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Katha Pollitt in the December 3 issue of THE NATION mocks Sam Harris, in her column entitled, "The Atheist's Dilemma." Harris is the author of THE END OF FAITH. But I don't see the dilemma. Ms. Pollitt declares that it is unlikely that very many people will quit believing, or pretending they believe, nonsense. But that does not mean that quitting either thing is not what needs doing. Even if it will take a thousand years, I say let's get started. Believing what isn't so cannot bring about good long-term results. Wearing blinders that can be removed is not a good way to proceed. "First take the beam out of your own eye," Someone once reportedly suggested. It probably won't be a mass movement right away, but individuals really do need to do it, and we who have already done it need to encourage them.

Katha Pollitt links religion to community, family, a support system and identity. She cites those things as reasons why so few will take the necessary step into liberation. See my book, FREEDOM FROM GOD: RESTORING THE SENSE OF WONDER. One can outgrow religion and then find a new community. One can become part of a new family and learn to depend on a new support system, and finally even establish a new identity.

I have hesitated to use the label "atheist" for my new identity, simply because those mean-hearted theists have demonized the word so badly and the story-telling media have allowed that. But considerations like these, provoked by the likes of Katha Pollitt, are pushing me to go ahead and be frank and open about it. I am without question a "non-theist." I do not believe in an Entity which made the world and rules the world in an omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent manner. I do not believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I do not believe in the God of Peter, James and John. But "non-theist" is simply Latin for the Greek word "a-theist." So why should I any longer allow the mean-hearted ones to have any say about my identity?

"Well, what DO you believe in?" someone will ask. Briefly, all too briefly probably, let me say this. I believe humans are capable of amazing things, and when we finally get over our obsession with wars, explosions, arson and murder, we'll be capable of solving many of the problems that confront us. Depending on an outside Force, what playwrights call "Deus ex machina," simply diverts us from the work, and the courage, that is required. I believe that we can encourage each other greatly, and help each other greatly.

Much of what humans do and have done so far has been like groping in the dark, unsure of what is really going on. But from time to time the lights come on, and we can see how it is. Can it be a good thing to insist that we put those lights out and go back to groping? Or, perhaps better put, we've been groping in the night. And now day is dawning, and we can see better what's going on. Would it be wise to rush into the nearest cave and enjoy the familiarity of the dark?

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Copyright © 2008 Harry Willson

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