Sunday, March 08, 2015

A humility list

Martin Marty, the prolific Lutheran scholar at the University of Chicago, reported in The Christian Century magazine that readers have asked him when he planned to comment on the media's discovery of 'the New Atheism.' He put together a list of advice, 'to myself and anyone else who cares,' including the following:
  • Keep cool. America has seen cycles like these before and has managed to survive. 
  • Send cards of thanks. These authors bring up differences in an age of indifference. 
  • Don't sneer. Many of these authors sneer. Where does that get us?
  • Don't sound triumphalist. Some say 'we' have 'them' outnumbered 97 to three. If true, that represents a comfort margin for believers, but what does it prove?
  • Don't argue. No one wins arguments - which are determined by one's knowing the answer - about the existence or nonexistence of God, but everyone can profit from a conversation that tries to pose good questions and respond to them.
  • Read better books by these authors, from which you might learn something, as opposed to their sensational polemics on a subject they are not well versed in.
  • Agree with the authors that in the name of religion horrible things have been done and are being done, but point out that that's not the whole story of religion. Criticism of religion from within is more searching and matters more.
  • Hold up the mirror if you are a believer, and ask whether anything anyone is saying or doing gives legitimate grounds for anti-religion to voice itself and creates a market for books like these. 
Martin Marty, in Atheism Redux, published in Christian Century, July 24, 2007, quoted in Philip Yancey's Vanishing Grace, pages 42/43
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