Advice to Young Theist and Atheist Contrarians


Then think some more.

The truth is the whole. You’ve got to have empiricism—it’s crucial—it’s the only way to reality test your mad speculations. But don’t ignore metaphysics and epistemology. Don’t, in other words, ignore the premises underlying your worldview. And stay humble. No confidence games. Doubt. Then doubt some more. Read and question. And especially read the other side. To just stay on your side of the fence, talking to people who agree with you, reading books you agree with, is folly. Get out of your bubble of rectitude. Be a pain in the ass to the people you identify with. If you’re a theist, make your friends crazy with hard questions. If you’re an atheist, doubt your atheism, and deconstruct atheist confidence men. Cut down all the “sacred trees.” Find the people who critique atheism and read them carefully. And if the books convert you to a theist, then get out all the atheist books and start reading them again. Never get comfy. Never stop thinking and talking and listening and reading and engaging in mad speculations. I like Jack Kerouac’s great quote:

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’”

And I like this quote of Richard Feynman (it’s so unlike the confidence atheists and theists out there):

“You should not fool the laymen why you’re talking as a scientist. . . . I’m talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is more than not lying, but bending over backwards to show how maybe you’re wrong.”

Show how maybe you’re wrong. That’s atheism with integrity. That’s theism with integrity. That’s the mantra for all people not selling snake oil or playing a confidence game.

Burn, burn, burn . . . and think and . . . Awww!

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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1 Response to Advice to Young Theist and Atheist Contrarians

  1. Settlement says:

    Apologize for my bad english, I deem its a gracious piece of your writing. Kind-heartedly I obtain faced alot of difficulties in this condition but your article discretion definately relieve me in future. Offer You

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