Author: Max Weidman
‘Faith’ has become something of a taboo. Like the dildo in your closet or the jelly between your toes, it is simply no longer a proper topic for dinner conversation. The faithful, it seems, are tearing the world apart. We are beset by turbaned, bearded fellows who will die for faith, led by a drawling Texan who will lead our children to their deaths because of his personal relationship with God. In the holiest of all holy lands, Jews and Arabs continue to blow each other up and make declarations of covenants and ‘holy wars.’ The world, say the sneering cynics, would be a much better place without religion. Intellectuals all over the globe have taken up the mantle of atheism as a panacea—as though faith were but an insipid ailment which needs simply to be eradicated in order to cure all the ills it has ever produced. Everyone has read Nietzsche and, furthermore, believed him—God is as dead as Jacob Marley: as dead as a door nail.
It turns out these atheists are no better off than Scrooge—haunted by ghosts even as they declare their “humbugs.” The vestiges of God—in the Pledge of Allegiance, on our currency—must be exorcised before the world can rest easy. It is not these specific campaigns with which I take issue; as it turns out, the word ‘God’ might not belong in homeroom or on money—not if we want to carry on the faded semblance of a separation between church and state that we seem to value so dearly. What I wish to attack is the behavior and reasoning of the world’s 20-somethings, the New Atheists, who have become proselytes in their own right and, in doing so, they have become some of the finest hypocrites around.
To begin, I would like to make some linguistic and philosophical distinctions. Within the framework of human reason, it is probably impossible to call oneself a true ‘atheist.’ This would mean, properly, that one had epistemologically sound knowledge that no gods exist. If gods are the sorts of entities most theologies hold them to be, categorically unknowable, then the closest anyone could come to denying them is to call oneself an ‘agnostic’—literally ‘without knowledge’ or ‘unintelligible.’ As far as the skeptic and most other schools of philosophy are concerned, a declaration of “No god” is as equally unwarranted as a declaration of “One God.” The point is, as long as our notion of God remains one which, by definition, exceeds the grasp of empiricism, the proclamation of existence—in the affirmative or negative—is unfounded.
Because anything beyond the sacred ‘individual’—save maybe their idolatrous king, science—is likely to fall within the purview of these sorry souls, I will now attempt to rid them of some misconceptions which they seem to apply to the masses who happen to believe. Not every Christian is stupid, poor white trash, nor every Muslim willing to die for God by strapping a bomb to his chest—or better yet, his child. Faith is not a shortcut for the weak-minded; it is more often the long, arduous path of the strong-willed. Ask a Rabbi about his own relationship with his faith and he might just tell you it is a hard, hard master with which he struggles every day. If you wish to spit in the face of millennia, to defame theologies which comprise more books and musings than you will ever read in college, at least do it with some knowledge—if you cannot manage respect—of that which you debase.
If you are uninformed in this manner, allow me a quick lesson. I know you despise the Jehova’s Witnesses who come knocking at your door. But be assured, they—as you—probably have better things to do. They are concerned for your well-being; they are concerned for the salvation of your soul. For what purpose would you wish to convert them, or any other, to your ideology?
The roles of religion and government in history have often coalesced. But just as your atheism is a personal matter, so should you treat the faith of peers. Just as I refrain from calling you nihilistic, infantile infidels, so should you refrain from making my faith complicit in the politics of Crusades, of conflicts in Kashmir and the West Bank. Just as I respect your choice of denial—but question it—so should you respect my quest for affirmation—and ask of it. Finally, just as you wish to keep the Church and State separate, so ought you to distinguish between theology and politics. The Pope’s, the Ayatollah Khomeini, the President’s politics are not necessarily my own.
I had a conversation once, espousing the maxim that everyone believes in God—they simply don’t know what to call it. The notion was one of God as a placeholder, a linguistic substitution for whatever form of ‘spirituality’ the particular person maintains. I wish to further polarize—and hopefully antagonize—this assertion: There are those who love God for its inscrutability and those who fear God for their own incapacity to reckon with it. Most self-proclaiming ‘Atheists’ I find to be the latter; they are mired in the muck of their own selfhood, reveling in the myopia which sees no beyond, which makes a god of their own mind.
I’ll bet you laugh when you see footage of those poor conflicted fans burning their records after Lennon claimed the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. You laugh at a faithful acquiescence to spiritual leaders. I laugh too, but at a different joke: the essential message of the two-beyond the lysergic haze of the mop tops and the pecuniary craze of the crusades—might as well be the same. All you need is love.
Max Weidman is a junior ECLS major. He can be reached at [email protected]
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