it his quest in his last years to give eloquent defense to secularism. It was sad to me that someone with so much to say – and such talent to say it – should place that talent in service of a cause so unlikely to improve the lot of man.

Yet while I felt his evangelical atheism wrongheaded and a tad hypocritical (though not nearly to the degree of Richard Dawkins‘ deicidal mania), even those of us who disagreed with him have to grudgingly admire his passion, eloquence, and doggedness in pursuit of his own beliefs.

As we continue the Great Debate, perhaps it is permissible to pause and suggest that Hitchens’ voice booming from the other side of the table will be sorely missed. There is nothing in the world better for the thoughtful man of faith than a thoughtful man who disbelieves, and my own religious growth will be the lesser for the loss of a fine advocate for the other side.

Though you might resent this, G-d bless, Mr. Hitchens, and G-dspeed.

Riposte to the Libertines

Reading a superb analysis of the effect of Hugh Hefner on the psyche of American culture by Algis Valiunas in the May 2010 issue of Commentary. In the piece, entitled “The Playboy and His Western World,” Valiunas makes a strong case that Hefner and his Playboy empire were the vanguard of the force that turned western morality on its head.

It is not an unfair claim, though I would argue that Hefner as much rode as drove that tsunami of post-modern libertine thought over the seawall of mid-century American morality. (Let us not forget the Beat Generation, which was itself the most extreme expression of popular most-modernism in 1950s America.)

The key to The Playboy effect, though, is, as Valinuas puts it, that “the brave new world demanded an end to the timorous old one,” and what Hefner called Puritanism was “what Hef wanted to rid the world of.”

This is a fascinating and, in my opinion, accurate criticism of the movement that lies at the roots of today’s secular humanism and of radical atheism. Hefner and his contemporaries were not interested in merely claiming legitimacy for their way of thought in a free marketplace of ideas (as they occasionally claimed.) No indeed: the only goal worth pursuing would be the de-legitimization of all contrary forms of thought.

Martin Amis picked this up in his 1973 novel The Rachel Papers, which Valiunas quotes:

“The so-called new philosophy, ‘permissiveness’ if you like, seen from the right perspective, is only a new puritanism, whereby you are accused of being repressed or unenlightened if you happen to object to infidelity, promiscuity, and so on. You’r enot allowed to mind anything anymore, and so you end up denying your instincts again – moderate possessiveness, say, or moral scrupulousness – just as the puritans would hav you deny the opposite instincts.”

The last forty years have been a testament to this orthodoxy of permissiveness, and the result has been a generation that gives heed to writers like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, men who seek to take up Friedrich Nietzche’s sword in the quest to kill G-d.

Tolerance has become a one way street, and Hugh Hefner has forged a cultural orthodoxy as stifling and repressive as the one he rebelled against and helped overthrow.

I argue not for our culture to return to the evil depicted in The Scarlet Letter, but for us to advance to a time where we are able to replace damnation and ridicule with debate and tolerance. If we do not, we must suffer the fate of all societies that succumb to monochromatic, universalist orthodoxies: fascism, blood, fire, and downfall.