A Complete and Thorough Defense of Atheism: Chapter 1
It was early in the afternoon, and everything about the day suggested cheerfulness, from the quaint little birds, to the lazily floating clouds, to the students chatting in the park with the great relief they all feel on a Saturday. Under a tree, sitting at a wooden bench, overlooking the entire grassy knoll, the Professor sat in attentive conversation.
Professor Richard Dogmas was a merry type, teacher of religion at a prestigious university. He had many students and numerous awards and the most diverse teaching of religion in the state – an accomplishment the University considered its crowning glory. Everyone knew that the Professor was a Christian, and that he upheld the belief that Christianity was the only one true faith; he even called himself a literalist. But he taught so open-mindedly, so acceptingly of all other religions in his classroom, that colleagues guessed him only a soi-disant fundamentalist so as not to rile his good Christian friends. And so they really considered him nothing more than a good, though rather quaint, secularist.
As for his students, they were quite a religiously diverse body (as any self-respecting university ought to strive for) and never once did they feel threatened of their faith, or lack thereof, and were perfectly free to, and encouraged to, question theirs’ or anyone else’s.
The Professor himself was merry and friendly to all, and in addition to his engaging teaching style he was on quite good terms with each of his students, thus making himself a great favorite among them. And so on this afternoon he found himself conversing with Frederick Canon, atheist, and a student of his.
“And when did you first reach the decision of your current beliefs?” the Professor was asking. “Have you always been an atheist?”
“Oh no,” he replied, “I was raised by religious parents, and they taught me to be religious. I went to church every Sunday and volunteered every week. But it was empty. I was empty, I mean. Nothing seemed to be happening. I looked around me and saw happy, smiling faces and the rest of the world was in pain. Oh sure, we fed the hungry, gave to the poor – but there was always someone to say, ‘If only they’d accept Jesus – then everything would be alright for them.’”
“How puzzling – sad, true perhaps – but it is so very odd. How long did it take you to decide otherwise?”
“I was in high school when it hit me - that none of this is real. We’re only smiling on Sundays. Those who were most vibrant in church were the most indifferent the rest of the week. I’d rather see the world for what it is than pretend. Atheism is just so much more rational. We accept the world realistically, and we don’t need God to lean on. We can only really help others by freeing them from the surrealistic nature of religion.”
The Professor nodded, visage masked with agreement, refusing to say a hundred things on his mind. “This, then, is why you wish to study religion; you wish to understand it, for all its faults, so that you may better free others from it.”
“You could say that, yeah,” said Frederick. “But I don’t know, I guess I’m still looking. You can never say you’ve found all the answers. I’d like to see if there really could be anything beyond.”
Now the professor was interested, even more than he had been thus far, but only replied that if Frederick were looking for answers he hoped they would be found in his class.
While many thought they knew and understood the Professor, few were actually so endowed. While jolly, he was quite introspective, and few truly understood his peculiar ways and myriad of idiosyncrasies. One of these few was a humble, slightly grey woman of about fifty or fifty-five; she too was a Christian, and as the University would have it a “fundamentalist,” but she was far less complicated a character than her old friend the Professor. Her name was Mary – Mary Madeline – and she was the only soul in the world who knew of the Professor’s secret.
It was her sitting in his study, sipping her tea, and listening as he stood at his desk – standing, not sitting, for so wholly upset was he.
“You do see, Mary, how desperate this boy’s situation is?”
“Really, Richard, calm down. I only meant to warn you of your greatest fault, which even now you display.”
The Professor sat, but he was no less riled. “I must explain these things to him; I must ‘shut his mouth.’”
Mary, calm and unperturbed, took another sip. “I speak from experience. You know you have a tendency to get rather carried away.”
“Yes – maybe –but I have not failed yet. You’ve seen each and every one of them come to Christ.”
“You have not failed?” declared Mary, a raised eyebrow the only sign of her disapproval. “You know better than that. I know it is in your very nature to respond,” she added with returned placidity, “and I know why you feel you must do it this way. I only wish to suggest you watch yourself.”
The Professor looked appeased. “If only you could have heard him. Do you know what he said to me? Atheism is rational, religion is surreal, we don’t need God - but still, ‘I’m looking.’ He attended a dead church, Mary – one where everyone sings to God but no one knows what He ever said or did. It is so very important to praise God, but it is equally important to know Him, as well as we can. God has given him grace, however, and he’s looking. I’m here to help him find it.”
Mary nodded. “I will help you. You know I always do. I will be praying, for him – and for you.”
Professor Dogmas nodded in thanks. He turned to his notes, looking over all the knickknacks of his quirks and fancies, and pulled out among them his favorite calligraphy pen. Then he began to write.
“Dear Frederick Canon,
“You may wonder as to who I am and how my interest in you came to be, and that would be perfectly natural. I am a friend of a friend of a friend, and I hear you are an atheist, and on any such subject I am very interested. I have considered it my goal in life to encourage and esteem my fellow atheists, for I consider its general acceptance vital to our society’s well-being. It is my hope to elicit such sympathies in you, sir, and if it is already the case may I humbly consider myself a mentor in your celebrated rejection of myth? I believe you may come to find me useful in helping you learn to think like an atheist and in discovering its answers for the world around us.”
He then concluded, “Sincerely, Silas Dogood.”
I confess myself quite surprised at receiving your letter, but nevertheless, I am interested. If you wish to challenge and strengthen my beliefs, by all means I welcome your offer.
I am already convinced at the importance of atheism. My family is religious, and their ignorance of reality – not to mention their total abhorrence towards those sharing my beliefs and now even myself – is very disturbing to me.
I am glad to hear of your opinions of atheism and religion; I am further glad to hear you welcome my mentorship.
Atheism has had its followers since the dawn of man, but such people were often forced into secrecy about their beliefs; it was not socially acceptable to reject the gods. Popularity for the ultimate rejections would not come until much later – nearly two million years later – during the French Revolution.
The French had been oppressed by extravagant kings who believed it God’s will for them to oppress. They spent money extravagantly and performed all the frivolities divinely bestowed on them by kinghood. This had gone on for centuries, and when the French fought back, they wished to be liberated from anything and everything all at once. They beheaded the royal family and threatened priests with the same fate. They freed themselves of God and erected Reason in its stead.
Their audacity shocked the world, but they were not finished yet. Science, knowledge, reason – all must be freed from the grasp of religion. So French Naturalists and scientists began to postulate long ages and change in species over time. Granted, these were our first attempts – with the earth’s age pushed back only to 100,000 years and evolution described as a Lamarckian , non-genetic process – but they were among the trailblazers of modern science, naturalism, empiricism and atheism. Others would take their lead.
In the 1800’s, Charles Lyell was the first to take a major step in atheism – for atheism, unlike most religions, is founded in science – he published works on uniformitarian geology and described an earth that was billions of years old. Later that century, Charles Darwin stepped on the scene, agreed with Lyell, and formulated his infamous theory of evolution.
He was not accepted at first, but reason always gives way. Today evolution is accepted by all real scientists around the world.
But what of atheism? Despite it being the root behind the growing tree of evolution and the age of the universe, our belief in no God is shared by a minority in our country – a country that prides itself in freedom, independent thinking and advanced technology!
But always remember this: atheism is the foundation of evolution, and of all real, superstition-free science. Our society cannot hope to grow if it does not soon realize this and embrace atheism. You must realize this if you wish to free others from their myths, or if you wish to be scientifically literate at all.
P.S. If you please.