"In Defense of Apatheism, Sort Of"--Review by Dr Rauser

Much of our discussion reflects passionate feelings about truth–whether evolution is true or not, God used myth to communicate truth, or God exists.

“Let it Be” examines an atheist’s (Jonathan Rauch’s Jonathan Rauch - Wikipedia) view on two kinds of apathy. In his review of the essay, Randal Rauser points out the difference between caring about truth (eg, God’s existence) and about how one relates to others in relation to it–with kindness or not.


I’d be interested in your thoughts after reading this.

It is a frequent assertion of mine that the majority of atheists are silent and humble. They see no reason to believe in the things of religion so they are not interested and they spend their time on other pursuits. You will find a lot like this in science and academia, where when it comes to the different religions of their colleagues they only seek to get along and work together.

So… why am I not like this? Well… LOL… I am not even an atheist. I am one of those hot blooded pain-in-the-butt evangelical Christians. In other words, I AM interested in the things of religion. Very much so. I am – oh no – a true believer. LOL


good, but you believe and are not a fanatic to the point of disregard of others’ feelings? I was impressed that the atheist said he had Christian friends who had deep faith but didn’t really see him as a label. :slight_smile:

that’s what I get the impression–but what would you say is the difference in apathy? do you agree with his 2 definitions?


“In response, I propose that we continue to use the term “apatheism” to refer to the sense described by the standard reading and exemplified by Rauch’s own religious disinterest. Meanwhile, we could refer to the latter concept of self-control with the Greek term enkrateia, a word that philosophers like Plato used to refer to an internal wisdom and self-control over the exercise of one’s passions. But one thing is clear: it is deeply misleading to refer to the latter attitude as apatheism.”

I am hardly perfect. But I wasn’t raised Christian and most of my knee jerk reactions have to with an high sensitivity to intolerance, misogyny, racism and such. My Christianity is more intellectual – icing on top of the cake. Only an aggressive atheist is likely to get any ire out of me, when he starts sounding a little too much like the arrogant westerner looking down his nose at the primitive aborigines.

While my first post reflects Rauch’s first definition of “apathy” I think the second definition relates more to the proper objectivity of an academic studying those aborigines.


Still reading but I liked this, where he likens avoiding over-strident proselytizing to ranting for or against Trump’s election.

Insofar as you have a tendency toward dogmatic zeal, bigotry, or affrontive proselytism or disputation, you should simply avoid these topics. This is not laziness. It is, rather, a careful discipline.

Pure gold. But now I must leave off for I promised to watch Bill Maher with her at 9 and she has been working really hard to get ready to leave on a trip Wednesday.


Thanks for sharing this Randy. I think I resonate with Rauser’s conclusion here. Rauch wants to conflate “disinterest in religious and metaphysical questions with the principled chastening of fanatical impulses.”

I propose that we continue to use the term “apatheism” to refer to the sense described by the standard reading and exemplified by Rauch’s own religious disinterest. Meanwhile, we could refer to the latter concept of self-control with the Greek term enkrateia

In my medical practice, most of those I work with know that I’m a Christian. My Jewish, Muslim and atheist partners know that I routinely lead a group of our nurses and staff in prayer, with an emphasis on caring well for the needs of our patients. I’m glad but not over-zealous to share my faith delicately and respectfully when it seems appropriate. No one has ever expressed concern about this. My colleagues may be apatheistic (in the sense of indifference) and/or sufficiently confident that my enkrateia will guard me from any “fanatical impulses.”


Finally got to finish reading and of course I very much appreciated and agreed with it. There is of course the corresponding atheist who is dead set on helping you with all the cognitive dissonance from which he assumes you must suffer by helping to free you from all those archaic beliefs. I can’t imagine any believers actually appreciate the effort, especially when a polite no-thank you doesn’t suffice.

This point about differentiating between care and concern on the one hand, and making a public display of it on the other I thought was also helpful:

it should be clear to any Christian that such visible actions do not thereby constitute a truly devotional life; indeed, they may even run counter to it. For example, when Jesus instructs on the discipline on prayer he advises his listeners to pursue private devotion rather than grandiose, public displays (Mt 6:5-6). Thus, so-called publicly visible care has little to do with one’s fulsome love of God.

I suppose from the atheist point of view what really matters is that the well wisher exercise enkrateia enough not to assume we are but blank slates awaiting the word which will set us free. Many of us are already freely pursuing purpose and meaning by our own lights and no one appreciates the hard sell.

Wonderful article @Randy, thanks for sharing it.

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