So I've been reading one of my "finish these before purchasing more" books from the FTBPM book drawer, Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve.
It's about an ancient Roman poet, Lucretius, and his masterwork, On The Nature of Things. It's very fascinating, incredibly so, but the author's tone--well, it's rubbing me the wrong way.
He's an atheist, and like many atheists, he hurts my feelings.
Not in a deliberate way, or a taunting schoolyard bully kind of thing, but in his (apparent) relief that there is no God and therefore nothing to dread after death, this tone of moral superiority comes out. It's probably the same tone he hears in believers when they speak of being "saved". And I don't blame him a bit. I loathe that whole bumper sticker "In Case Of Rapture This Vehicle Will Be Suddenly Unoccupied" crap blend of pride and vainglory masquerading as faith or devotion. It's so gross, and shallow, and ultimately demeaning to the Jesus Christ these people are loudly proclaiming to revere. It makes me feel really, really unchristian and punchy. And stabby. And then all prideful because I am not that way at all! Oh, no I am not! See? I am wonderful and loving and humble and so much better than you Jesus loves you but He loves me more nyah nyah nyah!
It really does bring out my ugly side.
But anyway, I'm not to far in yet and the story he's telling is fascinating, but he seems, as I said, a bit "Well, I've seen the light in that there's nothing after we die, maybe you will too, someday", and frankly, it's every bit as irritating as anything Mars Hill Church has come up with about gay marriage or what have you. Any time someone goes This Far and No Further in their beliefs, no matter what they are, I start to itch, because watching people deny uncomfortable thoughts is like a rash. And that makes me think about all the thoughts I don't examine because I am, to use the theological term, fucking terrified of going that far. Of what I would find if I did. I get all twitchy and tense and anxious, and tend to distract myself online or watching The Creeping Terror for the uppity-umpth time instead.
So I'm alternating reading The Swerve with Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris, and it's the perfect blend. Her book is about the "demon" of acedia, or "lack of care", and is unabashedly Christian in its viewpoint, but it's the opposite of rash inducing because it's hard and clearly thought through, and tries to frame humility as the basis, underneath it all, of all security within God.
So I occasionally get a little miffed at her too, all "Have you been following the recent shannanigans of the Church, lady? The Magdalene laundries? The sexual abuse? The attempted takeover of health care? These people are a menace!" And they are. But that's not God's fault, really, is it? That's our fault.
One conclusion I've come to recently is that once humans get involved, things get complicated. We can't help ourselves, it's our nature, the one (if you are framing it using Genesis) that we selected for ourselves. But the thing is, no matter how often or profoundly or completely humans get it wrong, that doesn't make God wrong. Even if every single religion ever concieved in the mind of man is completely off track and fucked up and wrong, God still isn't wrong.
And we're allowed to get it wrong. Over and over for years, decades, centuries, forever. We can live and die enthralled to incorrect ideas, religious, atheist, or otherwise. We're allowed to screw up after fifteen or fifty years of trying to get it right, to convert to a new viewpoint in college or on our deathbeds or sitting in a sports bar. And if someone comes up with something really twisted and vicious and hurtful, we're allowed to say so, to wave our arms and petition our government and rant on the internet even if we keep getting it wrong. We're allowed to change our minds even when it's really, really, REALLY embarrassing and all our freinds would stare in disbelief and change the subject and hope you get over this soon, that you aren't going to show up at their door in a white shirt and tie and invite them to join a study group and refuse to leave.
So that's what irritates me about this particular atheist stance, the idea that a world/life view has some kind of peak or stopping point, and there's no reason to go any further. And no, not all nonbelievers are like this, I'm sure you're not. I'm sure you are kind and polite and understanding and never snidely refer to believers as having "an invisible freind in the sky" on the internet, even when they are doing something deeply enraging in Congress. And if you are a believer I'm sure you're not the kind who get all show-pious and post "I'll pray for you" on someone's blog when you know damn good and well that is really insulting to them.
This was quite a wandering post, and if I had any sense I'd save it and rework it. But I don't and I'm going to throw it up there because frankly it's pretty reflective of my thought process. It's not meant to be insulting or any kind of instruction guide, just a section of the endless blathering essay that is my brain at times.
No matter what you think, don't stop here. There's always more to go.