Recently, I was unsuccessful in an attempt to surf the web for a particular article by George Will. I did, however, run across a question someone posted concerning his religious affiliations. As it turns out, he is a self-described “amiable, low voltage atheist.” I was a tad surprised to hear that, but it got me to thinking about my own atheistic friends.
I asked myself this question. Are they George Will types? In other words, are they amiable, low voltage atheists? To answer that, I first had to arrive at some sort of definition for the phrase. It was not particularly easy, but here goes.
Does God Exist?
If I understand Will correctly, his form of atheism is grounded in his conservative world view. He does not ask the question, “Does God exist?” Rather, he asks, “Why does anything exist?” That, in itself, is an intriguing query. It’s one that prompts many of us to answer, “God.” Things exist because of God.
Will says this answer has no hold on him. Yet, as a conservative, he subscribes to William F. Buckley’s thinking that, “A conservative need not be religious, but he cannot despise religion.” He says he has a deep respect for religion as well as deeply religious people (he’s actually married to one). He has been quoted as saying, “The great religions reflect something constant and noble in the human character, defensible and admirable yearnings. I am just not persuaded. That’s all.”
Getting back to my own friends who hold that there is no God, I guess I have a hard time contrasting them against the prism of George Will’s amiable, low voltage atheism. Unless one could plumb the depths of their psyche, they seem almost impossible to analyze—as it is with anyone’s deeply held beliefs. Still, I try.
Faith in Some Deity
It seems to me that my godless associates in life tend to run the gamut. I suspect that at least one or two of them would, indeed, fit the Will mold. They respect those of us who are, in fact, believers. They just don’t buy into it themselves. Some even see the benefit of a society that is grounded by a faith in some deity or another.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who think we religious sorts are the bane of society. We hold them back from the greater freedoms in life. From my perspective, I tend to agree with Jesus on this point. He said, “You are the salt of the earth.” The understanding is that salt, particularly in Jesus’ day, was a preservative. Without salt, things went bad. It is my view that, if we religious types weren’t around, things would go to hell in a handbasket.
I know many of my nihilist friends probably scoff at such a theory. They think religion is retrograde. But I suspect there are some who have a tendency to agree with me—even if they don’t believe in a supreme being. They are amiable and low voltage atheists.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]