“I am very fond of humor and laughter … Materialists, humanists and atheists all take this world too seriously because it is the only world they are ever going to have.
But he who possesses faith knows that this world is not the only one,
and therefore can be regarded rather lightly.”
-- Fulton J. Sheen
I’ve had this bit of wisdom hanging on my wall for years. It’s on a little plaque given to me years ago and I can’t remember by whom. Possibly this person appreciated my attempts at humor in my teaching; and beneath my apparent lightness he or she saw a genuine depth in my faith. I’ve always taken it as a compliment.
And as I have encountered materialists, humanists and atheists, I’ve come to realize that this quote tells me as much about them as it does about the person of faith.
Now I recognize that Bishop Sheen was speaking in generalities, and not all in these categories fit his descriptions. At least not on the surface. And in the past I would have questioned his conclusions, or recognized that there are many exceptions to the rule.
Though I have personally met few, if any atheists, I have read some of them, and to tell the truth, have often been impressed with their logic and clear thinking. People like the brilliant philosopher Thomas Nagel, or the writers Susan Jacoby (See: DEALING WITH DUMBING DOWN.) and Chris Mooney. (See: DON’T CONFUSE ME WITH THE FACTS.) These and others are a delight to read and often add immensely to my store of knowledge as well as forcing me to clarify my thinking.
However, atheists (like Christian thinkers) who simply write learned tomes expounding their views apparently don’t sell many popular books. It seems that the books that really sell are “attack” books. I recognize that there have been many in the past who attacked religion, especially Christianity, but I don’t remember as many attacks till recently. (See: THE ATHEISTS ATTACK.) These guys seem to be at war with the God whose existence they deny.
Please excuse me for implying that they do this merely to sell books. I’ll concede that their motives are genuinely sincere. They speak from a belief system that colors all their thinking and it is this belief system which causes them to (as Bishop Sheen said) “take this world too seriously.” I suppose that I would too, were I in their position.
Perhaps the words of Thomas Nagel are true of many atheists. “I am talking about something much deeper – namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” (The Last Word, page 130.)
Are professing atheists perhaps not really atheists but theophobes?
A few words to my atheist friend: Please don’t be like your mentors Dawkins, Hitchens and the rest, unable to lighten up. Don’t be incapable of looking with an open mind at views which cast doubt on your beliefs. Don’t simply resort to ridicule toward those matters with which you disagree or simply do not understand.
And yes, I’m still praying for your conversion! :^)
(P.S. I’m still not able to get any of my comments published on your blog.