Randal Rauser: Conversation With My Inner Atheist

20 Questions With a Believer, Authors, Critique of Apologetics, Naturalism, Podcast
Randal Rauser
Listen on Apple Podcasts

My guest this week is Randal Rauser. Randal is, in his own words, “a systematic and analytic theologian of evangelical persuasion.” He is a professor of systematic theology, aplogetics, and worldview at Taylor Seminary.

Randal has written a number of books on apologetics and atheism. I first became aware of Randal’s work around 2017 when I read “Is The Atheist My Neighbor.” At least in the circles I am a a part of, Randal is considered to be a fair and honest apologist and is widely regarded for “steel-manning” atheist arguments before giving his arguments against them.

My own shifting relationship with certainty and doubt, confidence and questioning, is reflected in my history with apologetics.

This week we discuss his new book, “Conversations With My Inner Atheist.” In this book, Randal personifies his doubts as an interlocutor named Mia, My Inner Atheist, who presents the atheist, humanist and naturalistic arguments against his faith. Randal shows real vulnerability in several of these dialogues and often leaves the matter without a satisfactory conclusion by either party (believing Randal or non-believing, Mia).

Instead, I believe that certainty can journey along with doubt, confidence can welcome questioning, and together they can work to create a healthy and balanced Christian community.

As you might imagine, I have some thoughts on these matters most of which I express in the Final Thoughts section of the podcast. We also discuss a recent back and forth between Randal and Ian Mills of the New Testament Review Podcast fame on the topic of methodological naturalism.

The truth is, I’d rather accept that there are some questions I may never answer rather than return to the simple days where I thought my answers were beyond question.

Links

Blog
https://randalrauser.com/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/RandalRauser

YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/user/RDRauser

Books

Discussions on Methodological Naturalism

Randal’s a Miracle isn’t a violation of the laws of nature

Ian Mills (a believer) defending methodological naturalism

Randal’s Respones to Ian
https://randalrauser.com/2020/09/methodological-naturalism-as-a-wet-firecracker-a-response-to-ian-n-mills/

Interact

My Critique of Apologetics
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/critique-of-apologetics/

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Via Paypal: paypal.me/gracefulatheist

Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Dr. Anthony Pinn: Humanism and Race

Atheism, Authors, Book Review, Communities of Unbelief, Deconversion, Humanism, Podcast, Race, Secular Community, Secular Grace
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest this week is Dr. Anthony Pinn. Dr. Pinn is the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities, the Professor of Religious Studies. the Founding Director of the Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning Rice University, and the Director of Research of the Institute for Humanist Studies. Dr. Pinn has written a number of books on the intersection of humanism and race. In this episode, we discuss his book, When Colorblindness Isn’t the Answer.

We spend so much of our time making fun of and belittling theists.
That’s not very productive.
You don’t transform the world that way.

I learned quite a lot from Dr. Pinn. Both about humanism and the experience of black humanists. Ultimately I was challenged to change my behavior, to “do my homework,” and to understand that it will take dismantling of white supremacy in humanist communities in order to gain the great benefits that diversity brings.

This sort of fundamental change this movement towards diversity and equity means giving up comfort.
You cannot request comfort and say you are interested in change.

Throughout his book(s) and in the interview Dr. Pinn calls on our humanist values to be less ignorant, to include black and other historically disparaged voices, and to develop our own vocabulary and ways of experiencing awe without calling on theistic traditions. “We can do better.”

[Our] goal should not be removing religion …
Religion is really simply a way of naming our effort to come to grips with who what when and why we are …
But it seems to me, the larger more compelling goal is decreasing the harm that we do in the world.

Links

Website
https://www.anthonypinn.com/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/anthony_pinn

Books
https://www.anthonypinn.com/books

Interact

Critique of Apologetics
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/critique-of-apologetics/

Deconversion
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/deconversion/

Secular Grace
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/secular-grace/

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Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Leighann Lord: Very Funny Lady

Atheism, Authors, Humanism, Podcast, Podcasters, Secular Grace, YouTubers
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest this week is Leighann Lord, comedian, author and podcast host. She has traveled the world doing comedy and has been on VH1, Comedy Central and HBO. She has co-hosted on Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Start Talk Radio and on CFI’s podcast, Point of Inquiry. She hosts her own podcast, People With Parents. She has written two books: Dict Jokes and Real Women Do It Standing Up.

Leighann went to Catholic school growing up and is now a humanist activist. Leighann was awarded the 2019 Humanist Arts Award for her work as the New York City face of the African Americans for Humanism outreach campaign sponsored by the Center for Inquiry.

[First attending humanist gathering]:
I had my discovery and my sincerity.

We talk about humanism and what it can add to the conversation about race in America. Leighann handles my naivete with grace and elegance while still pointing out the world is a complicated place and racism is a persistent problem in America.

What [BLM is] doing, I believe is the work and ideal of humanism.
Which is human beings realizing that they have a stake.
You want to light a candle? That’s great we still going to have to get in here and do this work.
And to me that is humanism.
Human beings trying to be better humans.
Actually doing the work.

Leighann’s podcast, People With Parents, deals with the role reversal of taking care of elderly parents. It is also a raw and real look at grieving the death of parent. We discuss secular grief and the need to be more public about grief as non-believers.

[Regarding grieving a loved one] Everyone is there for you week one. And most of them are saying the absolute wrong thing.
So while you are trying to grieve you are also busy being angry.

We geek out about comedy and how it can let truth sneak past our defense mechanisms. Leighann shares her top five comedic influences. She talks about first seeing Marsha Warfield on stage, “I didn’t know we did this. Which tells you the power of role models.”

Leighann’s comedy specials which are available on YouTube, Spotify, Pandora and Amazon Prime have much to say about living in 2020 though they were recorded a few years ago. They cover race, religion, sexism, sex, wealth disparity, and the lack of education in the current administration.

You realize nobody changes their opinion or even starts to hear your side when your finger is in their face.
That’s just not how humans work.

Links

Website
http://www.VeryFunnyLady.com

Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/leighannlord/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/leighannlord

People With Parents Podcast
http://www.veryfunnylady.com/people-with-parents-podcast

YouTube
http://youtube.com/c/LeighannLordComedy

Books
http://tinyurl.com/LeighannsBooks

Interact

Secular Grace
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2016/10/21/secular-grace/

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Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Bart Campolo: Humanize Me

Authors, Communities of Unbelief, Deconversion, Humanism, Podcast, Podcasters, Secular Community, Secular Grace
Bart Campolo
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest this week is Bart Campolo. Bart is the host of the Humanize Me Podcast. He is the author of “Why I Left, Why I Stayed.” Along with his famous Evangelical father, Tony Campolo, Bart is the subject of John Wright’s documentary: Leaving my Father’s Faith. If that is not enough, Bart is also the Humanist Chaplain at the University of Cincinnati.

Bart and I discuss graceful ways of talking with people with whom we disagree, having conversations that are difficult that touch on religion, race and politics and changing one’s mind. I point out that Bart has been particularly public with some of these conversations, including a book and documentary with his dad, Tony Campolo, a podcast episode with his son, Roman, where they disagree on the hope or lack thereof for our species and a recent podcast episode on race. In short, Bart wears his heart on his sleeve and lives his life out loud with humility, honesty and grace.

We discuss humanism and the burden of being hopeful. Bart pushes back on my assertion that everyone needs awe, belonging and community. According to Bart different people need different amounts of each of those things. At the same time, Bart is facilitating a healthy secular community in Cincinnati providing just those things for the lucky few who attend. They put it this way:

  • Commitment to loving relationships
  • Making things better for other people
  • Cultivating gratitude and wonder in life
  • Worldview humility

I normally have a few quotes from the episode, but as I was writing them down it became a transcript. Bart is eminently quotable. Listen to the show to find out. I will leave you with just one which you will need to listen to the show to understand:

Show your work!

Be sure to listen to the end for a funny story I tell that relates to Bart’s father, Tony Campolo, during my time at bible college.

Links

Website
https://bartcampolo.org/

Podcast
https://bartcampolo.org/humanizeme

Documentary
https://campolofilm.com/

Book

Humanize Me Podcast episodes that give context to this conversation:
With Roman: https://bartcampolo.org/2020/04/510
On BLM: https://bartcampolo.org/2020/06/515
With Leah: https://bartcampolo.org/2020/07/516

Documentary

Interact

Secular Grace
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/secular-grace/

Deconversion
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/


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Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

John Marriott: A Recipe For Disaster

20 Questions With a Believer, Atheism, Authors, Critique of Apologetics, Deconversion, Podcast
Click to play on anchor.fm

My guest this week is John Marriott. We are talking about deconversion from the Christian perspective. John is the Director of Global Learning and teaches in the department of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Biola University. John did his PhD dissertation focused on deconversion from Christianity to atheism. He has written a book on deconversion called “A Recipe For Disaster,” which is directed to the Church on the ways they are setting up believers to lose their faith.

I define [faith] as having enough reasons for a hope worth acting on.
I think there enough reasons for me to act on this [faith].

I first came across John’s work in an interview he did with Randal Rauser. I was struck by the honesty and clarity that he had in describing deconversion. In particular this quote:

Something similar underwrites a significant percentage of deconversions. The biblical narrative that once easily fit within their childlike understanding of reality began to get squeezed out as they matured in their understanding of reality. The stories in the Bible about miracles, witches, giants, demons, etc. began to feel as out of place as Santa. To resolve the problems they may seek answers that will allow them to continue to believe in such things as adults in the 21st century. This is the experience not just of those who deconvert but all educated, reflective Christians today. I suspect that even for those that do remain Christians, the cognitive dissonance never completely goes away, it just has been reduced to a level that allows them to continue to believe. For deconverts however, the cognitive dissonance is not sufficiently assuaged by apologetics. It grows despite their efforts and reaches a tipping point. As in the case with Santa, the only way to resolve the tension is to admit what they know is true. God does not exist.

John proved to be as honest in person as he is in his writing. He met me in an honesty contest and we found points of agreement on what it is like to deconvert. Even though we disagree on the conclusions we were able to have a vital conversation.

The reason why I believe it is there is enough evidence for me that I find it persuasive. I don’t find the counter-arguments conclusive so there is sufficient and adequate reason for me.
But why do I find it sufficient and adequate? That is the real question.
And to answer that question it is so complicated:
there are personal reasons
there are sociological reasons
there are emotional reasons
of course there are some rational reasons
but at the end of the day we’re are so much more than mere Cartesian thinking machines.
To be able to say well “I am a Christian because its the truth and it is true because the evidence points in that direction so clearly and I have reasoned it out this way.” Is I think naive in how we actually go about forming our beliefs.

This is a 20 Questions with a Believer episode. John and I take turns asking each other questions and then crucially allowing the other person to answer.

Links

Website
https://www.johnmarriott.org/

Randal Rauser interview
https://www.christianpost.com/voice/the-problem-of-christians-becoming-atheists.html

Books

Interact

Deconversion and How to Deconvert
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/deconversion/
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

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Support the podcast
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Via Paypal: paypal.me/gracefulatheist

Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Jessica Hagy: The Humanist Devotional

Atheism, Authors, Bloggers, Book Review, Humanism, Philosophy, Podcast, Secular Grace
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest this week is Jessica Hagy. Jessica is the artistic and comedic genius behind the blog, Indexed. She has recently written a book titled, The Humanist Devotional. Jessica is an artist, an author, a comedian, a marketing and social media guru.

Get as humble as you can.

Jessica grew up secular and calls herself a humanist. It is not that she rejected the bible, but rather that there was so much more for her to learn. In the episode she uses the analogy of a library card as granting access to the world’s knowledge. Access that she took advantage of.

Small talk can get big fast.

We walk through her 10 steps on how to be an interesting person and re-imagine them as how to find meaning and purpose as a humanist.

Do something!

Links

Blog
https://thisisindexed.com/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/jessicahagy

Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/jessica_hagy/

 10 Steps on how to be interesting
https://inkandescentwomen.com/the-women/author-jessica-hagy/

Books

Interact

Secular Grace
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/secular-grace/

Deconversion
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

Why I am a humanist
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/11/18/why-i-am-a-humanist/

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Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Sasha Sagan: For Small Creatures Such As We

Authors, Book Review, Humanism, Naturalism, Podcast, Religious but not Spiritual, Secular Grace, Spirituality
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest this week is Sasha Sagan. Sasha has written a beautiful book called For Small Creatures Such As We: Rituals For Finding Meaning In Our Unlikely World. The book title comes from a quote in the book Contact:

For small creatures such as we,
the vastness is bearable only through love.

Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan from Contact

Sasha and the book she has written embodies Secular Grace and carries on the graceful life philosophies of her parents. Sasha has a galaxy spanning perspective on life that only the child of physicist can have. Sasha has an infectious joy about life. Listening to her or reading her work it is hard not to share in this joy.

In her book, Sasha argues that we as human beings need ritual in our lives to mark the passage of time, to celebrate the momentous moments in our lives and to mourn the loss of loved ones.

[Ritual] is really important to us.
Sometimes, when people are not religious or were religious,
there’s an urge to throw the baby [ritual] out with the bath water.
We still need these [rituals] even if we do them in a secular way.

We discuss secular grief in the face of the loss of her father, Carl Sagan, when she was 14 years old. Sasha shares the wise parting words he had for her and the ongoing impact he has had on her and the world.

Seeing life itself as worthy of celebration, For Small Creatures Such as We is part memoir, part guidebook, and part social history, a luminous exploration of all Earth’s marvels that require no faith in order to be believed.

From sashasagan.com

Links

Website
https://www.sashasagan.com/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/SashaSagan

Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/sashasagan/

Interact

Secular Grace
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/secular-grace/

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Support the podcast
Via Anchor.fm and Stripe
Via Paypal: paypal.me/gracefulatheist

Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Jennifer Michael Hecht: Doubt A History

Atheism, Authors, Book Review, Deconversion, Humanism, Naturalism, Philosophy, Podcast, Secular Grace
Jennifer Michael Hecht: Doubt A History
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest today is Jennifer Michael Hecht. Jennifer is a poet, an author, an award winning academic and an intellectual historian. She has written numerous books from a secular perspective. I asked Jennifer to come on the show to discuss her book Doubt: A History and its profound effect on me post-deconversion. She is one of my intellectual heroes.

It is hard to express how much this book has influenced other secular writers and thinkers. This book has strongly influenced my other two favorite books Greg Epstein’s Good Without God and Katherine Ozment’s Grace Without God. Both of which quote Doubt throughout.

Jennifer proved to be as profound a thinker as her reputation makes her out to be. It was my privilege to attempt to keep up with her in this interview.

I am indebted to Jennifer for coining the term “graceful life philosophy.” My concept of Secular Grace is an attempt to live a graceful life philosophy.

Great believers and great doubters seem like opposites, but they are more similar to each other than to the mass of relatively disinterested or acquiescent men and women. This is because they are both awake to the fact that we live between two divergent realities: On one side, there is a world in our heads— and in our lives, so long as we are not contradicted by death and disaster— and that is a world of reason and plans, love, and purpose. On the other side, there is the world beyond our human life—an equally real world in which there is no sign of caring or value, planning or judgment, love, or joy. We live in a meaning-rupture because we are human and the universe is not.

Jennifer Michael Hecht

Links:

Jennifer Michael Hecht’s website:
http://www.jennifermichaelhecht.com/
http://www.jennifermichaelhecht.com/doubt

Books:

Review:

My review of Doubt: A History

Recommendation:

My story on the Deconversion Therapy Podcast
https://deconversiontherapypodcast.com/2019/05/09/15-remembering-the-humor-of-rachel-held-evans/

Attribution:

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Makaih_Beats

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/

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Jim Palmer on Humanism

Atheism, Authors, Humanism, Podcast, Secular Grace, YouTubers
Jim Palmer
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

On today’s episode I am finally getting the opportunity to discuss the topic I am most interested in: Humanism or what I call Secular Grace. It is ultimately about answering the question, “how do we live life well post deconversion?” Rather than looking backwards, it is looking forward to learning to thrive as a human being.

My guest today is Jim Palmer. Jim is an ordained minister, receiving his Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Divinity School in Chicago. After serving several years as the Senior Pastor of a non-denominational church, Jim left professional ministerial life on a quest for more authentic spirituality and has authored five books about his journey. In addition to writing, speaking and his spiritual direction practice, Jim is an adjunct professor in the areas of Ethics and Comparative Religion. He is the Co-Founder of the Nashville Humanist Association and is a certified Humanist Chaplain with the American Humanist Association. 

Links

Books

Human beings having a human experience quote:

Clergy Project
http://clergyproject.org/

The Humanist Society
https://www.thehumanistsociety.org/

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

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Review: Doubt: A History

Authors, Book Review, Naturalism, Philosophy, Secular Grace

I have just finished Jennifer Michael Hecht‘s Doubt: A History. It has been around for some time but as I am new to atheism it is new to me. I would suggest this is an extremely important book for modern atheists to provide perspective on where we have come from and direction on where we are going. There is something wonderful about history. It places our ideas in context. It draws lines between what would appear to be disparate ideas. This book provides that context and draws those lines in a valuable way.

After my deconversion I had a number of ideas I was desperate to express. You will find them throughout this blog. Interestingly, however, I was mildly disappointed to find that none of my ideas were particularly original. Come to find out my experience of deconversoin was rather typical in fact. Average.  I titled my first blog post “A very common message” after this realization.

After reading Hecht’s book I am even more disappointed to realize that my ideas are not only not original for today but not particularly original for 2600 years ago. It is quite a humbling experience. But it does provide a sense of unity with doubters throughout history. And for that I am grateful.

Hecht’s book is dense with quotes from doubters and moves at break-neck speed from 600 BCE to the turn of the millennium. Attempting to review the book in the traditional sense could never do it justice. If I were to start quoting this post would be as long as the book. (Take note meme creators, this book is a rich quarry of quotes). Instead, I will write about the reactions I had reading the book and how they apply to the modern doubter.

I had the chance to interview Jennifer Michael Hecht about “Doubt: A History” on the Graceful Atheist Podcast

In praise of Doubt

The book is not titled Atheism: a History and this is significant. For one thing, the original usage of the term meant something closer to heretic rather than the way we use the term today as a complete lack of belief in any god(s). In fact, a common theme in the book is the deep and profound doubt expressed throughout history that none the less defaulted to some distant conception of god, from Aristotle’s prime mover to Spinoza’s  (and Einstein’s) pantheistic god and  what feels like capitulation in Kierkegaard’s fideism. Those who took doubt to its logical conclusion of true atheism were few and far between until the time of the enlightenment. And even those who did were wary of releasing this truth upon the masses for fear of the collapse of social norms.

The book could easily be titled Skepticism: a History. In many ways it is philosophical skepticism that is the line one can draw through the history of doubt. The Epicureans and the skeptics really began to rigorously question theism. Questioning everything especially that which comes from authority is a common theme. Decendants of these philosophies often refer back to the ancient Greeks in solidarity during their own times. Including our own time, we owe a debt to the skeptics.

However the book is titled Doubt: a History. There is something deeply moving about the word doubt. It implies one cares enough to question. Doubters have skin in the game. Doubters question not purely for the sake of questioning but for the sake of knowledge and truth.

Taking one’s place in the line of history

I am a doubter and I am proud to be a part of its history. After getting over my disappointment in the lack of originality of my ideas, I found great comfort in having historical precedent.

Reading Hecht’s book one can see the cumulative effect of the writings of doubt through history. Each generation is emboldened by the writings of their predecessors. The fear of expressing one’s opinions which are contrary to popular belief is widdled away bit by bit. There is a wonderful scene described in the book when Hume sits down in a room with 15 other atheists for the first time. That is what you call a historic moment.

The freedom we in the West experience to express our doubt up to and including atheism is due not only to the enlightenment philosophers but all those who went before them as well. Today we are dazzled with Dawkins, Harris, Dennett and the inimitable Hitchens. But there would not be four horsemen today if not for Diogenes, Epicurus, Cicero and Lucretius.

The doubter’s perspective

Hecht spends a fair amount of time reading between the lines of history to find doubt’s story. By this I mean there were time periods and cultures which attempted to repress doubters. As is often noted history is written by the victors. But wonderfully we have doubter’s stories as imprints in the counter-arguments of the prevailing ideologies. Like a cast mold the negative space of doubt can be inferred (or directly quoted) by the diligent ways it is argued against by the true believers.

I personally enjoyed reading the stories I am familiar with from my own prior faith tradition delightfully told upside down from the doubter’s perspective.

The Jewish flirtation with Greek culture and the reaction as told in Maccabees and the story of Hanukkah. This is the pull of cultural assimilation and the conservative reaction against it.

I have always appreciated the book of Job for its brutal honesty. Job accuses God of being unjust. Hecht points out God makes a “heap” argument to Job for faith. Meaning, how can Job account for all of creation without appealing to God. Interesting take. Job’s wife steals the scene by encouraging Job to “Curse God and die” and may be the true hero of the story.

I have also always loved Ecclesiastes. But relieved of the burden to make pious sentiments from this wisdom one can hear the bitter exhaustion and resignation for what it is.

“Might as well have a good time because the universe is unjust and uncaring.”

Others have pointed out the doubt of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane but Hecht portrays Jesus as a world class doubter. He seems to be reliant on his followers’ belief in him and is practically begging them to do believe in him. He has moments where he seems unsure of himself and the Father. This all culminates on the cross with

“Why have you forsaken me.”

The key insight of the book is that Christianity, particularly as described and defined by Paul, forever makes doubt a feature not a bug by requiring faith alone. Not just faith but faith without evidence.

“Blessed are those who believe but have not seen.”

Hope and discouragement

My favorite term in the book is graceful-life philosophies. As you may know I have a particular regard for the word grace in a secular setting. This wonderful term describes the philosophies of Socrates to Epicurus. And it means seeking the answer to the question:

How does one live well?

This question seems particularly poignant to our times. We must seek a secular pluralistic society as the world grows smaller and smaller. Rather than beating the dead horse of if one can be good without god, we should be asking how can we thrive and work with each other. We need graceful-life philosophies to unite us in this task.

In reading the history of doubt there is hope that even in oppressive environments rational voices remain. Regardless of the culture or particular religion there are those who express their doubt giving encouragement to future travelers.

The flip side of this coin is that humans have a tendency toward superstition and religion.  People do not like feeling out of control so they fabricate stories which explain the phenomenon around them. Again we can see this by reading between the lines in the negative image of the prevailing ideologies. In the Old Testament all the idolatry that gets systematically stamped out is an indication of people  not only seeking gods but very localized micro-cultural gods. In the early Catholic church the attempts to rid itself of heresy eventually get worn down and the use of votive candles and individual saints indicate the same phenomenon.

Ultimately, the hardest take away from the book is that forward progress toward reason is not a given. The hard-fought for knowledge of reason, logic, mathematics and the beginnings of science collected by the Greeks and represented in the library in Alexandria can and was burned down figuratively and literally. Though the flame of reason moved to the Muslim world rather than going out during the “dark” ages there is still a sense of opportunity cost. Where would the world be if the pursuit of science had been unbroken from the time of the Greeks until now?

This too is especially poignant for our times. As I write this in the US at the begining of 2017, there is a sense of loss of forward progress for the voice of reason. We have a responsibility to protect this forward progress and stand up for truth.

We have been having the same arguments for millennia

I started out this post by acknowledging my ideas about my new-found atheism are not new. That is the understatement of the century. While reading the history of doubt one comes to the inescapable conclusion that there is “nothing new under the sun.” The arguments for and against theism have been hashed and rehashed over and over again.

What was exciting to discover is that these debates have occurred in many cultures throughout history. They are not unique to the Abrahamic religions in any way.

What is a little depressing to discover is that we are still having the same arguments. As science has moved the gaps in knowledge literally to tiny fractions of a second after the big bang, apologetic arguments have moved further into the abstract.

As a relatively young atheist what I am struck by is the evasiveness of apologetic arguments against doubt. Apologists always have an answer. Those answers rarely deal with the questions straight on and at least in my experience are never satisfying.

All apologetic arguments tend to reduce to god-of-the-gaps (what we do not yet know) arguments or the epistemological black holes (how can we know anything without God?)  of the Cynics. This feels like a thoroughly beaten dead horse. Doubt has won. The history has been written.

What is next?

The question I have been asking myself from minutes after acknowledging my own doubt and becoming an atheist and the question I find myself contemplating after reading this history of doubt is “what is next?” What do we do with the hard-fought for knowledge? Keep beating a dead horse?

I’ll be writing about that in the coming months. In the meantime, thank you to Jennifer Hecht for a comprehensive look back at where have come from and how we got here.