by Michael Strenski
Regarding the name change: goddamn right it is. Nothing is heavier than a crate of records. I am moving next week and I am not fazed by lifting a bed or shelves worth of books, it's the LPs that bring me nightmares. So does the saxophone solo in the Carpenters' "Rainy Days and Mondays", which I happen to be listening to as I type this. It's brief but just long enough to register annoyance and then linger for a millisecond more. Coincidentally, said solo is on vinyl. So if I break it down, the groove containing the saxophone will contribute to the heft of my record collection when I pack it up. My fears are compounded. I am an arachnophobic clautrophobe trapped in a closet full of tarantulas.
Speaking of fear, the latest issue of Wired has a story on what they call the New Atheism, a loose-knit group of scholars, writers and magicians (?) that feel that faith in a god needs to be more fiercely challenged in this day and age. It describes how this group is much more willing than people in the past to challenge someone's religious beliefs. "Religion is not only wrong, it's evil" is the thought behind the article. First off, I tip my hat to Wired for not only printing such a story, but putting it on the cover (and what an awesome cover it is. Check it out). Atheism is such a hush-hush topic, most people are too afraid to step on anyone's toes. It was incredibly gratifying to see a major publication going forward with a story that would go against the grain of most of civilization.
The article for the most part though was a huge letdown. The writer Gary Wolf turns the ideas behind New Atheism into a personal quest for a label he can get behind. Throughout he brings himself into the story, for example when he visits an evangelical church hundreds of people deep and is actually somewhat moved, or a monthly meeting of atheists that barely scrapes fifty that he ducks out of when he feels that the struggle for community gets a little pathetic. In the end, after detailing the purpose of New Atheism (basically humans need to wake up and stop investing time and energy into the fantasy that is religion, for it is detrimental to our future), he flat out calls the New Atheists and their ideas absurd. For most of the article he sounds lucid and in control but by the end his logic falls out the window and he seems to be backtracking, for fear of.... stepping on anyone's toes, which is the whole point of the article. What is wrong with purporting the truth? I know, I know, the idea of God is unprovable, but I don't see why in a nation where fundamentalist Christians run the country and where each and every one of us regardless of our religion or lack there of are constantly subjected to faith solely of the Judeo-Christian variety, where people claim to be agnostic simply because they don't want to offend or claim to know everything, why shouldn't people speak up???
I stopped believing in God around the time that I realized that Santa Claus was a sham. I was really young. I played along for my little brother's sake and continued to pretend that Santa was the one that ate the milk and cookies and left the big boxes under the tree. I didn't want to destroy my brother's childhood. This is different. We are adults now, we should be ready to defend ourselves. I have usually shied away from in-depth discussions regarding my lack of faith mostly because I know that there is very little chance of changing one's opinion on such a topic. It is so ingrained in people from birth that it becomes harder and harder to shake as the years wear on. But, and this is something that has been slowly dawning on me for awhile now, there is still that glimmer of a chance. I am not going to put anyone down or tell them they're stupid if they believe in God, some of the people closest to me in my life have some sort of faith and although I do not and cannot agree with it, I am not going to love them any less. I just think that atheists should stop hiding in the shadows and come forth with their opinions.
At times the Wired article makes it out to seem like if you come out and say that you are an atheist or are willing to challenge someone's ideas or beliefs then you are automatically a first-rate asshole. That's simply not true. Why can't one respectfully and civilly engage in discussions regarding thoughts and beliefs? I think we need to start with those agnostics.
Another thing regarding the name change, my boyfriend and I were talking it over whilst watching "Hedwig" for the umpteenth time and eating Popsicles, and we decided we preferred the old title more.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
by Michael Strenski