Apparently, when atheists began writing books, he got scared that he might have some doubts about his faith. These "New Atheists" were proclaiming that science and religious claims were incompatible, and that a scientific worldview could disprove the existence of God. He writes,
As a professor of physics and former working scientist, I have told myself that I care because the New Atheists claim that science -- of all things -- disproves God's existence. During my years as a seminary student I told myself that I care out of theological interest. But what really scared me was the possibility that my fascination was an index of my own unconscious unbelief. I gradually began to ask myself: Am I a closet atheist?
He came across his answer reading William James, apparently. (Side note on William James: his works inspired Bill Wilson to start Alcoholics Anonymous, a "recovery" group with less than 3% success rate). William James "draws a distinction between two psychological types, the "healthy-minded" and the "sick soul," I saw clearly what separates me from the New Atheists: pessimism."
Wallace goes on to use the example of the half-empty or half-full analogy. Turns out we atheists must minimize the evil in the world in order to see the glass as half-full. He quotes James that optimists stay cheery "by systematically declining to lay them to heart or to make much of them, [or] by ignoring them in his reflective calculations." As pessimists, believers see the evil in the world and "can't stop wondering why it's that way," which ultimately leads to the conclusion that there can only be a spiritual solution to these evils.
Yes, folks, you heard that right. He doesn't have to support the God claim, he just has to pay more attention to suffering and not be so willing to ignore it like us atheists. You know us, never looking at suffering so we can ignore God. Never giving to Kiva or Doctors Without Borders in record numbers... Oh wait, we did that.
He calls science -- our replacement for religion -- "the most optimistic enterprise ever concocted by human beings." Because scientists believe the world can be made better by humans, it is too optimistic. (You know, because doubling the average human lifespan through the use of modern medicine doesn't deserve any credit or something. Meanwhile, in the Bible, bats are birds and the earth is a disc).
He paints a mental picture of a park with an atheist bus going by, with the message "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."
His next paragraph is appalling and insulting and ignorant. I'll just leave it here in full:
It is optimistic because it assumes that the default condition of human life is peace. It is optimistic because, in its refusal to acknowledge the deeper problems of life, it redraws human experience on a solvable and finite scale, presuming that what people really need is to "enjoy their lives." After all, it's a beautiful day in the city; what else could there be to need? It is optimistic because the creators of the campaign could not bring themselves to imagine -- or if they did imagine it they did not take it seriously -- someone reading it who, in the words of Francis Spufford, is poverty-stricken, or desperate for a job, or a drug addict, or a mother who just lost a child to social services. Someone who is truly alone in this world and who may have nothing but the faintest hope of a loving God keeping them alive. Maybe they did think about such a person and decided that they too need to "stop worrying and enjoy their life," starting with a breath of clean godless air. Now that's optimism.In the two-thousand years of Christianity's reign, the churches have held wealth and power while people starved and died. Wallace doesn't think we could imagine a person seeing our message whose only hope is in a loving God.
Quite the opposite. Religion is a crutch and an oppressor, keeping people impoverished and their minds too dull to fight against the superstitious clutch that has held humanity back for thousands of years.
That poverty-stricken job hunter should be relying on himself to keep searching -- or better yet, our community should come together to rally around this person until they get back on their feet.
The drug addict, in and out of 12-step recovery programs wondering why her craving for drugs won't leave her should be doing intense psychotherapy work and getting help from others in a detox center instead of waiting around for a miracle. Better yet, our community should be rallying around her to get help, offering real solutions instead of pseudo-spiritual mumbo-jumbo.
Same with the person who loses their child to social services. God won't bring the child back; doing the footwork necessary to become a fit parent will. Better yet, a community ready to teach that parent what it will take and encourage her would be better suited than an invisible and silent imaginary friend.
It's the prolonging and perpetration of suffering that turns many atheists from religion, that even if a God were found to exist, he would deserve no worship for allowing such suffering to continue in the world, choosing to do nothing about it, even though he can.
Wallace ends his pathetic piece by taking another stab at us "optimists:"
The Christianity I know takes note of the blue London sky, of the footballers, and of the picnicking lovers, but it starts with the addict on the street. You know, the one optimism forgot about. The fragile one standing alone at the edge of the park, watching the Atheist Bus roll jauntily past.Without any evidence and only a bus ad, he assumes that the New Atheists are cheerfully ignoring the suffering in the world so we can live gleefully without a God, while Noble Christians turn their head to the suffering person.
How dare Wallace make such an accusation when it has been religion and superstition that have kept these people delusional and miserable, giving them false hope and ripping away any self-direction they might have. All he had to do was Google search and he'd see atheist groups helping homeless people, addicts, third-world countries, starving people, offering medicine and promoting community throughout the world. Paul Wallace is the worst kind of theist, the sanctimonious know-it-all too afraid to look outside of his own little bubble lest he find his preconceived prejudices might turn out to be wrong.
And they are wrong. So fuck you, Paul Wallace.