By Joseph Kellard
A Boston Globe feature article on the growing number of "non-believers" in the United States-well, at least among our youth-actually gives a glimpse into why many Americans are instead finding God.
Both the non-believers highlighted in this article and its author, as illustrated by his reporting, show why assorted non-believers (atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists, etc.) cannot unite around their *non*-belief and "free thought."
Atheism, of course, is not a philosophical system. Philosophically, it is simply a rejection of God on metaphysical grounds (although, I realize, some atheists are such on emotionalist grounds), which leaves wide open what non-believers believe in otherwise-thus, atheists run the gamut from Objectivists to nihilistic-anarchists (the emotionalist type).
What's noteworthy is that the article describes today's humanists as having roots in such non-believers as Hume, Marx, Nietzche and even Ayn Rand-but "align themselves with more recent proponents of ridding society of God," including Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan and Kurt Vonnegut. Of course, the problem here lies in lumping Ayn Rand in with the likes of Marx, implying she is a passé atheistic forbearer rather than the still under-recognized philosophical innovator that she is.
Also note that among the young non-believers that the author quotes, most make appeals to "science" while saying nothing about moral values and where they derive them rather than from God.
"I oppose any ideology that motivates people to ignore or deny scientific evidence, especially when that evidence is crucial for improving people's lives," says the president of the Tufts Freethought Society.
The author does explore the moral values of one non-believer, Greg Epstein, the focus of his piece, who wants his ilk to go beyond denouncing religion, and denying the existence of God, so that they can focus on what unites them. So what unites them? Well, when Epstein defines humanism, he calls it a "philosophy of life without supernaturalism that affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment aspiring to the greater good of humanity."
Further, Esptein finds this maxim inspiring: "Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness."
After reading the article, I concluded that within a decade or less, Epstein will likely be preaching socialism somewhere, perhaps at a religious congregation. I can hear it now: "Workers of the world unite…"
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Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard