To Be an Atheist? Or Not To Be?
The picture says, “ATHEISM: Good enough for these idiots.” It takes a whimsical look at some of our world’s highly regarded leaders and innovators. It’s purpose is not to espouse these persons as idiots, but as revolutionary and ingenious thinkers. Bottom line, these people are smart.
It suggests that these people are atheist and therefore atheism is a smart choice.
But, what is atheism? Is it a “disbelief” in a deity? or is it a lack of belief? Or is it a flat out denial? There remains a lingering question over what it means. There is also a lot of misinformation too. And everyone has their own infallible opinions to add to the mix.
And yes, there is a lack of evidence provided here in support of these people being atheist. It can be argued in some length about the validity of any information and it’s interpretation. But, the intent here is not to prove anything, but provide food for thought –
Everyone questions the existence of God.
It takes faith to believe.
Even the brightest and smartest of us wrestle with the questions about God. Their doubts do not suggest a disbelief, but a pattern of questions. Questions are a natural part of searching for the truth, not just settling for a simple label. Let these same people speak for themselves.
- Ernest Hemingway
There is not a whole lot of information about Hemingway about his religious beliefs.
Hemingway had a very strict religious upbringing, but as he grew older and certainly more rebellious, he seemed to want to disassociate himself with the Christian convictions of his family. His second wife Pauline was a devout Catholic and in order to marry her, Hemingway had to convert to Catholicism, but whether he took this conversion and everything associated with it seriously is suspect.
- Abraham Lincoln
Is he an atheist? or not? It would appear that he wavered back and forth.
As Lincoln matured, and especially during his term as president, the idea of a divine will somehow interacting with human affairs increasingly influenced his public expressions.
- Carl Sagan
Apparently, Carl Sagan would be offended to be of this picture. He would be of the opinion that atheism is a complete denial in a deity and that being an agnostic is not the same as being an atheist.
Sagan, however, denied that he was an atheist: "An atheist has to know a lot more than I know." In reply to a question in 1996 about his religious beliefs, Sagan answered, "I'm agnostic."
- Mark Twain
Mark Twain was often critical about Christianity. But, does this define him as an atheist?
In the essay Three Statements of the Eighties in the 1880s, Twain stated that he believed in an almighty God, but not in any messages, revelations, holy scriptures such as the Bible, providence, or retribution in the afterlife.
- Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson is one of many writers of the US Constitution. He possibly is most famous by atheist for using the phrase “wall of separation between state and church.”
But, does this label him as an atheist? Jefferson was a Deist in that he believed in a Supreme Creator but not believing in the supernatural.
As an illustration to this are Jefferson’s own writings. The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, also known as The Jefferson Bible, is a collection of verses from the four gospels omitting anything and everything supernatural.
Say nothing of my religion. It is known to my God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life; if that has been honest and dutiful to society, the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.
The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazarath
(The Jefferson Bible)
- Benjamin Franklin
Franklin was a non-dogmatic believer, who felt that organized religion was necessary to keep men good to their fellow men, but rarely attended church himself. His faith in God was an important factor in his support for the American Revolution…
When he stopped attending church, Franklin wrote in his autobiography:
...Sunday being my studying day, I never was without some religious principles. I never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity; that He made the world, and governed it by His providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter.
- Albert Einstein
I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
- Charles Darwin
Would it be fair to assume that the “Father of Evolution” was an atheist for creating the one theory that dared to “defy” any theory of creation?
Though reticent about his religious views, in 1879 he responded that he had never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God, and that generally "an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind…"
In 1879 a letter came asking if he believed in God, and if theism and evolution were compatible. He replied that a man "can be an ardent Theist and an evolutionist", citing Charles Kingsley and Asa Gray as examples, and for himself, he had "never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God". He added that "I think that generally (and more and more as I grow older), but not always, that an Agnostic would be a more correct description of my state of mind."
A Final Word
Keep in mind, these are only one side of the argument. It is mere food for thought. Some are clear in saying that to call some of these people an atheist would be appalling at the least.