Thursday, January 05, 2006

The friendly atheist

Look up. Look waaay up... There's an interesting post at Anal Philosopher:
Many people are devoutly religious, and I respect them. I’m what William Rowe calls a “friendly” atheist. Qua atheist, I believe that there is no God (and that I’m justified in so believing); but qua friendly atheist, I believe that a person can be justified in believing in God. If you (the reader) believe that God exists and I believe that God does not exist, then one of us is right and the other wrong, since the propositions are contradictory. But even though we can’t both be right, we can both be justified in our beliefs. Truth is not justification. One can have a justified false belief just as one can have an unjustified true belief. How can both theism and atheism be justified? Easy. The world as we experience it is compatible both with God and without God. As philosophers of science would put it, belief is underdetermined by data (or experience). There are, of course, unfriendly atheists, just as there are unfriendly theists. I may even have been unfriendly earlier in my life, but now I’m not. Which brings me to my subject: Why are leftists hostile to religion? The hostility takes different forms, from denying that theism can be justified (epistemic hostility) to trying to drive religion out of public life (legal or social hostility) to discriminating against theists in one’s personal or professional life (personal hostility). The debate over Design Theory is just one manifestation of hostility. I cannot for the life of me see the harm in teaching high-school students that some scientists and philosophers of science believe that the best explanation of natural phenomena makes reference to a designer. The opposition to such a harmless proposal is so vociferous that it requires an extraordinary hypothesis to explain it. Something more than truth is at stake. Leftist dogma is at stake. Let me take a stab at explaining the hostility. The following remarks, like much else in this blog, are meant to be tentative. Leftists are hostile to religion because leftism competes with religion for the same cognitive and affective space...
This is my own view of the atheist-theist debate as well. Both theories have a certain coherence but I think that atheism is not compatible with truth and freedom, as I understand them. Neither is leftism.

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