And, no, for the record, I have never completely excluded the possibility that there isn't a God. It's just that every time I've chewed over that concept, it really turns out to be inedible.
Now, obviously, the presentation of atheists as seen above is unfair. What is above is truly more representative of a species known as the "anti-theist." Not only do they not believe in God, they believe that those who do believe are dangerous. The Oslo bomber who used "Christianity" to mean "Western Culture," and thought that religion was for the weak? Yeah, one of them. I expected him to cry out "Dawkins-hu akbar."
I have found reasonable, truly libertarian atheists to be closer to agnostics -- "I don't care what you believe, can we go on?" I count some of those folks as friends.
But anyway, for those of the anti-theist persuasion who have no idea what a religious person believes, or how they think, let me enlighten you.
Remember the film Inherit the Wind? That was a fictionalized version of the Scopes Monkey Trial? It's usually what anti-theists like to hold up when they like to say that Religious folk are anti-evolution. After all, they put someone on trial for evolution!
Total bullcrap. Any connection between that and reality is purely miraculous. Besides, the textbooks Scopes was using in real life also had some wonderful thoughts on eugenics. I wouldn't try defending those, were I you.
In the long run, take all those generalizations and just forget them. You might want to brace yourself.
This includes obligatory Psycho Preacher #55, Deranged Pederast #09, and of course, foaming at the mouth nut job #69.
- Don't make them see miracles everywhere. Read Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries for a model of the theistic skeptic. Or, read The Exorcist and how many tests are required for an exorcism to happen.
- Don't make them see symbols in everything. Sometimes toast is just toast.
- The religious person isn't constantly talking about JESUS!!! or IT'S THE DEVIL!!!
- Know the precepts of the denomination or religion you're writing about. A Catholic thinks he's eating Christ; a Baptist thinks he's eating bread.
I don't know what the anti-theist obsession is with evolution. Last time I checked, it was still called "the theory of," not the "certifiable fact of" evolution. Doesn't matter. I'm relatively certain it's right, or near right enough, for the purposes of general scientific inquiry.
But by God, the few anti-theists I've interacted with have a hard on for Darwin, and Lord knows why. One friend of mine insisted that he had hope for me because I believed in evolution, and it was a short trip from there to being a good atheist.
Except here's the thing: The Catholic Church has declared that evolution is not antithetical to Church teaching since the 1920s. Even Pope Pius XII said nice things about it. So did Pope Francis most recently. So, using that same criteria, the Popes of the last 100 years have been close to embracing atheism, because they, too, either believed in evolution, or saw nothing threatening in it.
Here's the thing, atheists, for Christians who believe in evolution, it is merely the mechanics by which God has created the Earth. That's it. Pretty much the same for the big bang. For an eternal being (ie: one that is outside of time) "a day" can be a really, really long time. Which leads into...
Chesterton once noted that there were people out there who spend so much time arguing over the historicity of Adam and Eve that they miss the entire point of the story, which is Original Sin.
My point? It is the same as Cardinal Bellarmine when he said that the Bible tells us how to go to Heaven, not how the Heavens go. Which is a line I think he stole from Augustine a thousand years before him. I could be mistaken.
However, the point is simple: NO, NOT EVERYONE THINKS THAT THE BOOK OF GENESIS WAS NECESSARILY LITERAL HISTORY.
Come to think of it, the Catholic Church, I believe, has long ago decreed that literalism is a heresy.
What's literalism, you ask? I'll try to explain. A literalist reading of Scripture is one usually found among fundamentalists. EG: the Bible says the world was created in six days, therefore, it was created in 144 hours. Also, eg, if the Bible says humans were present at the very beginning of Creation, humans coexisted with dinosaurs.
See also Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Fides et Ratio, using the First Vatican Council's Dei Filius:
Even if faith is superior to reason there can never be a true divergence between faith and reason, since the same God who reveals the mysteries and bestows the gift of faith has also placed in the human spirit the light of reason. This God could not deny himself, nor could the truth ever contradict the truth.Just because we believe something is true and real doesn't necessarily mean that we believe that it's a minute by minute account.
Which leads to...
Looking at some anti-theists, you would swear that every Christian worships under a large tent and handles venomous snakes every Sunday. We have no philosophy, philosophers, no body of real thought, nor believe in the mechanics of the general universe.
It sure is confusing when you recall that Gregor Mendel, who discovered heredity, was a Catholic monk who founded modern genetics. Or that half the craters on the moon are named after the Jesuits who founded them. Or all of the Catholic scientist priests, listed in alphabetical order.
So, a word to the wise, if you say that, for example, Catholics don't do science, check the above list, and then remember we have a blessing for a seismograph.
And I know we started with not all Christians are the same, but not even all religious people are the same.
If you want to bitch that all religious people are uneducated, please look at the history of Jewish intellectuals. Then lock yourself in a room with Simon Schama so he can snark you to death.
In fact, every time you even start to think, "Well, all religious people believe...." just stop. Why? Because, unless the thought is "all religious people believe in something more powerful than themselves, and there is a proper way to worship It," then you're probably wrong.
There is a heavy theme of monotheism kicking around -- there were / are some strains of thought among Greek / Indian believers that the pantheon merely represented many faces of one Being. But even that isn't even consistently represented within Greek and Indian theology.
Yes, while we're at it, please recall that Christianity isn't the only game in town. Because, let's face it, by anti-theists having their attitudes against belief, they also include everyone from Jews to Druids, they just seem to like to pretend that everyone is an evangelical Christian and ignore the rest, or assume the rest will follow if that one falls. Sorry, not happening.
Seriously, if you're just going to assume that any believer isn't rational, I suggest you look up Maimonides. Or Thomas Aquinas. Or Heisenberg. Or Pasteur. What do all these philosophers and scientists have in common? They all believe.
Heck, remember the Big Bang? Starting point of the universe? I wonder if Stephen Hawking is so against the idea because it suggests a starting point to the universe, and thus a "who started it" question, but it was also proposed by a Catholic priest scientist. Again.
Fun fact, if you're new here, a lot of religions encourage sex. Catholic marriage is a contract to have sex.
In fact, studies show that not only do religious folk have more sex within marriage than other people, they enjoy it more. Funny that, isn't it?
Let's just expand it to religious people are also human.
So, how do you write a believable believer? Simple, JUST DO YOUR DAMN RESEARCH. Seriously, if you want Catholic theology, read Thomas Aquinas or his imitators, like Chesterton or Peter Kreeft.
Hell, if you want basic Christianity, CS Lewis' Mere Christianity is a good primer before you research a specific subsection of a belief system.
Ditch your preconceived notions, your stereotypes, and pretend for a few minutes that a believer might not be a horrid human being. Thank you.
Michael Z. Williamson's A Long Time Until Now has an atheist writing a believer. Try it. Take notes. Also, Babylon 5, Passing Through Gethsemane. by a former Catholic, now atheist.