My thoughts on the book, 50 Voices of Disbelief, Why We Are Athiests, edited by Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk. Written as I read them in no particular order. The page number of the essay is provided at the top of each entry.
p. 28 J. L. Schellenberg “Why I am a Nonbeliever? – I Wonder…”
I would recommend this book for this essay alone.
You can buy this article individually here. 50 Voices - I Wonder
I haven’t found any free articles by this author, but there are plenty of reviews that might give you a sense of what he has to say. I will keep looking and attempt to summarize it. I don’t know if I can do it justice.
“Plato says that philosophy begins in wonder.”
So begins this essay, rather innocently telling the story of his very religious upbringing in rural Manitoba. He felt the wonder of the world through the lens of Christianity. Through post secondary education he discovered,
“The New Testament was a decidedly human construction, a shining record of personal liberation in places, but also pockmarked with all the prejudices and proselytizing aims of it authors,…”
He goes on to tell about his discovery of Buddhist and Taoist wisdom as well as others. He spent time in the library and discovering new people on the streets of the city. He knew he had learned humility, honesty and commitment from his Christian upbringing and he struggled to integrate this with his new found knowledge. As he says,
“It hurts to have your neat picture of the world torn to shreds; your emotions left jangling. But no one said that a commitment to live in wonder, straining for real insight and understanding, comes without cost.”
His new views of the world brought the problem of evil and hiddenness argument for atheism into focus. At the time he was asking these questions the term “hiddenness argument” hadn’t been coined. Up to this point, this seemed like just another essay. It seemed he was going to miss the point about the value of his upbringing and how it led to his later insight, but he did give it a nod. Then he started talking about his recent thoughts and said,
“And through yet another strange twist that I am still in the midst of navigating, it appears that in the depths of evolutionary religious skepticism can be found the seeds of new life for religion.”
I had to read that a couple times, “evolutionary” what? To clarify it, he first covers some basic science. Scientists pretty well agree that the earth will be around for another billion years. Let’s put that into perspective.
Earliest human ancestor walking upright 6,000,000 million years ago
Homo Erectus (walking upright) humans 2,000,000 million years ago
Homo Sapiens Sapiens (that’s us) about 130,000 years ago
Oldest beads 80,000 years ago
Cave painting 30,000 years ago – that is, scribbling on a wall
Human agriculture 10,000 years ago
Pyramids built 4,780 year ago
Years remaining that we can continue to create a better world
30,000 years to get from scratching on a wall to watching Avatar in the palm of your hand. What could we do in 30,000 more years? How about 30,000 times 30,000 years?
Getting back to the essay, he says, “Apply this now to religion.” Although we have dominated and altered the planet, our maturity is still questionable and our propensity to violence hard to excuse. Those cave paintings are evidence that we humans started thinking about something beyond our own existence long before we could preserve those thoughts in writing and at a time that violence was the solution to most of our problems.
Given that we have created not only language but ways of communicating across language barriers, including instant communication around the globe, we can not only think about how we might evolve, we can affect the course of our evolution, setting a pace of evolution faster than previous generations.
He says all of this better than I ever could. I have added a few of his books to my reading list
Prolegomena to a Philosophy of Religion 2005
Available in Google books
Divine hiddenness and human reason 2006
The Wisdom to Doubt: A Justification of Religious Skepticisim 2007
The Will to Imagine: A Justification of Skeptical Religion 2009
See Review Review of Will to Imagine
I will try to find some more of his works.