I hear frequently about the arrogance and presumptuousness of atheism/atheists from friends, rabbis, and teachers alike. After all, it is suggested, the vast majority of human beings throughout history have believed in some kind of God. Who are atheists to assert that they know better than the vast majority of mankind? This is, in all honesty, a childishly silly argument that irks me to no end, and not just because it is so blatantly wrong, but because the truth is precisely the other way around.
In the first place, proponents of the arrogance of atheism for the reason that most of mankind has believed in at least one God make a fatal flaw in their logic – they don’t factor in the arrogance that they possess by their own argument. By this I mean to say that we are all atheists in regards to Zeus and Jupiter and Osiris and Ba’al. Think about that for a moment. The famous journalist H.L. Mencken once drew up a list of very nearly 10,000 Gods that used to be worshiped and aren’t today. Writes Mencken in his short funeral oration to the gods of men past, entitled Memorial Service:
“You may think I spoof. That I invent the names. I do not… They were gods of the highest standing and dignity – gods of civilized peoples – worshiped and believed in by millions. All were theoretically omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal. And all are dead.”
Why is it only atheists who are perceived as arrogant for rejecting god(s), when theists are also atheists when it comes to the thousands and thousands of gods that have been worshiped throughout history? And why is it that they reject those gods in the first place? Perhaps when theists understand why they don’t worship any of those thousands of now extinct but once revered gods, they’ll understand why atheists say to just be more consistent and reject one more. Say theists reject 10,000 gods. All atheists do is reject 10,001. I can’t stress this enough: we are all atheists in respect to the gods worshiped throughout most of mans history that only full fledged atheists are seen as arrogant for rejecting.
And now, to the crux of my argument. Is it not far more arrogant for a theist to believe something along the lines of “there is an omnipotent, omniscient creator of the universe. I personally know this creator’s most important thoughts and feelings. He cares about me like a son, listens to all my prayers, and watches me throughout every second of my life. Further, he loves my people 1000x more than he loves any other peoples – because I belong to his chosen ones.”
On the other hand, I find that it’s the atheists who are humble enough to admit that there are certain things we just don’t know yet as a species. Religion, however, claims to have literally all the answers. Literally, without exception. And the answer to everything is ultimately this – God did it. My God, who loves me and cares about my problems and hears my prayers. If this is not arrogance, I don’t quite know what is. Certainly it is significantly less arrogant for atheists to suggest that the universe is basically indifferent to our needs, and that we are really just another species of animals, more intelligent than the others though we may be.
According to the faithful, the most crucial developments in the history of mankind were developed thousands of years ago when their holy books were revealed; the theory of evolution as proposed by Darwin (which many theists ignorantly reject and the other ones pathetically try to squeeze into an ancient, primitive creation narrative that no religion had a problem taking literally for hundreds and hundreds of years), Einstein’s theory of relativity, Freud’s advancements in psychology, Franklin’s groundbreaking research into electricity… This all pales in comparison to their ancient and primitive texts which contradict science, history, morality, and common sense left and right. Even a cure for cancer wouldn’t come close.
Why? Because the Bible is God’s word, and that’s all there is to it. Quite simply, religious people already have all the answers. All the important ones, anyway. Is this not the height of arrogance, as opposed to the atheist who is perfectly content saying “maybe we just don’t know yet”? Is it not sheer chutzpah to suggest that you know the innermost thoughts and feelings of the omnipotent, omniscient creator of all that exists – and who knows yours too, because he cares so darn much about every single one of them? Does it not reek of self-importance to believe with every essence of your being that this deity – supposedly the father of all mankind – loves you and those who have been born into your faith considerably more than he cares about anyone else…. If he cares about them at all?
Not incidentally, up until very, very recently, almost all theists believed as a rule that God simply doesn’t care about those people not fortunate enough to be born into the “right” faith; this ever just and merciful God sends them to burn in hell as eternal punishment. Or at the very least, according to the kinder theists, they will never reap the rewards that the lucky chosen ones will after death, when all the real fun begins.
Belief systems such as these are not just the epitome of arrogance. They are evil, they are pernicious, and what’s more, there’s not a shred of solid evidence to lend them credence. And it is my belief, based on everything I have put forth here and much, much more, that we should be overwhelmingly glad about this lack of evidence. We should thank goodness that the arrogance of theism reflects at most a deep psychological yearning for an all powerful father and a way to evade death – not the actual conditions of our universe as a whole, which are far more beautiful and complex and mysterious than anything a holy book could ever offer.