A reader writes:
I read your (and your readers') religious posts with great interest. Hell, I go to one of the top Catholic universities in the country. I have taken more theology courses than any human should.
That said, I'm probably an atheist. What I am not, however, is an anti-theist. Religion has the same potential for good as for bad. If all faith ceased to exist tomorrow, there would still be war, persecution, crime, etc. What upsets me, and I assume many atheists, is the inability of many in the religious fold to admit that they might be wrong.
I fully understand and realize that I may burn in hell for my beliefs (or lack thereof). Why can't they just say 'look, this is what I believe, but who knows.' It is the hubris of the theists that turns atheists into anti-theists.
This is a point I've made at length, of course. It's the core argument of "The Conservative Soul," which is that doubt should be the animating principle of a conservative politics and a real faith. Again, Merton is invaluable (the quotes recently have been from "New Seeds Of Contemplation"):
You cannot be a man of faith unless you know how to doubt. You cannot believe in God unless you are capable of questioning the authority of prejudice, even though that prejudice may seem to be religious. Faith is not blind conformity to prejudice - a "pre-judgement". It is a decision, a judgement that is fully and deliberately taken in the light of a truth that cannot be proven. It is not merely the acceptance of a decision that has been made by somebody else.
How many believers follow Merton's advice?