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The Confession of an Atheist

By Wayne Jackson

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Judith Hayes is an atheist. Reared as a Lutheran (Missouri Synod), she has abandoned any semblance of faith in God. Now, she is a bitter foe of religion especially Christianity (which she frequently confuses with Catholicism and Protestant denominationalism). A number of factors combined early in her life which contributed to her atheism. As a youngster she had a friend who was a Buddhist. Judith could not entertain the idea that her friend might be lost apart from Christ; so, rather, than carefully examining the evidence to see whether or not the claims of the Lord are true, she simply decided, on an emotional basis, that the religion of Jesus Christ could not be genuine. Then she married, and that relationship turned sour. Again, rather that considering the possibility that she might be responsible for having made a bad choice in her marital selection, she blamed God for her disappointment. These factors, among others, led this young woman to forfeit whatever degree of faith she had. Judith was formerly a columnist for the infidelic journal, Freethought Today, but she had a falling out with those folks, and so now, she is associated with The American Rationalist magazine (out of St. Louis) as a "Senior Writer." Last year Mrs. Hayes authored a book titled, In God We Trust: But Which One? (1996, Freedom From Religion Foundation). In this volume Judith is very caustic toward those who believe in a Supreme Being. She charges:

Faith is the suspension of reason. Where reason prevails, faith has no place. Where faith prevails, reason cannot function. The two may not coexist. When people tell you to 'open your heart and let God in,' what they really mean is to stop using your brain and start sifting facts through the sieve of intuition and revelation rather than reason (p.18).

Inasmuch as Judith lives near me, here in northern California, and since she frequently contributes letters to the major newspaper of our area, I have corresponded with this lady over the past several months. I invited her to engage with me in an oral debate. She refused, claiming that public speaking was not her forte. I then suggested that she join me in a private question/answer session. She declined again, explaining that this would also subject her to undue stress. There is much truth in that.

Mrs. Hayes also writes a monthly column on the Internet, called "The Happy Heretic." (I am not sure about how "happy" she is; to quote a famous English playwright: "Methinks she cloth protest too much.") Anyway, in her February presentation, she adopted a dramatic change in demeanor-one that is, quite frankly, very refreshing.

For example, Judith concedes that not "all theists are dimwits." She continues: "It is jolting and insulting, not to mention arrogant and condescending, when freethinkers [as atheists like to think of themselves] refer to all believers as 'nuts."' Wonderful, dear, you are making progress! Judith further muses: "Why do we feel the need to denigrate believers simply because they believe?" I don't know, Judith; why did you feel the need to do so in your book? But, confession is good for the soul; so, continue please. "[S]imply believing should not make people fair game for name­calling." How nice. But wait: Our friend is not finished. "I think it's time we [atheists] stepped down from our non­theistic pedestals and put a rein on our arrogance.... I catch myself now and again condescending and preening rather smugly. We must avoid these tendencies."

Though it may be short­lived, this confession represents some degree of progress on the part of my atheistic neighbor! I am not suggesting that Judith Hayes is anywhere near to embracing biblical faith. However, I am a bit proud of her. She did not have to make those concessions, but she did. She is dead wrong in her ideology, but she is not without courage. Thanks Judith!

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Published June 1997