Xanga has a sizable and, in my experience, respectful and respectable community of atheist writers. Many of these writers spend most or all of their time dealing with the atheism-theism debate, or sub-debates in that category. Among the best of these are Godless Liberal
If I wanted to argue with atheists on Xanga, I would have plenty of opportunity to do so. Even Revelife at the moment is featuring a post asking simply, "Why do you believe in God?" It has a very prove-me-wrong feel to it. But if I wanted to argue with atheists, I wouldn't argue about the existence of God. I would argue about the whole prove-me-wrong thing.
Because to play the prove-me-wrong game, you've got to get into objectivism, and that
, rather than the conclusion that there is no (effective) god, is the problem.
Now, my problem isn't with the posture of objectivity. It's a fine thing to think through something, such as a trial if you are a juror, or a chemical experiment if you are a chemist, from as objective a standpoint as you can. Objectivism
, on the other hand, is a worldview that makes truth into an inert entity, a mental substance, if you will, that exists "somewhere out there," that can be discovered and grasped by means of a detached method of learning, such as the scientific method.
Once truth, which is "out there" to be seen, is observed, we can then make propositional statements which mirror the reality we have observed. (See representative realism
.) In an objectivist model, if these propositional statements conform to reason, and are reproducible by others using the same rules, and are free from constraints such as natural human subjectivity, historical context, religious beliefs, etc., thye are true.
Objectivism, then, attempts to glean truth by freeing human understanding from all perspective that is rooted in particular times, places and tradition. In short, it is an attempt to gain a view from nowhere in particular.
And here is where I would argue with atheists, if I wanted to. Here is where I would say, this is impossible. God may or may not exist, and maybe we'll get to that later, but objectivism certainly does not exist. Because there is no view from nowhere. There is no neutral ground to stand on. Knowing a thing is not a matter of mirroring reality "as it is," because we have no access to reality "as it is," apart from our perspective, which is determined in part by time, place, commitment and tradition.
That is why I agree with Miroslav Volf when he writes
The agenda of modernity has overreached itself. Its optimism about human capacities is misplaced and its assumption that there is a neutral standpoint is wrong. There can be no indubitable foundation of knowledge, no uninterpreted experience, no completely transparent rendering of the world. A cosmic or divine language to express "what was the case" is not available to us; all our languages are human languages, plural dialects growing on the soil of diverse cultural traditions and social conditions.
Modernity, both religious and secular, has been guilty of false pride, even idolatry, in ascribing to objectivism the power to raise us humans up from the depths of ignorance and depravity.
Now, I am not saying that reason and rationality are useless, but it would be nice if we saw "our commitment to rationality as a commitment, and our tradition of reason as a tradition," as Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat put it. And naturally those within the objectivist tradition are going to reason and speak in objectivist terms. That's fine. But those of us whose commitments are shaped by the Christian tradition will reason and speak in terms of our own story.
And at this point it would be easy for the objectivist (whether or not they are an atheist no longer matters at this point) to respond that I'm simply trying to justify that thing that religious type always justify, which is the validity of myth and superstition. Surely we are past that in this day and age? But in fact, no, we are not, because ontology always precedes epistemology. Before we can discuss what methods bring us knowledge most accurately, we have to determine the nature of the knowledge we would acquire.
So the question is, what kind of world is best understood through objective means, and do we occupy that world? Having no means external to our traditionally inherited points-of-view (that is, no objective answer to the question prior to investigation), we have only our inherited points-of-view. That is why the rationalist commitment to reason is a tradition. Postmodern critiques of modernity start exactly here, with the assumption that the world is
something best understood by objectivist means. Michel Foucault writes
We must not imagine that the world turns toward us a legible face which we would have only to decipher; the world is not accomplice to our knowledge; there is no prediscursive providence which predisposes the world in our favor. We must conceive discourse as a violence we do to things, or, in any case as a practice which we impose on them.
And here is the crux of the issue. It is true that Christians and atheists do not occupy the same world, and therefore are describing different things, and therefore talking past one another. Atheists occupy a world shapd by their inherited objectivist tradition which a priori
lacks anything supernatural that would order creation (ID), or direct evolution (theistic evolution), or create an old-looking earth 6,000 years ago (young-earth creationism), or intervene into the laws of physics (possibility of miracles), and therefore observe the stars, trees and rocks as natural occurences that connive to disprove the existence of any (effective) god. Meanwhile, Christians occupy a world shaped by their inherited scriptural tradition which a priori
assumes a relational god who ordered the cosmos, makes love and life intelligible and therefore observe the stars, trees and rocks as "an eloquent gift of extravagent love."
And if I were to argue with atheists here on xanga, I would summarize not by asking them to give up their atheism (though by all means they should feel free), but by asking for a bit of epistemological humility.
Of course, that's all only if I wanted to argue with atheists. As it is, I think I'll stick with arguing with Christians who think it's alright to kill one another.