The Humility of Atheists

A reader complains:

What a nice Glenn Reynolds you pull as you approvingly post a message from a reader stating that "Real atheists lack the humility to understand what they don't understand." After all, isn't Glenn Reynolds the best example of linking to a post, and then claiming you don't support it?

You don't tolerate mindless and derogatory comments about most, so why do so about atheists? Do you honestly believe that "real atheists lack humility...?" This humanist atheist is a scientist quite comfortable and humble knowing that I don't understand most of existence. And yet, I have no problems seeing the universe in its sublime beauty - awe, devotion, and worship are possible, even without a god. The universe is too grandiose for any other reaction.

Yes, this atheist worships. The word's etymology is, basically, "to ascribe worth." I do that every moment I become aware of my breathing - awe, devotion, and worship and complete amazement as to how it all fits together. It simply is. And I believe there is no god, as well.

So stop it with the supportive post of an attack on atheists.

My only support for the post was by saying that I sense more understanding of the need for doubt and humility among evangelicals. I run plenty of emails with which I don't fully agree. That's the point.

And this atheist reader has a point. Take Sam Harris. "The End of Faith" is not an arrogant or dismissive book as a whole (although he has his moments). It ends with some quite remarkable thoughts about mystery and meditation. Harris is very attracted to Buddhism and has spent long periods in spiritual retreats. I'm a believer; but I profoundly respect non-believers, and even the spiritual experience of atheists. One of my most cherished writers is Albert Camus. In "The Plague"  and in his notebooks, Camus shows how a man resigned to the non-existence of God can still love the earth and the universe, can relish its surprises and pleasures, and - more importantly - do good. Morality is not the exclusive preserve of the religious, and never has been. But Camus' treatment of Father Paneloux in the book is also full of the generosity that Camus had for true Christians. That mutual respect between believer and non-believer is critical. We need more of it.