A former student, living in England, wrote to me recently. She is studying for her PhD in English literature at Oxford, so she’s no dummy. She said she had returned to her childhood Catholic faith and had taken the trouble to read Dawkins and the other new atheists and found their arguments shallow, aggressive, close minded and stupid. She was surprised at the ignorance of otherwise smart people and dismayed by their aggressive tone.
It made me wonder whether atheists are angry and aggressive by accident or whether their anger and aggression is part of their belief system. It should be observed, first of all, that there must be plenty of atheists who are nice people. I’m sure there are lots of non believers who are polite, good natured, tolerant, easy going folks. Since this is so, I wonder where they get their idea of good manners and tolerance. Tolerance, good manners, respect for others, and all the civil virtues we value, are ultimately based in an underlying Christian world view. Christendom is a civilization rooted in the reliance on charity–which is self sacrificial love.
Some atheists might be nice now, but will they be nice for long? Why should an atheist be nice, tolerant, polite and self sacrificial? There is nothing at all in a secular, atheistic worldview which mandates or even suggests that there is value in such virtue. The only virtue in Darwinism as a world view is survival of the fittest.
There is such a thing as natural virtue. Within the pagan world it was considered virtuous to be loyal to one’s country, one’s tribe, one’s family, but so what, that is just self interest. Jesus said as much when he commanded his disciples to love their enemies. “So what?” he said, “if you love those who love you back. The pagans do as much.”
Can an atheist love his enemy? Once the Christian capital in the culture is used up and the residue of a Christian mentality is gone in a culture, it cannot be long before the atheist asks himself why on earth he should do something as stupid as loving his enemy.
Anger and aggression has to, therefore, be not just a co-incidence with atheism, but it’s consequence. In other words, anger and aggression is what flows naturally and inevitably from atheism. How can one love beauty, truth, goodness, grace, innocence, humility and every other virtue if one does not love God from which they come? Conversely, to hate God (for that is really what atheists do) must be, in the end, to hate beauty, goodness, truth, grace, innocence and every other virtue.
This end result of the descent into anger and aggression may not happen to every individual atheist, but it will happen at the cultural and societal level just as certainly as the sun sets at dusk. The French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, Communism and every secular, atheistic regime proves that atheism leads to anger, aggression and finally murder and genocide.
Then what shall we make of those religious people who fall into anger and aggression? This is lamentable, but it does not flow as a natural consequence of religion, but as an abberration from religion. An atheist who becomes aggressive and angry is only living out the end result of his philosophy. The religious person who becomes angry and aggressive is living out a contradiction to his philosophy. The first is being loyal to his principles and beliefs. The second is a hypocrite.