Among some students there is a lazy atheism. They are atheists not as a matter of conviction but because they cannot be bothered to consider questions concerning the ultimate realities, but because they cannot be bothered to think about anything that is not mediated by Tik Tok or one of the other social media platforms.
Real atheism demands integrity. Whether or not one agrees with their arguments, writers like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins present their case with cogency and conviction. The atheism in school is more the variety of lazy thought that finds its parallel in the brand of evangelical Christianity that rests on the repetition of propositions.
To be a true atheist requires an understanding of what it is that one does not believe, it requires being well informed, it requires being able to explain why it is that one does not believe.
Sometimes, there is the temptation to recount the story of Moishe the Atheist, a story told by rabbis who disliked lazy thought, whether it be theistic or atheistic.
“In the little Eastern European village of Chelm lived a young man, who considered himself an atheist. Chaim, the Chelmite had heard that the very famous “Moishe the Atheist” lived in the neighbouring village.
Eager to find a like-minded soul to learn from, Chaim packed a bit of food in his kerchief, hung it on a stick, and made his way through the woods to find Moishe the Atheist and to study with him.
After a few days journey, and directions from a few helpful strangers, the young man found Moishe’s little cottage. He knocked on the door and received permission to enter. There was an old, bespectacled man hunched over the table, half-hidden behind a pile of books.
“Yes,” said the older man.
“I am looking for Moishe the Atheist,” said Chaim.
“I am Moishe,” said Moishe.
“Sir, I am an atheist too, and I would like to be your apprentice,” said the younger man.
Moishe slowly removed his glasses and peered at the stranger. “You are an atheist?” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” replied Chaim.
“Have you read the Torah?” Moishe asked.
“No, sir,” said Chaim.
“Have you studied the Talmud?”
“No, sir,” said Chaim.
“Are you familiar with all our prayers and philosophies?” asked Moishe.
“No, sir!” said Chaim adamantly. “I am an atheist.”
“Ach,” said Moishe, waving the young man away dismissively. “You are not an atheist. You are only an ignoramus”