In my WordPress reader, I follow the tag ‘atheism’. I check it on occasion to find new blogs to follow. Unsurprisingly, there are posts tagged ‘atheism’ that are written by believers of various stripes. Giving the feed a quick skim, I noticed a number of recent posts about or mentioning that the reason atheists don’t believe in God is because they don’t want to believe in God. Setting aside the way this suggestion can reinforce belief, I’ve always found it an interesting suggestion. It is obviously false. Most atheists want to believe. More accurately, they wanted to believe. Most atheists are former believers and wanting to believe is a common thread of most deconversion stories.
But, I was never a believer, so I did not deconvert. Acknowledging this, I got to wondering, is it true that I don’t want to believe?
Well, if you consider this blog, the answer may well be yes. I mean, I go out of my way to comment when people besmirch the good name of godlessness. This includes the occasional post about arguments for/against God. However, I engage the for/against arguments because I find the puzzle of them interesting. I don’t engage them to resist belief. Heck, I was defending a William Lane Craig argument in a comment thread a while back. The other posts are more focused on defending/espousing the positive aspects of my worldview, which happens to be godless. Anthropologically, atheists tend to be defensive, and this is understandable considering they are generally in the position of social outsider. I am no different. However, any defensiveness is borne out of commitments to my positive beliefs, not a resistance to believing in God.
There’s also something weird about the suggestion. Do I want to believe in God? Well, no. But, do I not want to believe in God? No, that’s not the case either. I just don’t believe in any gods. The suggestion that I don’t want to believe embeds a motivation that is not present. It would be more accurate to say I am unmotivated to believe in God.
Considering I do not believe in any gods, I want to understand and define the things I do believe: how to be good, how to live well, enjoying life, helping/supporting others, and so on. In other words, I want to focus on being a good person, on living a good life. The snarky believer may scoff at these aspirations, and have at it. May your eyes roll like the raging river. But feel free to put to bed the notion that I don’t want to believe. Wants just don’t enter into the equation.