Every so often, something reminds me just how radically different an atheist mindset is in the US. Listening to NPR recently, I heard an ad for a conference on technology and religious faith. The tag line was something like, “exploring the role of technology in doing God’s work.” What an idea! Doing the “work” of a deity was treated like any other application — word processing, accounting, web surfing…saving souls. Naturally, the conference was aimed at a believing audience, but the sheer ordinariness of the ad was jarring. God, and that God’s “work,” was just assumed to be as real as cola or laundry detergent.
It triggered memories of my time as a believer when the existence and presence of God was just an assumption. I didn’t question it. I didn’t explore it or consider why I thought it was true. Daily experiences didn’t really confirm or disprove it, because it was a proposition beyond evidence. If pressed, I likely would have said I just “knew” God was real, maybe would have invoked the bible. If pressed further, “faith” would have been my only refuge. Push a little more and the conversation would stop. I was and am a very academic person, but my belief wasn’t buttressed by anything like the reasons I myself would have demanded of any other discipline.
It was not until I began questioning my beliefs that I could even step outside myself and see how I thought about God. Therein I see the starting point of my future dealings and debates with the religious — trying to help them see how they think about religion, and how different it is from how they think about anything else. Try to make their own cognitive dissonance apparent to them. I expect a quick retreat into defensiveness in most instances. But perhaps it will help someone at least start thinking about the God assumption. It seems like a productive path, at least. And I’m all for pushing God back into the ghetto of “faith,” where we can at least stop arguing whether there is evidence for his existence.
Has anyone has experience with this line of argumentation? Can believers be lead to view their beliefs as they view the rest of the world?