November 10, 2009
Frankly Dear Scarlets We Don't Give A Damn
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
-- William Butler Yeats -- "The Second Coming" Analyzed
The secular infection of the post-post-modern mind is beyond virulent and oozing pus wherever one looks. One manifestation of the spread of the epidemic is the "fashionable" compulsion to declare one has no faith by declaring one's faith in atheism. This is becoming a fad among our self-styled artiste class.
This evening I was looking at some interesting work on Flickr and wanted to learn a bit more about the artist, one Michael Paukner. His short Flickr autobiography is "graphic designer, freelancer, musician, atheist, jack of all trades." That's it. That's all. Which of those five things is not like the other four? That's right, the compulsive addition of "atheist."
I must confess I'm always a little surprised by the "passionate intensity" of these childish and malformed souls. It's as if Paukner felt forced to declare himself "graphic designer, freelancer, musician, broken, jack of all trades." If he had he'd have been a bit more honest about himself. As it stands declaring one is a loud and proud "atheist" is I imagine a kind of advertisement for one's own brokenness in order to attract and gather around oneself others who are broken in the same way. I suppose it's a kind of dating behavior of the spiritually malformed in order to wall themselves off from redemption of any sort; a kind of forehead tattoo of the Tribe of Zero.
It's a continuing mystery to me that, faced in every moment with the self-evident presence of the miracle of all that is, people in western cultures can shroud themselves in the deepest dark of "There is no miracle." Then again, I am reliably informed that the grace of free will is what makes this possible and I cannot argue with grace. It has too often been granted to me for me to test it.
Still I wonder at the Tribe of Zero's compulsion to announce it's dark faith in Nothing. In a way, the passionate intensity of atheists is mirrored by the passionate intensity of Muslims who would kill and behead unbelievers and be convinced of their own "tough-mindedness" as they pulled the trigger or chopped at the neck. The difference is, of course, that our post-post-modern atheists, with their t-shirts and tattoos, their mumbles and tacky manifestos proclaiming their "faith," are unlikely to ever kill Muslims. That's not their role in today's global religious war between the submission and slavery of Islam and the liberty and freedom of the west. No, the role of atheists is similar to the role of pacifists. They hide behind those who believe in Liberty and Freedom and carry on their broken lives.
Their only other conceivable role, should the civilization that makes their "faith" possible is, if that civilization should lose, to become the first sheep slaughtered under Sharia law. (Unless of course their "tough mindedness" failed and their rushed to conversions as most would.) Those that stuck too their intensely passionate conviction in "atheism" would quickly discover the truth of the old saying, "If you don't believe in anything, you'll die for nothing at all."
Posted by Vanderleun at November 10, 2009 7:37 PM
Thinking sleepily that an atheist is like a kid with a skinned knee that they just cannot stop picking the scab off of and grossing out the girls by showing it to them. They are obsessed with picking, and grossing out, and completely miss the repeated miracle of healing and regrowth. They grumble about itching as tissue knits together again. They grub about with dirty fingernails and still heal again. But all they can do is rip, tear, bleed. They are fascinated and blind to the process that continues despite their destruction and showing off.
Or to be less bloody minded (I do teach Sunday School to first and second graders, can't help the mundane examples) an atheist is wilfully blind, someone who puts the airline eyepatches on to shut out the obnoxious other people and cheesy movie and so misses the glorious dawn through the windows. Or a beautiful baby cooing and smiling at the grumpy total stranger behind, whose sad and angry heart softens and warms at the sight.
The beginning of John's gospel says it best:
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2The same was in the beginning with God.
3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
9That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
Gerard, I know an atheist, he believes. He believes in honesty, responsibility, in being forthright. He supports honest inquiry, in accepting the world as it as, as the available evidence presents it. He does not believe there is any evidence for the existence of God. Present him with good solid evidence and he'll consider it. But he's not going to take it on faith.
He has his flaws, he's pro socialized medicine for one thing. When it comes to matters of science I have found him to be reliable, trustworthy to a high degree. He just doesn't see how it is possible for God to exist, and he doesn't accept the unsupported word of others.
Before a statement has any value it must be proved. When tested the Bible, as a statement and as a series of statement, has been proved unreliable whereto the question of God. All claims made by the Bible whereto God are unreliable and not to be trusted. It is the work of men, and best understood as the work of men. It speaks from authority and presents nothing to support its statements.
I have reason to accept the existence of God, personal experience. But, that cannot be used to convince others because I cannot demonstrate what it was that God did to and for me. The atheist sees the lack of empirical evidence for the existence of God and concludes there is no God. The atheist adheres to a code of behavior, and by his adherence shows an honesty and moral courage found lacking in a number in the religious community. My atheist friend has his flaws, but he believes in what he says, he believes there is no God and he's ready to stand up for his belief. I know he is wrong, but so long as the evidence is just not there demonstrating the existence of God in an objective manner the proof lies on his side.
Atheists don't believe? No, atheists don't believe in what you believe and that is not in and of itself wrong. What is wrong is refusing to accept the possibility you might be wrong in the face of evidence to the contrary. I have yet to see any testable evidence contrary to atheism. And that is why I cannot agree with you and your statements regarding atheists and atheism.
"Still I wonder at the Tribe of Zero's compulsion to announce it's dark faith in Nothing. In a way, the passionate intensity of atheists is mirrored by the passionate intensity of Muslims who would kill and behead unbelievers and be convinced of their own "tough-mindedness" as they pulled the trigger or chopped at the neck."
Trapped between the fires of Islam and the ice of Atheism. I'm surprised that many people do not believe in hell.
In my youth, I was an atheist until it occurred to me that to argue the non-existence of God is just as illogical as to argue the existence of God. The truly rational position is agnosticism: we just don't know. Anything we read--pro or con--from however lofty a source, is really just a wild guess.
Having said that... Over the next 30 years, I went from agnosticism to Buddhism to Orthodox Christianity. Why? Belief is a decision; I decided that a world with God is more beautiful and meaningful than a world without. Atheism, secularism, environmentalism, and marxism are also decisions--and competing religions.
Atheism is simply a posture. As for the evidence for God, it surrounds us like the air we breathe. Anyone who thinks self-awareness is a cosmic accident is in delusionary mode.
Choosing a life without God is much like limiting oneself to seeing only two dimensions in a three dimensional world.
For those who think atheism is just another childish belief system, you are wrong ... and perhaps someday you may find you are dead wrong.
The problem with atheism is that the man who does not believe in God must himself become God, or else assign the role of God to someone else whom he chooses.
This awareness came to me once when I was dealing with a personnel problem at work. One of my employees (call him Mr. X) was constantly at the throat of one of the managers (call him Mr. Y).
As Mr. X's boss, he came to me on several occassions demanding that I go to Mr. Y's manager and demand his firing for both real and perceived personal injustices (i.e. dishonesty, arrogance, etc.). Now, Mr. Y was no angel, but he was also not nearly as disruptive to the organization as my employee. Mr. X was getting so disruptive, I was under pressure to terminate him.
During one of my counseling sessions with Mr. X, I asked him straight out, "What are your guiding principles and how are you applying them to this situation?" In the course of describing his principles, which were all very good, he informed me that he was an atheist. I never thought much about it until later.
Sometime later there was another blow-up & counseling session. I sat listening to Mr. X recount all the past greivances and injustices of Mr. Y and in his words, "these wrongs need to be righted." At which point I finally lost my temper and emphatically demanded, "Who in the hell made you the judge, jury and executioner of all injustices in this company." I further demanded, "From now on, you will never take on another person of this company, you will bring every injustice and perceived injustice directly to me and I will deal with it, not you. It is not your place."
That meeting meeting was a dramatic turning point. Mr. X became one of my best contributors almost overnight, getting along perfectly with all of his colleagues. And, amazingly, two months later Mr. Y came to me and said, "I just want you to know, I had absolutely the wrong impression about Mr. X, and I want you to know he is doing a fantastic job supporting my program."
Sometime later the realization washed over me that what I was dealing with was Mr. X's atheism. For you see, Mr. X did not believe there was a God, and did not believe a judgement day would come for Mr. Y. As a Christian, this awareness not only influences my personal behavior, it also allows me to cope with the unjust behavior of others when they are out of my control. Mr. X did not have the power or tools to defer judgement.
In essence, I had unwittingly placed myself in the role of God for Mr. X. I asserted my authority in such a way that I would obtain justice for him.
The atheist does not have the liberty of deferring justice and judgement to God and must obtain his own justice in this life. It cannot be deferred to an afterlife because there is no afterlife. Further, if the atheist himself does not have control over the "other" to obtain justice, then he will find the man or woman who will/can obtain justice for him.
So, why is atheism potentially deadly? Because it places ALL judgement in the hands of men and there are conditions for judgement are established relatively and not as absolutes. Even the jurist who recommends the death penalty for another man is (we pray) held in check by the fact that someday he or she will be judged for the verdict rendered. Imagine a world where relativist atheists (or secularists) render judgement of their peers based upon personal principles with no perception or fear of eternal consequence. In that day, we would all learn what injustice truly looks like.
I'm opposed to the "anti-theist" big "A" athiests, but I am a small "a" athiest in that I find myself unable to believe>.
For this I'm apparently to be scorned.
- "I suppose it's a kind of dating behavior of the spiritually malformed in order to wall themselves off from redemption of any sort..."
I don't think narcissism leaves much room for desire or need of redemption. And nothing is more glaringly obvious (at least to me) than the alarming and increasing rate at which our society has produced narcissist individuals.
Yes, Islam and atheism are a stone's throw away. When a Muslim converts, it is to atheism, almost never to religion.
Kevin, it seems to me that you are not to be scorned for being "unable" to believe. Doubt is the default setting most of us deal with.
It's those who seem to make a fetish of athieism, who wield it as a club, to come at their belief from anger ("I hate God, therefore I shall show HIM!") and disappointment in their families ("I was made to attend church for years, so I'll show THEM!") who deserve to be poked at.
Alan summed it up better than I could. As a conservative, a scientist and an atheist I am somewhat perplexed by your more frequent harping on the issue...almost in anti-LGF fashion. A religous discussion can go nowhere since ultimately you believe because you want to believe. But as to the subject of the post, why do you care if the artist mentioned above lists himself as an atheist? Why does it bother you how he describes himself? If he had said, Baptist, would it have been noteworthy? In fact, if you are secure in your own beliefs, why the need to denigrate atheists? Also, why do all the "nut-jobs" get put into our camp? There are more than a few left-wing Christian groups out there, with our dear President being just one prominent example.
Barnabus, I'm not an atheist, but I'm glad to know we both see "our dear President" as a left-wing nut job, lol. (I don't see him as Christian though, either, but that's another issue.)
Hell is: As you take your last living breath that you KNOW there is nothing but oblivion waiting for you.
Heaven is: As you take your last living breath that you KNOW there is a loving embrace of your Lord waiting for you.
And this says nothing about what really happens.
Think about it. The absolute POWER of faith.
Why do I know? Been at that threshold.
What struck me about this post what the unintended similarities of the post and the graphic designer/atheist described. The artist throws out a useless bit of information that is not relative to anything in his bio and this post does the same thing. What’s the point of lumping us all together, that we’re all like this clown, to categorize us like the enemy at the gate?
I’ve doubted my atheism many times, I’ve looked and wondered at a baby’s smile, a beautiful sunset, marveled at the universe and thought…maybe, just maybe there could be…but life, the disgusting, the painful, the incomprehensible brings me back to my senses.
Yup, I’m an atheist…and a Vet, to be compared to a Jihad loving Muslim on Veterans Day…well, you can guess what category I place that thought.
Still love the blog (you don’t have the market cornered on forgiveness). Carry on.
First, let me respond to barnabus since any comparison to LGF stings. Barnabus says "...I am somewhat perplexed by your more frequent harping on the issue...almost in anti-LGF fashion."
Do I harp upon this issue? I suppose the tone *could* be read as harping since I never rewrite to ameliorate tone, or indeed, rewrite at all except for small noodlings after the publish button is selected.
But if indeed I do "harp" is such harping "frequent?" I confess I didn't know so I searched my own blog.
Between the main page and the "On the Right" sideblog there are just over 8,000 entries here.
Searching for "atheist" yields 61 results in posts and comments but it seems that many of those are in items composed of links elsewherre.
Searching for "atheism" yields about 30 hits.
Hence I'd have to conclude that while I may harp I'm not harping all that frequently but more in the ratio of 91/8000.
As to whether or not I doth compare an atheist Vet to a Muslim on Veterans day, Tim, please accept my apologies for any such slander no matter how unintended, and no matter that the essay was written yesterday.
Perhaps I can clarify just a bit by reflecting that the essay was directed more against those who feel compelled to display than those who will, when asked or when so moved, assert. Something more about the clowns than the citizens.
Kevin perhaps strikes the right note which I failed to sound when he talks about big "A" vs small "a."
Do keep up with your 91/8000ths effort Mr Vanderleun.
I for one enjoy these posts as I'm surrounded by evangelical Atheists and it's nice to at least occasionally read something from someone who doesn't loudly dismiss the presence of a power greater than themselves.
Since the topic of Salvo came up, may I suggest you consider making a small donation to them? They're in much-needed fund-raising mode.
fwiw...my point was that you seem to be posting on the issue in greater frequency of late, not that your blog has been focused on it since it's inception. For example you had a post recently (and of course I can't find the link right now) making fun of scientists trying to understand the origins of the universe. What's the point? Making fun of people trying to use their brain to understand our surroundings/origins? O.K. you surrender and say it's a greater power...I accept that but it's not for me.
Anyway I'd be more impressed by posts showing the power of faith in people's lives (and there is evidence for this) than heaping ridicule on someone you disagree with and taking the "Alinsky" approach.
As always, thanks for the blog.
"Yes, Islam and atheism are a stone's throw away. When a Muslim converts, it is to atheism, almost never to religion."
That's not been my experience. I have known several former Muslims who converted to Christianity. All were from Southeast Asia (Indonesia or Singapore) and they don't go in for stoning or otherwise killing apostates much in this part of the world, so Muslims who choose to leave the faith have an easier time doing so than those in the Middle East or South Asia. I also know numerous non-practicing Muslims, but it would be more correct to call most of them agnostic rather than atheist.
"Flickr" that is.
As for Muslim converts to Christianity, there was the famous (infamous) case of a year or so back where a Muslim in Afghanistan announced he had converted to Christianity and had to be smuggled out of the country to save his life from the religion of peace.
“As to whether or not I doth compare an atheist Vet to a Muslim on Veterans day, Tim, please accept my apologies for any such slander no matter how unintended, and no matter that the essay was written yesterday.”
Well since “yesterday” was the 234th birthday of the US Marine Corps and I’m a Marine vet … ;)
Read the “Blinded by Science” article. Interesting, but what if an atheist has considered the possibility, has asked God to show himself. It’s presumptuous to think that atheists haven’t taken into account the possibility.
God has an open invitation to show himself to me, he has for 45+ yrs…and yet…
There's nothing wrong with being an atheist; being a "militant" atheist, however, is espousing a religion.
"...God has an open invitation to show himself to me, he has for 45+ yrs…and yet…"
Tim, how do you know that He hasn't? Maybe He won't show Himself the way you think He will. Here's a humorous (at least to me) story about that I once heard a Catholic priest tell during a sermon. Scenario: Stubborn man living alone near a flood-prone river who refuses to prepare for floods. "The Lord will save me", he says. Heavy, continuous rainfall for several days. Flood waters rise. Neighbors knock on his door, offering to take him to a hotel on high ground. "No, the Lord will save me". They depart without him. Rain continues. Water now floods his first floor. Sheriff's deputies in a boat pull up to his second floor window and tell him to get in. Again, he refuses. "The Lord will save me". Reluctantly, the deputies pull away. Other people are calling to them for help. Still raining. Coast Guard helicopter spots our friend now sitting on his roof. They use the loudspeaker to call down to him to hang onto their rescue ladder. He calls back, "No, the Lord will save me". Even though the crew can't hear him over the engine noise, it's clear he's not getting on. Low on fuel, the chopper heads back to base. Waters continue to rise. Man drowns. After death, he faces the Lord and asks: "I prayed to you, Lord. Why didn't you save me?" The Lord replies, "You stubborn fool! I tried three times to save you, but you wouldn't listen to me".
Lesson from this: Keep an open mind, and God may in fact "show himself". But it'll probably be on His terms, and in His way, not yours. The tough-looking stranger who gives you uncannily accurate directions on how to get out of a bad part of town you wandered into; the emergency room nurse who just happens to have written a nursing journal article on spotting your rare, potentially-fatal condition during triage. Why, exactly, was she on duty when you were wheeled in? She was supposed to be off that day. Coincidence? Maybe. But maybe not. Your car breaks down in the mountains. You curse your bad luck as you struggle to get it repaired. You then find out from the mechanic that a landslide took out most of the road a few miles ahead of where your car died, and a few minutes later. Maybe your "luck" wasn't so bad after all. Or possibly there was something else at work.
"Militant" are indeed a-holes, merely putting "atheist" on a bio/webpage isn't "militant". It’s unnecessary, yes but hardly militant.
BTW, "espousing a religion"???
"Keep an open mind", ya’ mean like when I wrote "I’ve doubted my atheism many times, I’ve looked and wondered at a baby’s smile, a beautiful sunset, marveled at the universe and thought…maybe, just maybe there could be…"??? Is that open enough?
Also...You describe all the good things in life that happen, which is interesting. Just wondering who is to take the credit for all the sucky stuff, the stuff that keeps me from believing. Please save the “God works in mysterious ways” crap.
Anyway…I’ve beaten the dead horse, I’ll wait and read you replies and leave it at that.
Tim you ask a good question. I've been asked that question before. (What if I have opened myself up to God but still not seen him?)
I have a theory that I'd love to run by you (or anyone else who's game). Leave me a note here at my blog and I'll email you.
"No, the role of atheists is similar to the role of pacifists. They hide behind those who believe in Liberty and Freedom and carry on their broken lives."
I would agree with this in different terms.
It might be better to see the right and the left as both sides of the same world, and that both hold each other's interests albeit blindly. If only we could cure a vital spot of blindness on either side. Each has what the other lacks: The right has ceded ground in the arts & humanities. Witness the universities, the art world. But even though transgression has become the primary mandate and skill of the arts, this spirit of revolution is yet indispensable when it is the creative destruction of the marketplace. Creativity really knows no bounds, it is neither left nor right alone. And likewise, the freedom that artists wield is secured and protected by their nemesis, the world of the right. Cursing the ones of us who have to guard our own warm beds should be commonly seen as inane act of stupidity. Each side of the political spectrum dominates something the other lacks. Each side can also be seen as protecting the other's interests.
If we could handshake on this basis, then we could move along and do great things once again as a nation united, interlocked. Accusations and recriminations are getting us nowhere.
We who believe in freedom enough to fight to defend it, are determined to do this for those who cannot and even those who will not as well. On the other hand, it is a fact even for atheists, that the only cultural narrative that introduces and protects the concept of freedom is found in the Torah, the touchstone of the Judeo-Christian legacy. The story of freedom as a gift from G-d protects this concept from mutilation because by definition no one can alter a gift from the one true G-d. And even atheists should be able to admit at least the utility of at least a civically useful concept of such a G-d to guide mankind out of the wilderness. For one side, it is a civic deus ex machina, for the other it is the very grain of existence.
Likewise, the G-d fearing of all stripe should celebrate the apparent frivolity of the left, it is the fruit of vigilance. Moreover, the right should buy art of all kinds, should fight to teach in academia and full throatedly represent their view of the world in tandem within all cultural institutions.