Sunday, December 27, 2015

Is There an All Important Question in Life?

I woke up, went to the bathroom, took my morning meds, and found myself thinking about how much Zoya hated my family. Admitted, they're all conservative, some more than others. One going so far as to find Santa to be a tool of the devil because Santa is an anagram of Satan. Zoya's rationale was the tired, clich├ęd trope of an atheist's contempt for religion, Christianity in particular, for being so much superstitious nonsense. 

For Christians, the most important question is always about Salvation, the Church, or belief in God. Different flavors of Christianity phrase the question differently. Sometimes it's phrased as "Do you accept Jesus as your Lord & Savior?" Sometimes as "When was your last confession, child?"  or as something else. However the question is phrased, it's always a rephrasing of "Are you  (still) one of us?" The absolutes and Holy Ghosts swarming in the hearts of believers that are stirred up by this question give urgency and even poignancy to this question. It works as well as as any other excrement for the growth of fanaticism even to implacably despising the widow, the orphan and the stranger.

To the religiously-minded nothing is more important than the answer to that question. The supreme importance of this question is expressed in appeals to Absolutes, Eternities, Love, Infinities & the like to drive home how inescapable, and even tragic, the otherwise unbridgeable chasm between believers and nonbelievers is to the Christian way of feeling. 

I do not merely assert that christianist thinking is reducible to us-vs-them, I maintain that that is all that it is and that the measure of orthodoxy and relative importance of doctrines is the extent to which the chasm between "us" and "them" is preserved and even deepened. Better to be a little Christian dick but tight with Jesus than to be one of "their" saints, even Simone Weil

Apart from the obvious invitation to hatred and fear, the overvaluation of one trivial piece of human life flows out of a shallow and trite view of human nature, namely that a person's answer to only one question is enough to get to the bottom of being human and to judge the value of a person's character. Every problem, every perplexity in life is viewed through this pinhole. What cannot be easily seen is of lesser value, even deserving of the strongest hatred and contempt.

The automatic contempt many atheists have for religion is not any better. Some trivial trinket in human socio-psychic life is absurdly overvalued, as if everything on the other side of their line in the sand can be dismissed with a wave of a hand. As if this little something something completely defined a person's character and humanity, like skin color in American racism. Not to equate the two but to provide a blunt example of this myopic way of getting on in life. 

It's good and right that many atheists support a variety of liberal causes. If the only justification for some backward prohibition is because God, it follows as an immediate corollary that with a loss of faith those prohibitions are longer binding. This is easy enough to understand with women's and LGBQT issues. And doesn't this also apply to believers' most important question?

This feels too much like circling the wagons and letting the Indians set the agenda. Atheists worrying about saying Merry Christmas or doing Eastery things? There's no threat of Eternal Damnation hanging over anyone's head for these peccadilloes. What's the worst that could happen? The hobgoblin of little minds will haunt you until your dying  day?

When we were together, Zoya and I both thought we were more of an atheist than the other one. Whatever else, she certainly was the more enthusiastic one. Sometimes she even reminded me of Bolsheviks from the 1920's. I'll give her points for her enthusiasm in keeping herself free from Christian impurities. I like to think I win on irony.

* * *

[Added 3/19/2016, 23:48]

For what it's worth, picking out some detail of a social life and making it determinative of a person's value or worth is the flip side of mindless conformity. The more abstracted from context the less can deviation from a fantastically narrow criterion be allowed. If that should be seem overly abstract, the kerfuffle that Hermant Mehta refers to here illustrates my point perfectly.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog

Map of Visitors

Locations of Site Visitors