Atheists are curious about religion simply because they are intelligent, and can’t imagine how someone could suspend their miraculous gift of intelligence and devote their lives to the confined space of dogmatism. The average atheist is well aware of how precious freedom is – the freedom to choose the right course of action, the freedom to come to the right conclusion after judging the facts rationally, the freedom to uphold exactly those principles which one’s native moral sense urges to do. Not to be pushed into anything. Not to do something just because our ancestors did it, or because tradition and religious customs dictate that we do it. If our whole moral sense militates against something, it cannot be right – not in the name of God, in the name of piety, or in the name of anything else. The modern atheist will look back on the dubious record of human history, where dogmatism of every kind ruled men with an iron fist. He will ask himself, isn’t the whole point of modern freedom and democracy to set ourselves free from that horrible past? Then why do people choose not to take this tremendous gift? Why do they tie themselves up with one religious dogma or another, as if all the struggles of history were in vain?
The atheist is plainly baffled by the believer
And because there are so many of them, his attention turns to the source of their belief – the books of revelation. He may be tempted to look through them again. He does, and still doesn’t find anything there. There are probably some good moral and ethical principles enshrined there, but nothing that couldn’t also be got from the atheist agony aunt, or from an unbiased authority on ethics and the philosophy of religion. Yet he doesn’t fail to notice that a few good nuggets come along with a lot of baggage that simply had no place in a divinely inspired tome. The Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer are all very well, he surmises, but there was a lot that was prosaic, mundane, and even outright repulsive.
Some atheists may even envy the inner calm and repose that the believers project
As the thinking goes, atheist curiosity and the exercise of reason were all right to an extent, but they lack somewhat when it comes to delivering serenity. The seasoned atheist reformer is well aware that the search for principles, among politics and philosophical systems, just goes on and on. Jonathan Swift wasn’t alluding only to religion when he described Lilliput and Blefuscu going to war over which end to break the egg. That inner serenity is not that easy either.
Mouthing meaningless chants would not do it. You have to be convinced in your heart that it is right. And when the cherished faculty of reason militates against it, it is simply not possible. So the focus of curiosity completes the circle and comes back to focus on the believers once more. How do they do it? After all, they appear to have the same level of intelligence and sanity as do the atheists.
The answer is, of course, that God guides us all in our own special ways. The path of the atheist may really be through reason, the intellect. The reason is sacrosanct. It is what sets us apart from the animals. At no moment should we abandon our reason? There is nothing wrong in the atheist outlook, in regard to his curiosity about religion, as painted above. Even if he was the only atheist in the world, he might still be the only one in the right, while all the religious people were in the wrong. The religious people might still be only following their ancestors or using religion to certain worldly ends, or one of the myriad other reasons. As the only one using his precious faculty of reason, the lone atheist would be the flag bearer of truth.