“Though I do label myself an atheist, my belief requires as much faith as that of a devout Christian, Muslim, or Jew. After all, what ‘proof’ do we have that there is NOT a God? I can think of nothing definitive. Agnosticism is the more honest choice, perhaps, as it resides in the question, more comfortable with uncertainty and contradiction. I considered myself agnostic for many years and my transition from agnosticism to atheism was in part the result of external pressures. The more ‘religious’ our country became, the more I felt the need to reside at the furthest pole in order to maintain balance. Is this irrational? Perhaps. More importantly, though, I believe there is no “higher power,” at least in the sovereign, interventionist sense – we are but a piece of the weave of universal energy, of the Over-soul – and, no matter how much I prefer questions to answers, this meant I could no longer consider myself agnostic.My response was shared on the listserv. Afterwards, I received a more friendly response. Interestingly, I learned that the term “fundamentalist” is considered a positive label by many contemporary Christians. "Evangelicals” are the new “fundamentalists,” evidently, although some of the angry folks who emailed me are bad news no matter what they call themselves! Still, I'm bothered by the relativism of some American Christians. If an Islamic fundamentalist is thought of as a baddie, why then should a Christian fundamentalist be deemed a goodie? Oh, wait, I forgot…our nation's leaders are trying to start a Holy War.
I respect all three of the "sibling" religions for the core values and ethics each espouses; the overlaps and base similarities are obvious and numerous: Judaism spawned Christianity spawned Islam. Fundamentalism of any stripe, though, is untenable and given our contemporary global connectivity, that much more volatile. I do not mean to tread on Christianity at large when I rant about the growing influence of the far-right, evangelical community on US policy, but their words make the hairs of any sensible citizen stand at attention.
The text below is drawn from the National Association of Evangelicals' recent document, ‘For the Health of the Nations: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility.’’We make up fully one quarter of all voters in the most powerful nation in history...Disengagement is not an option...To restrict our stewardship to the private sphere would be to deny an important part of His dominion and to functionally abandon it to the Evil One. To restrict our political concerns to matters that touch only on the private and the domestic spheres is to deny the all-encompassing Lordship of Jesus.’Little surprise then that this group, 30 million+ strong, vehemently supports Bush, Cheney, Delay and company. The agenda of the Rapturists has landed in the White House. Whereas once many powerful figures in the Republican party were vocal proponents of the conservation cause, now we see a partisan push for environmental action coming only from the Left (with a few notable exceptions, such as John McCain, US Senator, Arizona). I find this distressing and unfortunate.
I believe our greatest hope for environmental sustainability comes from a move toward social democracy, but I remain unsure whether such a system can work in a country as sprawling and asphalt-addicted as our own. Regardless, wildlife corridors, refuges, and reserves stand little chance when the powerful lobbyists emerging from Colorado Springs, the ‘training ground’ for God's ‘warriors,’ ‘harness the forces of free-market capitalism.’ As the celebrity evangelical Pastor Ted states,‘I teach a strong ideology of the use of power of military might, as a public service...the Bible's bloody. There's a lot about Blood. Globalization is merely a vehicle for the spread of Christianity.’Or, as one attendee of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs describes the recent tsunami in Indonesia, ‘[I'm] psyched about what God is doing with his ocean.’ (Psyched? Give me ten minutes in a parking lot and I'll show you how psyched I am about what God is doing with my fists.)
I also wish that the ‘Taliban wannabes’ would mind their own business, but their ranks are steadily growing. Whereas two years ago, I dismissed the articles and essays that warned of a coming ‘Christian conflict,’ I now am increasingly convinced that this country faces very difficult times. The twin burdens of racism and fundamentalism will prove substantial hurdles in the early 21st century, distracting us from more pressing matters of economy and environment. I just turned 27 and I feel as though I should still be idealistic and optimistic; instead, I am increasingly anxious. I have to hope that a minority of the evangelicals will interpret the scripture correctly, realizing that God called on us all to be good stewards; some evangelicals are, in fact, arguing for thoughtful environmental policy. Let us hope they are able to influence their leaders and let us hope that their leaders may find some use for sound science. After all, science gave them the radio and where would the contemporary evangelical be without the airwaves?”
I also received a short note from a biologist working in the southwest United States. I’ve had several exchanges with this gentleman and I have come to respect his opinions on a range of conservation issues. I very much like what he has to say about faith, and I include his note below.
“I understand your statement on positioning yourself towards the atheistic pole. I do the same.I may have to start calling myself a Naturalist!
For a while I preferred to call myself a ‘provisional atheist’ in the same sense that I'm a ‘provisional Darwinian’ ... unless and until new evidence comes along to make me change my philosophy, this is what I accept.
However, I decided that the term ‘atheist’, although not as evil a word as some theists would like to paint it, just didn't cut it for me. ‘Atheist’ says what one DOESN'T believe, but it doesn't say much about what one DOES believe. It's a negative response to another's position, not an affirmative statement of one's own position ... like calling myself a ‘non-conservative’ when I am unapologetically a liberal.
Nowadays, I prefer the term ‘naturalist’ (in the philosophical sense, although as a biologist I'm also a naturalist in the conventional sense). Naturalist simply says I accept the worldview of naturalism, that everything in the universe can be (or potentially can be) understood and explained by natural laws and processes.”