Recently at another blog I used my fundamentalist Christian mom as an example of Christian naivete - unquestioning, totally immersed and comfortable in her faith. A reader left a response that I didn't particularly care for. Not that I was offended, really. But it did get me thinking about Christian naivete.
My parents weren't scholars. Most people aren't. They were in large part a product of their culture. So was I.
They weren't cowards for not looking outside the confines of their faith. They placed great stock in the ability of well-versed Bible scholars and theologians to iron out the logical difficulties of their faith. They accepted religious authority. Neither of my parents were afraid to admit they didn't know the answers to perplexing religious questions. But that ignorance didn't persuade to them to bail out of their religious community.
No, they didn't spend their little free time reading "infidel" literature or listening to atheist or agnostic apologists. I don't think this was fear on their part at all, nor a desire to remain ignorant. It would be more like a believer in modern evolution theory taking the time to read creationist literature. What would be the point? They weren't "anti-science," even though they had no patience with science as a weapon to use against religion. (Of course it goes without saying that this line wasn't very well defined.)
Religious apologists have read the masters of unbelief and have "answered" their criticisms already. Those perplexed can look there. And sometimes my parents did.
Apologists for non-belief have tackled the works of the authorities on religious faith and have responded adequately for their community of nonbelievers. The average atheist or agnostic spends little time reading religious apologetics nor have they a real need to. .
Evangelical atheists and agnostics know their Bibles (at least superficially) better than the average Christian. They take great pride in that.
They also miss the point. Christianity is a religious tradition based on an attitude about life instead of logical postulates. It is a matter of the heart (emotions), not the head (logic). Jesus summed up the whole of religious belief in two points: (1) love God supremely and (2) love your fellow humans. Christians are followers of Jesus.
As I read and reread the orthodox version of Jesus (that is to say, the Jesus of the four canonical gospels), I am struck with the thought that Jesus would not have made a good fundamentalist. His religion was more practical than theological. And even an atheist philosopher like Betrand Russell could offer: "What the world needs is love, Christian love, or compassion."
Yes, there is a Christian naivete. My mom is naive, so was my dad, and so was I at one time. But I can embrace my mom and did my dad because I believe compassion is of greater value than mere knowledge alone.