This past Saturday, our family went to the downtown farmers market for a stroll and some good food. I stumbled upon a stand set up with a big banner that reads: Don’t believe in God? You’re not alone! Of course, being the curious person that I am, I went to the stand to retrieve some literature that was there for the taking.
I found three common things present within all of these pamphlets: 1. The word “religion” is used interchangeably with Christianity; 2. There is a promotion of freethought; and 3. Atheism is about being anti-religion (anti-Christianity).
I’m not going to generalize the host of atheists as holding these three positions, but in my own experience this seems to be the case and this group’s pamphlets solidify that judgment. While I do not agree with 1 and 3, I still understand them since they’re straightforward. With 2, however, I don’t really know what freethought really means. Does it mean that the freedom to think ultimately leads one to atheism since one is freed of the enslavement of the hierarchical Church? If such is the case, I can name plenty of people who are free in thought and yet are faithful Christians (cf. Francis Collins, Stephen Barr, Peter Kreeft, etc.) Perhaps freethought here means thought that is more scientifically inclined, free of theologically biased convictions. If that is the case, Robert Jastrow‘s quote comes to mind:
For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”