Let’s start with a popular Richard Dawkins quote:
“We are all atheists about most of the gods humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.” – Richard Dawkins
Now, this sounds plausible at first sight, given the fact that one of the accusations for which Christians were fed to the lions in the Roman empire was the charge of atheism, since they did not believe in the gods of the Roman empire.
But even then we need to bring more nuance, so here’s a second quote:
“If you are a Christian,” Lewis says, “you do not have to believe that all other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all those religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth.” – C.S. Lewis in Mere christianity
I’m with Lewis here. It’s not because I’m an ‘atheist’ to Zeus or Odin, or ‘the God of the violent Jihad’, in the sense that I don’t believe in them, that I have to reject all of the religion of the people who do believe in them in exactly the way Dawkins reject all religions. I do believe that their view on the spiritual world is wrong, but I will affirm with them that it exists. More like the way a Darwinist rejects Lamarckism than how she rejects Special Creation theory.
(a slightly irrelevant side-note: i do believe that Lamarckism is a valid theory for the evolution of most things without DNA, like cultures, musical genres and languages, mich more than Darwinian evolution…)
So I do disagree with muslims over the character of God (for whom some arabic Christians also use the name allah), but I affirm a lot of things they do believe about the monotheistic God of Abraham, creator of heaven and earth. I do disagree with a lot of the animistic worldview, but I will not say that all of their religion is placebo. I would say that the explanation they offer might be wrong, not that there’s nothing behind their faith… There are traces of the Creator all over creation, and seeds of light are likely to be found in every religion, mixed with human and other influence though… And every truth that can relly considered to be truth has its ultimate source in Him, wherever we find it. And truth is not just found by Christians or enlightened Westerners. We probably can learn from every human being and every culture, and even from most religions… Probably the most uncivilised Indian from the rainforrest can teach us a lot about a lot of subjects… there are seeds of light everywhere, Logos spermatikos as the church fathers called it.
I even do agree with some atheist critique on things done in the name of religion, or even in the name of Christ. Just like a lot of Christians had similar critique, and even Jesus was pretty harsh for the religious elite of his time. But that critique should be used by christians to re-evaluate, not to throw out the baby with the bath-water…
Atheism like the word is used today is not the rejection of a certain religion or God, but the rejection of all of them, even the slightest possibility of any spiritual entity even. that’s way too drastic: I can say that I don’t believe in the Mokele Mbembe, but that does not mean that I have to reject all reptiles or the existence of living dinosaurs long ago…