The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Saturday, February 19, 2005

THE NECESSITY OF ATHEISM, BY PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, OR NOT: Well, it’s all very well and good, I suppose, for choirs of angels to spend the Christmas season proclaiming to all and sundry about peace on earth and good will towards men, or words to that effect, depending on what translation of the Bible you’re using, given that they only have to do this once a year and don’t otherwise have to deal with people and their quirks. I’ll grant you that angels deal with the saints, and the saints used to be people, but saints, in life, tend to have more than a few odd tics in their personalities. St. Simeon Stylites, for example, lived most of his life on the top of a pillar to show his devotion to God and because Byzantium’s hellacious rent control laws made it the only place he could afford on a saint’s salary. Saint Robert Bellarmine rigged Galileo’s trial, St. Patrick disliked snakes and shish kebab, and one French nobleman who knew him well reported in his memoirs that St. Francis de Sales liked to cheat at cards. But angels only have to deal with the saints post-mortem, when all of these unfortunate personality traits have gone the way of the saint’s flesh; putting up with saints, sinners, and people who put mayonnaise on French fries pre-mortem is not something your average angel has to do all that often. It’s not that angels dislike people--it’s not that at all-- it’s just that angels are creatures of a higher spiritual plane, while people…well, let’s put it this way: you’ve never heard of an angel scratching his backside, have you? I thought not.

People, on the other hand, have to deal with each other every day and whether we are saints or sinners, one thing is true: some people just get on our nerves. We all have our pet bugaboos: telemarketers, door to door missionaries, the paparazzi, if you are sufficiently well known, the wailing baby, the noisy kid, the annoying kid, the noisy and annoying kid; you get the picture. For me, it’s insurance salesmen and dogmatic atheists, especially the latter. Dogmatic atheists are the ne plus ultra, which is not a brand of razor blade but a Latin tag that has something to do with my point, although I’ve forgotten what it may be…the definition of ne plus ultra, I mean, not the point; I do remember my point and I will get to it in just a moment; the ne plus ultra, as I was saying (this is the point coming up right now. Thank you for waiting. Please check the overhead rack for your belongings), of annoying. I don’t mind practical atheists so much; some of my best friends are practical atheists, to coin a phrase; they are usually very nice people.

Now, at this point, having safely arrived at my last point with only a few minor bumps, bruises, and a slight concussion resulting in a minor subdural hematoma, you may be wondering just what on earth is a practical atheist. You may even be asking yourself what sort of training and education is needed to turn an impractical atheist without skills or long term prospects into a skilled, highly trained atheist with a skill that employers want in today’s high tech job market; you may even qualify for financial aid, so call now, operators are standing by. You may even be asking yourself how does a practical atheist differ from the dogmatic and tiresome dogmatic atheist, which, if you’ll remember, was the point of this whole screed in the first place. Well, a practical atheist is a person who lives his life as if God did not exist. He may not deny the existence of God intellectually, but in the conduct of his life he makes it clear that religious faith is irrelevant to the conduct of his life. In short, there’s no There there.

I can live with all of that; I don’t agree with it, but I can live with it. I can’t live other people’s lives for them; I can only tell them that I think they are wrong when they ask me for my opinion and leave it at that. Dogmatic atheists won’t leave it at that, though, something that grates on my nerves no end. The problem with dogmatic atheists is that they won’t stop talking about God. You can get the religious to carry on a conversation about other things than their beliefs, but atheists go back to God and how they don’t believe in Him and neither should you like sinners and drunks backslide: over and over again. You can’t get them to stop talking about how much they don’t believe in God and how stupid the rest of us are for believing in such twaddle, something that always makes me think of life insurance salesmen, who are number two on my personal list of annoying occupations. Those guys will keep after you until they make the sale and every pleasant chat you have with them about something else inevitably leads to a pitch for a policy to protect your family should, God forbid, anything ever happen to you, knock wood, even if you don’t want to leave your family anything because the idea of that bunch of lazy moochers profiting from your death is utterly abhorrent to you. But back to the main point again; it does seem to keep moving around, doesn’t it? It seems to me that professing atheism gives one an entirely unwarranted feeling in one’s own superiority over the great mass of one’s fellow citizens, something that may explain its popularity in modern academia. In any case, I wish they would take up quilting or beekeeping or some other hobby and leave the rest of us alone. I sometimes wonder if the loudness with which your average dogmatic atheist pronounces his faith in his lack of faith is more to reassure him of his correctness than to convince the rest of us of his arguments.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home