Most Atheists I have encountered fall into 2 categories:
- New Atheists: People who don’t believe in God and see religion as an evil to be eradicated given the harm it has caused humanity (i.e. followers of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, etc…).
- “Don’t care” atheists: People who don’t believe and really don’t care what others believe (I think this what is meant by “irreligious” people – but I might be wrong).
My own views don’t fall under either of these categories.
On one hand:
- I am not convinced neither by the scriptures of any of the major religions nor by any of the philosophical arguments (ontological, cosmological, etc…) that a supernatural God or gods exists. Nor do I believe that any of the major scriptures have much historical truth in them (any that they might have is purely accidental). In this sense I am squarely an atheist.
On the other hand:
I do not dismiss the positive role that religion has in peoples lives as easily as most atheists do. For all of the crusades, inquisitions and ISIS’s that religion has created, it still plays an important role in many peoples lives. I believe that science can never provide answers to questions of meaning and value (as opposed to factual questions), and yet these questions do need answers.
I do not buy the existentialist “we can construct our own meaning and values” stance. That would make them too arbitrary. At the very least, very basic principles such as “Killing is bad”, “Raping is bad” and “Small children should be loved” need to be transcendent. They are too important to be left to the whims of the Sartres and Camus of the world to construct them.
I find that religious ritual, and acts such as prayer and meditation to be very useful, maybe even necessary. They add meaning and richness to many people’s lives, and it seems very cruel to me for science/reason to strip them of that, without at least trying to offer a substitute (and so far it can’t).
None of these views seem to me to be inline with what people think of as Atheism.
- Is someone who subscribes to these views considered an atheist or is there another name for this worldview?
- Have any prominent atheist philosophers had positive views on religion? What were their reasons?
- Have any atheist philosophers addressed the idea that religion, even if factually wrong, does serve a purpose and that any system (science or other) that eliminates religion needs to provide a workable substitute?