Monday, 24 March 2008

Not many atheists around here...

I live in Kenya, which has many fine features and I consider it a privilege to be here.

It is a country of many contrasts. There is a comfortably-off middle-class whose lives are pretty comparable to most people in the West. On the other hand, enormous numbers of people live in poverty and many areas of the country are underdeveloped, without water, electricity, etcetera. A majority of Kenyans live on less than the equivalent of 1 US dollar a day.

As such, it's a country that a Westerner like myself would need a reason to move to. There are some Westerners here for business as the economy is growing, whilst others, like myself, are here because we believe we have a life-transforming message to share with them - I'm here to make known the good news about Jesus Christ.

One group of people who seem to be completely unrepresented here, though, is atheists. No Kenyan I've asked yet can even remember ever meeting one.

Of course, the fact that someone believes that something-or-other is so good and important that they're willing to move to a country like Kenya in order to share it with others doesn't prove that that something is true. The various different religions who are represented in Kenya teach things which contradict each other; obviously they can't all be right.

On the other hand, though, it seems obvious enough that if a system of thought finds next-to-no adherents who are enthusiastic about it enough to suffer any personal cost in spreading it, then that system of thought must be suspect. If such-and-such insight is an important and life-changing truth about reality, and if there are people who've found it to be so in their own personal experience, shouldn't some of them be motivated to go and share it with others in a self-sacrificial way? It's an obvious fact of human experience that once someone really believes in something, they'll be willing to suffer a lot for it.

It only takes a little reflection and investigation to spot that atheism is a creed whose adherents almost to a man agree that it's not worth any personal discomfort to share. Many of them boldly and dogmatically insist that all talk of the supernatural is no different to believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden, pie-in-the-sky hogwash, etcetera. Some of them, such as Professor Richard Dawkins (born in Nairobi!) have spent some of the millions earned from their book deals in order to spread their creed. Where, though, are the ranks and legions of noble missionaries of "free thought" who have made any personal sacrifice in order to spread it? There's not much pain involved in spreading atheism to an already secularist society from the comfort of one's spacious mansion in North Oxford, is there? Where are the martyrs who trekked to the ends of the earth to explain how liberation from religion would bring the human race on by leaps and bounds? Why is it that in third-world countries such as Kenya, it's almost impossible to find any of the "New Atheist" crowd come to share the key to reality with the suffering masses? Dawkins and co. claim to believe these things, but all the evidence of experience is that they are not beliefs that anyone thinks it's worth giving up anything to communicate. Despite spinning the story that atheism is the pinnacle of knowledge, and that dumping all thoughts of the super-natural is the key to scientific progress, true knowledge of ourselves, intellectual fulfillment and advance in the world, etcetera, those who've discovered this alleged "truth" seem, to a man, to be curiously reluctant to risk anything in order to spread this fundamental insight.

A quick tour of the atheist web brings the pieces together quickly enough. When you scratch a militant atheist in the West, you almost invariably find underneath someone who rejected Christianity and/or God at some stage in life. You'll find someone who is fighting a personal battle to justify to themselves their choice. They'll be willing to put considerable effort into it, yes. It's hard work to fight against conscience and the witness of the beautiful and orderly world around us - it takes real effort. That's why so many of them come across, like Dawkins, as the the ultimate epitome of the kind of raving, uncritical fundamentalist that puts the religious version to shame. Yes, there's effort. But are they willing to spend anything that will actually cost them something, and thereby give any kind of credibility to their claims that they have the key to reality? Not a chance.

Is atheism a creed worth giving one's life to? The clear answer from today's atheists is a resounding no.

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