Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Boredom that is Atheism

I’m sitting at Borders reading several apologetic books (and one magazine, Free Inquiry) for atheism. It is strangely eerie how religious they all are. They all have their tenants of ‘faith’ (Listed usually in the front or back) and their shibboleths for entry (You had better say the password: "Homosexuality is just fine!"). They caricaturize their opponents (Yes, it’s not just an evangelical habit!); they are consumed by their own sense of martyrdom (Atheists "are the nations most unwelcome minority."); and they are vehemently ‘evangelical’ about their need to 'convert' all those in error. They are, in fact, so possessed by their evangelicalism, that even in their magazines (Free Inquiry, in this case) they are hard-pressed to speak of anything else except how irrational all those religious folk are; there are no articles on the arts, nothing on great literature, and sculpture, forget it! Oh, they mention and even extol the terms, but actual discussion length articles are more elusive than a garden gopher. Instead we find just one long screed, article after article on how insane it is to explain the world supernaturally. "No reliable empirical evidence" is repeated ad nauseum by writer after writer. It would be a waste of time repeating the canards and downright babble; I would recommend folks read Lewis and Chesterton, as they are quite good about presenting their opponents position in its most resilient form - quite unlike the atheists themselves, I might add.

What drives these folks, I ask. If there is no purpose in the universe, why should they care what anyone believes? Why not be satisfied with knowing that people are happy even if they are deluded? I suspect that what really drives them is far more tragic and sinister, but that’s for another time.

The Editor and Chief of Free Inquiry is Paul Kurtz, former professor of philosophy at the State University of New York. He does not come across as a professor as he strains one's confidence in his philisophical abilities with silly strawman arguments. When he tries to present and explaination as to why religion persists, the only answers he can come up with in the article I read are (my paraphrase) that folks are bombarded from childhood with religious concepts and have no chance to escape into the arms of a caring atheist, or, and this ‘or’ is downright hilarious, they suffer from a quasi-genetic problem. Here he resurrects the theory of Richard Dawkins, which says in scientific-sounding speech exactly what his first supposition stated: We are religious because of so-called "memes" - those habits of repetition and imitation that bring us all into conformity to our various cultures. In other words, we are raised that way. He thinks that if we study the causes of belief and explain them to folks that they will then understand the illusion and skip happily into atheism. Funny, the now defunct Soviet Union did just that to no avail.

Still, they all seem at their wits end in their attempts to reproduce authentic human community based on their secular humanism. Perhaps this is because of the intellectual prison which they have constructed for themselves. While they are shouting "Free Inquiry!", they vilify the believer if he opens his mind to entertaining non-empirical causes. Apparently 'free' to them is synonomous with empiricism.

Sadly, the attempt to explain grand things with small ideas has been the pentient of those folks in the asylum. Alas, those tragic folks have nothing on the atheist. The atheist's dogmatism is perplexing considering their anger with all things dogmatic. While Jesus’ life was a struggle to get folks to think outside the box when conceptualizing the true God, the atheist’s box is never to small. And woe to you if you peek.

The hardest thing for me (and them, apparently) to get over is their struggles to establish any kind of convincing moral judgments or standards. But when one says that "human values are relative to human experience, interests, and needs…", what prevents a society from welcoming pedophilia when, after societal "evolution," it begins to satisfy this criteria? Again, Kurts speaks of the "the right of dissent." Where did this right come from? What gene can explain it? Maybe he should look to Dawkin’s meme for an answer.

Outside of ‘might makes right’ I don’t believe he has any other explanation for morality – here at least Nitzsche was honest. The tragic truth is that all committed atheistic societies, like the Soviet Union or the cocky and cowardly French, have resorted to just this sort of principle to guarantee the "fraternity" of the people. There has never been more bloodier revolutions than those of these two despotic and atheistic regimes. Despite the atheist’s cry of how horrible were the times of the Inquisition, this particular period in Church history was mere child’s play when compared to the nightmare of the Russian Kommissars or Robespierre. I would wager that the crimes of atheism would break the scales against any crimes committed by religion (with the possible exception of Islam).

In the end, Kurtz’ answer to building atheistic communities amounts to such paltry suggestions as teaching folks to deal with the "weltschmertz," the "blows of outrageous fortunes", and to "marshal a stoic attitude."

Atheism. What an interminable bore.

JB

2 Comments:

Blogger Sam said...

I found a great blog which delves into the matter of religion, where they come from and how terrorists find sources for their misdeeds in their own mystical sources. It's Being Holy.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Johannus Bifrons said...

Sam,
I checked it out, but was quite let down. That website suffers from the same simplistic explanations so common to modern man and his undeserved sense of superiority over everything that came before. Its history is also highly nuanced so as to bear no resemblance to any historical documents of the period.

Some comments follow:

He says that "truth...can only be found by following the stories of those that remained committed to the source teachings of Torah around which these fascinating Judeo / Christian / Islamic historical developments are centered."

JB comment: Torah of itself is a dead end. Thus the rise of fanciful interpretations in hopes of giving it all some life. When law is seen for what it is (death), then mysticism (in this case, Kabbalah) is almost always the next answer.Jews, Muslims and Christians have all played the same game with faiths.

"2400 years ago (600 BCE) mainstream devotion to G-d was the embodiment of the Jerusalem populous. They were completely and holistically committed to Torah's pure precepts and concepts."

JB Comment: Their own prophets deny this assessement about them.

"Such clarity existed because all of Israel personified the laws and essence of Torah in their thoughts, speech and actions. They lived their lives in a state of conscious holiness in accordance with Torah.

JB Comment: The prophets denied this also.

"Rome's rulers, imbued with the powers of their divine authority, savaged Jews and the serenity of Jewish life..."

JB Comment: There was nothing serene about it. Josephus paints a wholly different picture. So does the NT.
Jesus predicted the terminus to this period as an event of divine judgment.

"Christianities new face, eventually attributed to Jesus, was born in Rome several hundred years after his death in Jerusalem."

JB comment: Da Vinci code redux

"Jerusalem's Jews were scattered to the north..."

JB comment: As predicted by Moses

"the G-d of Israel had permitted the destruction of the Temple."

JB Comment: More than 'permitted', H- directed it.

"The history of Judeo / Christian / Islamic development cannot be looked at through rose colored glasses. First we must obtain a true, common understanding of a history that synchronizes all physical and spiritual aspects, only then we can look forward to resolution of our significant differences."

JB comment: Jesus did just this. What is suggested in this quote would take more than an explanation, it would take the embodiment of truth in a person. G-d knew this. Thus, Jesus.

God Bless,
JB

10:25 AM  

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