I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about human life, including everything about the human mind… This is a somewhat ridiculous situation… [I]t is just as irrational to be influenced in one’s beliefs by the hope that God does not exist as by the hope that God does exist. (Thomas Nagel)
Secular theorists often assume they know what a religious argument is like: they present it as a crude prescription from God, backed up with threat of hellfire, derived from general or particular revelation, and they contrast it with the elegant complexity of a philosophical argument by Rawls (say) or Dworkin. With this image in mind, they think it obvious that religious argument should be excluded from public life… But those who have bothered to make themselves familiar with existing religious-based arguments in modern political theory know that this is mostly a travesty… (Jeremy Waldron)
Due to the typical attitude of the contemporary naturalist… the vast majority of naturalist philosophers have come to hold (since the late 1960s) an unjustified belief in naturalism. Their justifications have been defeated by arguments developed by theistic philosophers, and now naturalist philosophers, for the most part, live in darkness about the justification for naturalism. They may have a true belief in naturalism, but they have no knowledge that naturalism is true since they do not have an undefeated justification for their belief. If naturalism is true, then their belief in naturalism is accidentally true. (Quentin Smith)
What makes these quotes interesting is that Nagel and Smith are atheists and while I don’t know what Waldron believes, he hardly seems a zealot either way. But Nagel and Smith are what I call honest atheists. Unlike Nagel and Smith, the typical atheist and, for instance the creationist, will both tell you they are simply following the evidence. That both are unwilling to admit there is something greater and deeper going on here than simply their appeal to the evidence reveals their lack of any sort of sophisticated sensibility about such things, let alone their complete disregard for philosophy or science.
These True Believers who have never met a doubt they couldn’t easily dismiss live in that land of certainty and know-it-all blather. That the world may not be as simple, as plain, as straight, as linear, and as sequential as they believe is lost on all fundamentalists whether of the secular or religious stripe.