Did you hear the one about the Anglican minister who said atheists have no reason for grief?
I wish I was joking. I'm not. In a widely disseminated and discussed opinion piece, Anglican minister Rev. Gavin Dunbar made an interesting and even compelling argument that grief is necessary for love and humanity... and then went on to argue that, unless you believe in God, you have no reason to care whether the people you love live or die, or even to love them in the first place.
Again: I wish I was joking. I quote:
The new atheists proclaim their gospel with the fervour of believers: God is dead, man is free, free from the destructive illusions of religion and morality, of reason and virtue. But then a someone dies, suddenly and cruelly, like the young man known to many in ..[this] parish [in [Eastern Georgia] who was killed in a freakish accident last weekend. And his death casts a pall of grief over his family, his friends, their families, his school, and many others. Yet if he was no more than an arrangement of molecules, a selfish gene struggling to replicate itself, there can be no reason for grief, or for the love that grieves, since these are (we are told) essentially selfish survival mechanisms left over from some earlier stage in hominid evolution. Friendship is just another illusion. But of course we do grieve, even the atheists. And in so grieving, they grieve better than they know (or think they know).
The grieving atheist cannot provide any reason why he grieves, or why he (rightly) respects the grief of others.
My first reaction... well, to be honest, my first reaction was pretty close to blind rage. As an atheist, I've been targeted before with bigotry, with hostility, even with hatred and threats of violence. But rarely have I encountered a critic of atheism who was so ready to deny even my basic humanity, who was so ready to tell me -- and tell the world -- that because I am an atheist, I see not only morality and virtue, but love and friendship and grief, as an illusion.
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