Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Some anti-atheism

Leon Weiseltier:

Bush has been very good to atheism. Compared to the obscurantism that is the doctrine of this government, godlessness has come to seem glamorous, and perfectly obvious. Nothing can make you feel more like an outlaw these days than a smirking shot at one of religion's many crudities and excesses.

There are many things that may be said against contemporary atheism--against its dogmatism, its self-satisfaction, its evasion of the vast history of godless violence, its philosophical shallowness (when our Filene's Basement Voltaires bother about philosophical argument at all); but I am increasingly struck by the extent to which many of the books against God are mainly psychological expressions.

More specifically, a lot of atheism looks to me like just a lot of adolescence. They are always telling you about their parents. They rebel against the false idea that God is the father because they have the false idea that their father is God. (Sometimes the villainous deceiver of young minds who must be deposed is an early teacher, who unaccountably failed to assign Why I Am Not a Christian to the second grade.) When it comes to the articulation of one's view of the world, of one's understanding of what is true and false about the universe, who cares what one's parents believe? The answer is, children care; and there is something childish about the freethinker's pouting critique of his own childhood. Atheism can be as infantilizing as theism, an inverted form of captivity to one's origins, as if biological authority confers intellectual authority. Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothese. In matters of conviction, we are orphans. And there is also, of course, the boyish thrill of naughtiness, the titillation of sinning, that attends the witticisms against religion. Here is Anatole France on Baudelaire, by way of Edmund Wilson: "In his arrogance he wished to believe that everything he did was important, even his little impurities; so that he wanted them all to be sins that would interest heaven and hell." Religion may confer a preposterous cosmic significance upon the individual, but atheism is the true friend of egotism.

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