Sunday, January 5, 2014

Is atheism is an intellectual luxury for the wealthy?

The following is a repost of a comment I left on The BarefootBum blog regarding the recent Guardian article by Chris Arnade entitled "The people who challenged my atheism most were drug addicts and prostitutes".

The article is written in a confessional tone by a former Wall Street trader. He informs us that he received his Ph.D., worked Wall Street for 20 years and a lived a life "devoted to rational thought, a life devoted to numbers and clever arguments." After becoming disillusioned, he began spending time with the poor "brutalized by a system driven by a predatory economic rationalism," a system he supported during his years at Wall Street. His eyes were opened: successful people have a "sense of entitlement and emotional distance [which] has numbed their understanding of our fallibility." He was "reminded that life is not rational and that everyone makes mistakes".

Rationality forms a large part of his criticism. Dawkins' scientific rationality marks him as a man "removed from humanity," incapable of understanding the importance of faith among the suffering and “preaching from a selfish vantage point”.

The argument then is this:
->All atheists are rationalists. Rationalism is false because life is not rational; only the wealthy can afford the pretense of rationality; therefore atheism is a luxury for the wealthy.
->Wealthy atheists cannot truly understand the faith of the suffering poor. Therefore atheism is a luxury for the wealthy, and wealthy atheists like Dawkins are selfish to criticize the faith of the poor.

Arnade projects his own failings onto the entire atheist community. He sneered at religious faith from his privileged, educated vantage point; therefore, all atheists must be privileged and sneering at religious faith from privilege. He was ignorant of the suffering and the importance of faith to the poor; therefore, all atheists must be equally ignorant.

Arnade ignores the wealth and power of religions organizations, enough wealth and power to change this situation next week. They choose not to. Instead they choose to toss scraps from their dinner tables to the poor sinners removed from God's grace. They choose to teach hope in an better afterlife, not hope in our "fallen world."

Rational atheists making their daily commute.

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