What Affects An Atheist’s Beliefs?

Drug addict

Drogacicto – Drug Addict by Bill Anderson on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Chris Arnade held a PhD in physics and worked in science for twenty years. For him, atheism was easy, right from his teens.

Then he left behind scientific research and became a photographer. He documented drug addicts and prostitutes. He documents in a Guardian article how this affected his approach to religion and atheism, coming to see atheism as an intellectual luxury for the wealthy. It isn’t presented as a conversion story, but this is how the piece ends:

Soon I saw my atheism for what it is: an intellectual belief most accessible to those who have done well.

I want to go back to that 16-year-old self and tell him to shut up with the “see how clever I am attitude”. I want to tell him to appreciate how easy he had it, with a path out. A path to riches.

I also see Richard Dawkins differently. I see him as a grown up version of that 16-year-old kid, proud of being smart, unable to understand why anyone would believe or think differently from himself. I see a person so removed from humanity and so removed from the ambiguity of life that he finds himself judging those who think differently.

I see someone doing what he claims to hate in others. Preaching from a selfish vantage point.

Perhaps when you see where he started out from, you can see how weak his atheism was. He told one addict,

I am an atheist. I don’t believe in a God. I don’t think the world is only 5,000 years old, I don’t think Cain and Abel married their sisters!

Of course, plenty of Christians see good reason to interpret the early chapters of Genesis non-literally, and it doesn’t make them atheists. Rather, they recognise a different genre of literature.

However, read the article with interest to note what affects him.


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