Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Words of Comfort: Atheism is for Intellectuals.

This is a popular atheist poster on which are Ernest Hemmingway, Abraham Lincoln, Carl Sagan, Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklyn, Albert Einstein, and Charles Darwin along with the words “Atheism Good enough for these idiots.” Clearly, atheism is for intellectuals.

But one moment…Abraham Lincoln wasn’t an atheist. He said “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”[1] Neither was Carl Sagan. He clearly stated, “I’m an agnostic.”[2] Mark Twain hated religion, but he certainly wasn’t an atheist, saying, “None of us can be as great as God, but any of us can be as good.”[3] Benjamin Franklin said, “God governs in the affairs of men.”[4] You will find Thomas Edison listed on "Celebrity Atheists,"[5] on “Positive Atheism”[6] and other atheist websites,[7] but wasn’t an atheist. He said, “There is a great directing head of people and things — a Supreme Being who looks after the destinies of the world.”[8] Thomas Jefferson said, "Say nothing of my religion. It is known to myself and my God alone.”[9] Albert Einstein rejected the Bible as the Word of God, and said that the Creator was unknowable—and that God being personal was “childlike.”[10] He lamented, “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human understanding, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views.”[11] He categorically said, “I am not an atheist,”[12] and when referring to those who deny the Creator, he used the term “fanatical atheists.”[13] And Charles Darwin spoke of God seven times in Origin of Species.

So, out of the eight famous men on the poster, there is only one who was an atheist—Ernest Hemmingway. According to his biographer, back in 1961 Hemmingway "pushed two shells into the twelve-gauge Boss shotgun ...put the end of the barrel into his mouth, pulled the trigger and blew out his brains."[14] There’s your poster-boy when it comes to atheism.

2 From a March 1996 profile by Jim Dawson in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune
3 Mark Twain's Notebook, 1902-1903.
8 As quoted in The Romance and Drama of the Rubber Industry (1936) by Harvey Samuel Firestone
10 Albert Einstein, letter to Guy H. Raner Jr., Sept. 28, 1949, quoted by Michael R. Gilmore in Skeptic, Vol. 5, No. 2
11 Prince Hubertus zu Löwenstein, Towards the Further Shore (Victor Gollancz, London, 1968), p. 156; quoted in Jammer, p. 97
12 From G. S. Viereck's, Glimpses of the Great, Einstein, in response to a question about whether or not he believed in God.