|From Across Izmir|
This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend who is a believing Christian. She asked me what I think of her belief, how I regard it in my agnostic perspective. I told her that, while I respect her greatly and see that her belief has shaped her in beautiful ways, I think that she's holding on to it out of a lack of intellectual integrity. It pained me to say it, to suggest that she was dishonest about the belief she holds dearest.
As we talked, it became clear that she felt the same way about my unbelief, that she respected me as a human being, but she had no explanation of my unbelief, in her worldview, other than that I am intellectually dishonest.
However, I couldn't find to a specific source of intellectual dishonesty in her, and she couldn't pinpoint the intellectual dishonesty in me. The standard Christian line that I've heard is that people who don't believe don't want to believe because they don't want God to be in authority over them. I suppose the Four Horseman of the New Atheism could be explained this way. Most of the atheists I know don't merely not believe in God, they absolutely don't want to.
I stopped believing that God exists two and a half years ago, my response to this was to struggle arduously to believe. I don't feel like I'm holding on to doubt, I feel like I've been holding on to belief. I suppose that, in the Christian mindset, my unbelief could be explained as me, deep down, not wanting to believe in God because I'm rebellious, but that I've cloaked that in feelings of wanting to believe. I thought that for a while, and wound up feeling futile guilt and confusion.
Fundamentally, informed, educated, insightful believers and nonbelievers have to regard each other as intellectually dishonest for their own worldviews to be coherent. At the core, believers understand nonbelievers as not believing in God out of rebelliousness. Contrariwise, nonbelievers understand believers as believing in God out of a fear of a lack of ultimate meaning. I don't know which human tendency is stronger: dread of living in a cosmos with no meaning, or dread of standing before God.
Either way, it feels about as mean to me for my friend to suggest that I'm doubting because I don't want to believe in God as it does for me to suggest that my friend is feeble and fearful and clings to belief in God out of despair. It seemed as if we were at an impasse.
Don't worry, Suz, you've said nothing to offend me; I hope you've taken no offense at anything I've said. It's the nature of disagreement that people with incompatible worldviews can't both have confidence in their own beliefs while having confidence in people who adhere to beliefs that contradict theirs. In general, I'm afraid that there is despair among believers that nonbelievers can offer anything meaningful, and vice-versa.
I don't think this despair is warranted. In fact, I think that people thinking that dialog with the other side is futile are being more condescending than people who engage in dialog and say mean things, because to refuse to talk is to give up on the other party being reasonable and flexible. Oodles of people who believed in God gave up that belief and oodles of nonbelievers have converted to belief in God. We live in the same world, we have access to the same sorts of experiences. I think it's best to talk about things we can describe in real terms, like fruit and hiking and astronomy, and building up from there, rather than working down from abstract ideas about God and meaning.