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The Enthusiasm of Youth

Often times I get a lot of e-mails from Christians who are eager to prove their God. These particular Christians tend to be fundamentalists and seem to be under the impression that I must have never heard any arguments for their position and have never really heard the story of Jesus. These particular Christians tend to be either young or recent converts.

Whenever I get into one of these conversations, I am always reminded of my phrase that my favorite philosophy professor in grad school used to use. My professor would frequently share some of his old papers with us and before he did, he used to hedge the paper’s introduction by telling us that he wrote the paper, “in the enthusiasm of youth” and then proceeded to let us know that it, “probably wasn’t very good.” It was always of course brilliant but his modestly was genuine.

It is important to note that there is some genuine merit to my professor introduction. When we are young and enthusiastic, we tend to be less contemplative and more combative. We tend to be less open to other people’s reasoning and other people’s points of view.

I do find this with many Christians and even some of my fellow atheists. But most of the time even young atheists have put a great deal of time and contemplation into their positions. One of the main differences between theist and atheist is that people tend to be raised dogmatically with religion and/or convert to a religion suddenly. Most atheists on the other hand tend to take a journey from belief to non-belief. That journey is often long, hard, and contemplative.

Because atheists have to re-learn critical thinking skills and have usually spent a great deal of contemplative thought into why they don’t believe, the “enthusiasm of youth” doesn’t overtake them nearly as often as it does Christians. The fact is that we live in a world dominated by theism and most atheists either group up in a theistic home or in a community of theistic belief. Most atheists spent the enthusiasm of their youth as theists.

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