Yes there are Atheist Fundamentalists just as there are Christian Fundamentalists.
What is unfortunate is that Fundamentalists in both the Atheist and Christian camp tend to create a caricature of their opponents.
Fundamental Atheists tend to act as though the warped views of Fundamentalist Christians represent the entire spectrum of Christian thought. Fundamentalist and reactionary Christians tend to claim that Atheists are only out to “destroy the church” and aggressively promote the “God is Dead” scenario.
But when you look closely at both the Fundamentalist Atheist and the Fundamentalist Christian you can see they are both very similar creatures. They are both sure they are right. Many are arrogant and aggressive in their arrogance about why they are right and the people on the other side are deluded wrong-headed fools.
What I feel is more helpful is to simply try to understand what if anything they can see is true of the beliefs of those in opposing camps.
For example: Atheist Scientists have developed over the past few centuries the scientific method of testing ideas in experiments where the results can be clearly measured and repeated over and over again. This is a terrific contribution. The discipline of developing rigorous experiments and documentation has helped get us out of the quagmire of so much of religious debate. Instead of people arguing for centuries about beliefs that cannot be tested in any objective way, scientists can say, “No Joe’s idea is right and Dave’s idea is wrong because the experiments support Joe’s conclusions, not Dave’s.”
The advances in science as a result of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Darwin, Madame Curie, Einstein, Heisenberg, and Watson and Crick have been absolutely remarkable.
On the other hand Christians and sincere followers of other religions have made equally remarkable contributions. It is just that the contributions believers have made tend to only be verifiable in personal, subjective experience or in the artistic and architectural splendors inspired by these subjective experiences. But this too is powerful evidence. It is just evidence of a different kind.
Look at Notre Dame Cathedral or any of the other magnificent examples of Medieval Cathedrals. Listen to the sacred music of Byrd and Tallis, Palestrina, or Bach. Read the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Liseaux. While many of the beliefs of these two women may be incorrect, or even highly dysfunctional, take the time to follow the pathways of their interior experience to see what is true about their views. Regrettably, there are significant challenges that would make it difficult for Atheists to follow these pathways. They would need to suspend some of their core beliefs and that they understandably would be most reluctant to do.
But if they were willing they would find out why a religion founded on the life and death of an obscure carpenter and his mother, an uneducated Jewish maiden, inspired such creations such as Notre Dame or Bach’s Mass in B Minor or the gorgeous, haunting beauty of English Renaissance polyphony. Here is what they would need to be willing to do:
Surrender completely the force of ego and self. In short find the inner softness and delicate beauty that arises from a carefully cultivated and sincere humility.
Find out what if feels like to dwell in unconditional trust that divine love is fully present even when there is absolutely no evidence to support this view.
Find out what it feels like to dwell in unconditional faith and trust that divine love is the living radiant center of your being even if there is no clear way to understand the relationship between the living presence of God and the violence of life on earth.
Find out what it feels like to suspend all ordinary benchmarks as to whether you are “getting something” for your tremendous risks and sacrifices. Let it be supremely unimportant whether you are gifted with visions, or trudge along in a dark uncertainty and gloom. Let it be supremely unimportant whether things turn out well or disastrously, although make the best efforts you can to see if things can turn out for the best.
These explorations of radical faith are another form of experimentation. They are brought to life by the act of confessing and repenting any major or minor mean-spirited thoughts or deeds. They are brought to life by a willingness to struggle through all anger and to learn the skills of unconditional love offered to all beings in all realms.
Atheists are generally correct that many beliefs of Christianity and other religions are erroneous. What they miss is that some of the beliefs and practices of spiritual people generate a very, very special kind of evidence of irreplaceale truths that elude the boxy approaches of modern rationalism.
What most Christians tend to miss is the value of the intellectual rigor and discipline and careful thought of modern scientists. Most Atheists tend to miss the powerful intuitive experience and knowledge generated by the seemingly irrational beliefs and practices of profound faith.
One wonders what will be found when people of these very different ways of life and thinking learn to study the foundation truths and practices the other has to offer.
Please let me know what you think. All constructive comments will be posted.
Will Raymond Author of “The Simple Path of Holiness” and Host of MeditationPractice.com