Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Afterthoughts about yesterday's post

A casual reader might infer from yesterday's post that I'm a close-minded atheist fundamentalist (or is that fundamentalist atheist?), because of the great difficulty that I have in imagining a set of circumstances that would lead me to change my mind about belief in God.

Christianity offends my sense of modesty. Christianity presumes that my moods and my feelings have a grave metaphysical significance. It really ought to strike each of us as mildly perplexing that anyone could think that the feelings associated with stealing a cookie could provide the clues and hints to unravel the riddle of existence. I mean guilt of course, but not in that we should not feel guilty because guilt is bad. But rather that my feelings themselves hang heavy with world-historical fruit.

In order to grasp the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, I only need to turn inwards and cogitate on the comings and goings of my moods and feelings. Anyone who knows me will attest that I set a great store by my intellectual abilities, but even I am not so egotistical as to believe that my emotional make-up is a road map to figuring out the so-called meaning of life.

I suffer from guilt just as much as the next (ex-)Christian, but mercifully I lack that neurotic compulsion to make myself believe that my feelings of guilt are the only possible prism through which to view humanity, history, psychology, biology, and life in all of its myriad manifestations.

Am I an atheist fundamentalist or a fundamentalist atheist? Historically, the Christian fundamentalist movement began with a call to return to the fundamentals, and to the bare minimum of what was necessary for salvation and the truth of the gospel. There was also the intent to return to as an unemcumbered interpretation of Scripture as possible. In this narrow sense of the word, there are no atheist fundamentalists because atheists eschew the use of texts in which to ground and justify they (dis-)belief.

On the other hand, it is somewhat gratifying to see "fundamentalist" used in colloquial speech as a synonym for dogmatic and close-minded. It is even more gratifying to see "fundamentalist" used as an insult, meaning that a charge of of "fundamentalism" is almost a refutation in itself. This means that dogmatic and close-minded attitudes are something to be ashamed of.

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