by Zack Beauchamp
Kenan Malik's long, thoughtful post on whether we need to believe in God is worth reading in full. But in short:
Much of the contemporary debate is about the consequences of religious belief. The so-called New Atheists, in particular, have been scathing in their attack on what they see as the wicked and malevolent social consequences of faith – from the harassment of gays to mass suicide bombings. I, too, am sceptical of the possibilities of God. And, while I do not think, as many do, that faith is, in and of itself, pernicious, I do believe that there are often social and moral problems that arise from religious belief. What I want to concentrate on today, however, is…the primary motivation for my atheism – I simply do not see the necessity for God.
This isn't enough – even if belief in God isn't necessary to make sense of the world, it could still be that we have some good reasons to believe in him besides scientific or logical proofs. A feeling of revelation or personal experience of a deity, perhaps. Malik's style of atheist argument, then, rests or falls on showing that even if you feel powerfully that you've experienced God, that's not actually a good reason to believe in him.
It's possible this points to the fundamental divide between (some) atheists and (some) believers: atheists only believe things they can justify logically or scientifically, but believers don't. These atheists don't claim that science disproves God; rather, their argument would boil down to "I'm not believing in God until you can give me a good reason rooted in standards I accept that I should." I'm curious to see if most people in either camp are willing to accept this characterization of their position.