The Atheists Are Right

(Michael Jensen has published an interesting article:)

Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. Justin Martyr (103-165), First Apology VI

I should like to propose a thesis that may seem somewhat unlikely for a Christian theologian: namely, that the atheists are right.

Or, at least some of them are. Insofar as they contend against the existence of God, or attack the authenticity of the Bible, or pit faith against reason, I would say they are badly mistaken.

But there is another form of atheism, which Professor Merold Westphal of Fordham University calls ‘the atheism of suspicion’. This form of atheism is represented by the works of those great nineteenth and early twentieth century figures Nietzsche, Freud, Marx and to some extent Darwin (or at least, his descendants). The work of these scholars serves to expose the bad conscience of much religious belief.

They were less interested in evidence than in motives. In their different ways they believed that they could undermine belief in religious propositions by showing that believing often served less than pure ends. As Westphal puts it, “Its target is not the proposition but the person who affirms it, not the belief but the believer.”

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