March 25, 2004

Persistence of God

I had an interesting revelation today in a brief email discussion regarding the current Supreme Court review of the words “under God” appearing in the Pledge of Allegiance.

I’d never heard this opinion expressed before, my correspondent was wondering about the reactions people had when hearing the atheist challenges to “under God” in the pledge, and the appearance of the word “god” in other places. Her point was that it struck her as odd that someone would argue so vehemently against something they believed did not exist.

She thought that onlookers might react by thinking that perhaps it is more likely that God does exist, if the fellow was arguing so persistently.

It struck me as a very odd thing to think. That is, until I thought about it more.

I realized I had seen this idea before - in the converse. And then it made more sense to me.

Looking at the atheist’s action someone might conclude that he is afraid of the idea of god because it challenges his belief system, so he wants to strike it from sight. In short, some people might see the atheist acting out of insecurity.

The analogous converse is the atheist who sees theists putting references to god in numerous places might conclude that the desire to do so stems from some insecurity about the theist belief system. They would see the theists insecure in their belief system and needing reinforcement everywhere possible.

Yes! I have seen this idea before. I think it’s an incorrect conclusion to generalize (both directions).

I shouldn’t be surprised it happens on the other side, too. It stems from misunderstanding on both sides regarding motivations. Although, I can’t say for certain that there aren’t people on both sides acting out of insecurity sometimes. There probably are.

There are complicating factors. Some Christians are evangelical, and so they would like to spread the concept of god not out of insecurity, necessarily, but to fulfill what they believe is god’s command to them. And the familiarity with the idea of evangelical believers can make theists assume that atheists are equally intent on spreading atheism. That’s not the case, as I see it. However, there are probably zealous atheists as well, though I don’t know any.

In any case, this doesn’t bear much on the actual arguments that the Supreme Court is facing, but I think it is important to take note of how the people around us view things, and the generalizations and misconceptions we may have about each other.

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Posted by James at March 25, 2004 5:08 PM
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