I really should have written this a few weeks ago, given the subject matter, but let’s just pretend I have a time machine and that this is still December:
Something that occurs to me is that being an atheist is kind of like being a grownup at Christmastime. We have this shared knowledge that’s not polite to express in public, because there are still folks who believe in the magical bearded man, even though we know he isn’t real.
And I wonder if a lot of atheists are people who grew out of Santa Claus, and then just kept on growing. I mean, at some point as a grownup (or semi-grownup), you start going along with the program, and you knowingly let the little kids have their silly fantasies about Santa.
And you do this because you know that it’s relatively harmless and that one day they’ll grow out of it and come to realize Christmas isn’t really about some silly notion of a guy who lives at the North Pole and rides a magic sleigh full of toys.
It’s really about how the son of God was born to a virgin after being immaculately conceived as part of a grand plan for God to forgive mankind for having the sinful nature God gave them … and then you start going “Hmmm …”
Still really busy with studying for tech certifications (closing in on the last MCSA module, now I just need to schedule the exams), so I’m afraid I just haven’t been thinking much about the whole atheism thing (I’m neglecting my main blog as well). But I’ve been sitting on this nice video of Ricky Gervais describing his childhood discovery that his mum was being a bit cagey about the whole Jesus thing. So I’ll turn the mic over to Brother Gervais for today’s sermon.
One of the bogus arguments offered in favor of religion is the old “if it makes people happy …” line. They cite studies showing that religious people are happier or more content or find life more fulfilling or some such thing, and then suggest that this is somehow an argument in favor of the truth of the religious proposition, rather than merely a benefit of believing something that may very well be false.
But a new study by some folks at my alma mater suggests that even the psychological benefits of religion may just be the same as the benefits of any sort of group affiliation. The study finds that “it is the social aspects of religion rather than theology or spirituality that leads to life satisfaction.” So maybe it’s not about feeling plugged in to some higher power, or perceiving life to have some special purpose, or even just having something to believe in, but rather, it’s just about having other people to believe it with.
I can’t help but think of this Onion article from years back: “Recently Born-Again Christian Finally Has Social Life”.
(pic captured from Atheist Empire)
I’m delighted to learn that one of my favorite writers, the Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten (best known for his Pulitzer-winning “Pearls Before Breakfast” experiment as well as a great, must-read piece on children’s party clown The Great Zucchini), is an atheist, and today’s column is devoted to the recent Pew study showing atheists know more about religion than religious folks.
So I’m turning my Sunday Sermon microphone over to Brother Gene. Here’s a brief taste:
Q: If God didn’t create the universe, how do you atheists think it began?
A: With a Big Bang.
Q: Oh, yeah? Well, what came before the Big Bang?
A: The Big Diamond Ring.
You may have to sign up with WashPost.com to read it, but IMO it’s well worth it (I generally go there on Sundays for Gene and the Style Invitational).
If you’re reading this the day it posts, I’m out of town — visiting an old friend from college (On Wisconsin!) who’s now in Newark, and we’re probably watching the Packer game in a Packer bar in Greenwich Village(!) that used to be a beatnik hangout(!!). So I’ll turn the mic over to brother Bill Maher, who absolutely pwns Bill O’Reilly in his own “No Spin Zone.”
Some inspirational verse from Richard Tillman, brother of atheist hero Pat Tillman, whose family’s thirst for the truth led them to refuse to believe the authorities’ lies. Starting about 5 minutes into the video, we see how the family started standing up to those lies right at the funeral, when Richard follows John McCain’s religious platitudes by stating flatly that Pat was an atheist and isn’t “home” or “with God” or anything like that — “He’s fuckin’ dead.”
A dreadful 9/11 poem called “Meet Me In The Stairwell” was posted to the Christian-run forum where I spend way too much of my time. It’s noteworthy as a typical example of the kind of rationalization religious people engage in when they’re trying to figure out how a loving God could allow such horrors, and they can’t bring themselves to accept the obvious answer.
The poem is from God’s POV, talking about where He was (everywhere, of course) and what he was doing (not very much except bringing people “home,” i.e. killing them). The part that really strikes me is, “I was on all four of those planes, in every seat, with every prayer.” Yeah, including the pilot’s seat, with the prayer of “Allahu akbar!”
Another favorite (if that’s the right word for it) passage: “I was in Texas, Virginia, California, Michigan, and Afghanistan. I was standing next to you when you heard the terrible news. Did you sense Me?”
Well, I definitely sensed something horrible and evil. So yeah, maybe so.
P.S. To all those Facebookers who reminded me yesterday to “never forget” — you really didn’t need to worry about that. Trust me.
(pic via CafePress)