The idea that he is a devotee of reason seeing through the outdated superstitions of other, lesser beings is the foremost conceit of the proud atheist. This heady notion was first made popular by French intellectuals such as Voltaire and Diderot, who ushered in the so-called Age of Enlightenment.
That they also paved the way for the murderous excesses of the French Revolution and many other massacres in the name of human progress is usually considered an unfortunate coincidence by their philosophical descendants.
The atheist is without God but not without faith, for today he puts his trust in the investigative method known as science, whether he understands it or not. Since there are very few minds capable of grasping higher-level physics, let alone following their implications, and since specialization means that it is nearly impossible to keep up with the latest developments in the more esoteric fields, the atheist stands with utter confidence on an intellectual foundation comprised of things of which he knows nothing.
In fairness, he cannot be faulted for this, except when he fails to admit that he is not actually operating on reason in this regard, but is instead exercising a faith that is every bit as blind and childlike as that of the most unthinking Bible-thumping fundamentalist. Still, this is not irrational, it is only ignorance and a failure of perception.
The irrationality of the atheist can primarily be seen in his actions – and it is here that the cowardice of his intellectual convictions is also exposed. Whereas Christians and the faithful of other religions have good reason for attempting to live by the Golden Rule – they are commanded to do so – the atheist does not.
In fact, such ethics, as well as the morality that underlies them, are nothing more than man-made myth to the atheist. Nevertheless, he usually seeks to live by them when they are convenient, and there are even those, who, despite their faithlessness, do a better job of living by the tenets of religion than those who actually subscribe to them.
Still, even the most admirable of atheists is nothing more than a moral parasite, living his life based on borrowed ethics. This is why, when pressed, the atheist will often attempt to hide his lack of conviction in his own beliefs behind some poorly formulated utilitarianism, or argue that he acts out of altruistic self-interest. But this is only post-facto rationalization, not reason or rational behavior.
I am saying nothing new here. It is an ancient concept. More than 2,000 years ago, the first atheist martyr, Socrates, declared “The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.” Being fully aware of the repercussions of this teaching, he also argued that it was necessary to keep such virtuous knowledge to the elite.
“I mean, I replied, that our rulers will find a considerable dose of falsehood and deceit necessary for the good of their subjects … these goings on must be a secret which the rulers only know, or there will be a further danger of our herd … breaking out into rebellion.”
The Romans, ever practical, understood this as well. Seneca the Younger wrote: “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.” It is more than useful for a civilized society, though, it is a downright necessity.
Even the great champions of reason accepted this bitter truth. Alvin Bernstein writes of Voltaire: “He regarded belief in God and in an afterlife of rewards and punishments as requisites of ethical behavior … Voltaire was convinced that the lower classes must fear God in order to be ethical. His religious outlook … is a stepping-stone toward a full secular outlook in which moral judgments have nothing to do with religious and spiritual abstractions.
This is not to say there are no atheists who are rational, that there are none who are true to their godless convictions. Friedrich Nietzsche is the foremost example, but there are certainly others who do not fear to determine their own moral compass. Today, we call them sociopaths and suicides.
Without God, there is only the left-hand path of the philosopher. It leads invariably to Hell, by way of the guillotine, the gulag and the gas chamber. The atheist is irrational because he has no other choice – because the rational consequences of his non-belief are simply too terrible to bear.