Enlightenment Origins of Contemporary Atheism

Jan 29, 2018 by

by Clifford Staples, Crisis Magazine:

One thing I have learned interrogating, in Socratic fashion, the so-called atheists, agnostics, and skeptics who are thick on the ground and on-line these days is that the Christianity they reject is not any Christianity I would claim as my own, but a false Christianity fashioned for them by bigots. Rarely, it soon becomes clear, have any read an Augustine or Aquinas or C.S. Lewis, or taken the time to study (let alone understand) a Bible. In fact, what one soon realizes is that they know little or nothing true about the source of most of what is true, good, and beautiful in Western Civilization.

Thus, these people should for the most part not be treated as adults bearing well-considered beliefs, but rather as rebellious teenagers. All they really know is that they want to be free to do what they want. These people I tend to encounter are not, as one might be tempted to think, ignorant and unschooled. Not at all. Many are the product of fine universities, where they have learned to despise Christianity, the United States, Western Civilization, and anyone who does not join them in this hatred. One is to hate these things and anyone who might defend them because they are responsible for the oppression that keeps the oppressed from getting what they want, whatever it is.

The justification offered for this refusal to accept any order or authority outside themselves is the now commonly heard absurdity that “everyone has his own truth.” That everyone having his own truth is a logical impossibility does not seem to faze them. The absence of reason more generally does not seem to faze them. Instead, reason is subordinated to individual autonomy, to the triumph of the unencumbered will. The apparent willingness to dispense even with common sense if it inhibits what one decides to want often displays this tragi-comically, as in the increasingly common practice of deciding that it is we, not God, who makes us male or female.  This pursuit of autonomy will reach its logical end when some begin to claim to be their own creator ex nihlo. Sound absurd? Not if you’ve been paying attention.

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