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Just before Christmas, disbelievers in God buy ads

November 16, 2008|By DAVID YOUNT / Scripps Howard News Service

In an America notable for its faith, there is still plenty of disbelief to go around. The novelist Michael Crichton, who died recently, went to his grave disbelieving in global warming. In one of his last books Crichton argued that the science supporting climate change was shaky and that we would only be saddling future generations with huge debts to solve an environmental problem that might not exist.

The president of Iran famously disbelieves in the Holocaust, a skepticism that is prompted by his antagonism toward Israel. There are still Americans who disbelieve in NASA's moon landings, unmoved by photographs and testimony by the astronauts.

Although the pope himself is comfortable with a belief in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, plenty of Christians part with him, disbelieving that God could possibly have chosen to create humankind that way.

Skeptics rarely spend much money persuading believers that popular faiths are unfounded, so it is newsworthy when a group of prominent American atheists mount a missionary effort to unburden the rest of us of our belief in God's existence.

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The American Humanist Association will do just that in our nation's capital during the Christmas season this year, buying advertising space for posters on the side, rear, and interior of Washington's buses that proclaim "There's Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life."

That message, produced by the association's British counterpart, has an alien ring to it. Organized religion is increasingly unpopular in Great Britain, where fewer than a million believers worship on Sundays in the country's official Anglican Church. In sharp contrast, 9 of 10 Americans are believers and 40 percent of us pray together in church, synagogue, or mosque every week. Only 4 percent of us admit to being disbelievers.

More important: The notion that religious faith is an impediment to enjoying life is utterly foreign to Americans of all religious faiths. The exact opposite is true. For American believers, God is the source of their hope and life's blessings, both material and spiritual. The vast majority of Americans enjoy life precisely because they find security and reassurance in God.

The message that "there's probably no God" lacks any reassurance either way. A nominal believer can be indifferent to the faith he professes, but a true atheist must be certain in his disbelief.

Those who pride themselves on their skeptical outlook, professing to believe only in their reasonableness, can be the most unreasonable people in the world. Overwhelmingly, they act from habit, while sitting on life's sidelines professing doubt.

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