A bit ago an out-of-the-closet atheist submitted his ‘heathen manifesto‘ in an attempt to clarify the atheist position and to dispel the caricature that has been created off the back of Richard Dawkins’ defense of atheism. Here are his headline points:
- Why we are heathens – we admit that there is a human problem and that we don’t know everything.
- Heathens are naturalists – we actively believe that there is no such thing as the supernatural
- Our first commitment is to the truth
- We respect science, not scientism
- We value reason as precious but fragile
- We are convinced, not dogmatic
- We have no illusions about life as a heathen – sometimes life’s just hard
- We are secularists – we value a state that doesn’t force people to believe in anything supernatural
- Heathens can be religious
- Religion is often our friend
- We are critical of religion where necessary
- This manifesto is less concerned with distinguishing heathens from others than forging links between ourselves and others
Ok. Now here’s the thing. I don’t have a problem with this guy because of point 2; he acknowledges that active faith is required in order to be a heathn. But the manifesto I find to be fundamentally flawed.
Although the final point specifically says that this isn’t here to distinguish heathens as ‘different’ from others, that is exactly what it does. Each point is very clearly an attempt to put people into a box: if you’re religious, you belong in the ‘religion’ box, and you’re therefore different to me. But many of the points in the manifesto could very well appear in a Christian manifesto (valuing truth, respecting science, valuing reason, being convinced not dogmatic), with only one difference, which is highlighted in this quote from point 3:
Although we believe many things about what does and does not exist, these are the conclusions we come to, not the basis of our worldview.
Everyone has a worldview, and that informs how you interpret the evidence available to you. If I showed a heathen part of the Bible which said ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,’ he would undoubtedly say, ‘No He didn’t because I don’t believe there’s a God.’ If I said ‘look at this plant, doesn’t it demonstrate God’s creative power?’ he would probably say, ‘No, it simply shows me that the plant came to be.’
So, yes, the heathen comes to his or her conclusions but they are only based on the heathen worldview; that’s what distinguishes the heathen from anyone else.
Heathen: if you value reason, consider the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. It requires more faith to ignore it than it does to believe.