Saturday, November 7, 2009

A thought

Arrogance has been on my mind a lot, recently.

I've been perusing some of the writings of Canadian Skeptic James Randi, listening to recordings of the aggressive Atheist debate of Richard Dawkins, and reading through weblogs self-identified with the freethought and Brights movements, in addition to exploring conversation with quite radically anti-religious persons (dialogue being altogether too bilateral a label for what I've experienced).

The standard rhetorical aesthetic of such fora of discussion seem to be a self-righteous anti-religiosity; transcending the boundaries of cheerily areligious belief, the new wave in modern atheism seems to have a bitterly antagonistic bent towards religion, a condescending, sneering sort of spite directed towards the faithful. In such systems, characterizations of theist beliefs often involves words and phrases such as the following: "magic," "imaginary friend," "arbitrary," "unfounded," &c.

Such discussions, and their underpinnings, truly sadden me for two reasons: (I) First, and primarily, as one who believes - intimately, personally - in the being of a loving, wonderful, perfectly fulfilling God who has created and does sustain all of existence, it saddens me that there are people who would so decisively and boldly cut away the possibility of a relationship with that loving God. All rhetorical flourishes aside, the loss of an inexhaustible source of infinite care and grace, even if only metaphysically so, seems as though it ought to bring grief in some degree.

For this reason, I don't feel quite the same way for those atheists who renounce God, but do so with a sense of the loss of the sweetness of what could have been: I can empathize with the humanness of loudly pronouncing, God is not; but, whispering, if only he were. But the point of view that I have recently encountered - rare, I think, in my postmodern surroundings - and that which has been grieving me, is the outright arrogant proclamation: God is not, and it's damn finer than if he were!

If God is not truth, but tale, might we at least admit the beauty of the story

(II), such discussions do elicit a fair degree of nervousness in myself: how much of such militant and callous opposition to the very concept of God is social karma for the past wrongs of "Christianity" [the sum of Christians-in-name] (or Christianity [the sum of Christians-in-truth, putatively distinct])? Was there an era - or manifold periods? - in Christian history where theologians, being found bearing the greater weight of authority in their respective societies, were found so overbearing, cocky, swaggering in their clerical roles, that they thus disparaged those honest dissenters in their midst?

Do I? Regularly, I'm sure. How often, in my own unthinking stagger through life, have I hurt, damaged, even spited others, and all while proclaiming, in my best Christian guise, to be an earthly representative of the all-loving Heavenly Father? Of course, I've spoken faithful testimony of being a "broken human being," to being a "sinner in constant need of grace". But has my life born witness to these truths? Or has my life reflected a know-it-all, condescending, self-proselytizing wretch content and happy to sow self-glorifying pride?

A thought.

[edit: 3:35 PM] And, to make it explicitly clear: The arrogance to which I'm referring does not fall exclusively within the atheist camp. My attention has been drawn, increasingly, to my own personal arrogance, theological, intellectual, and otherwise in nature, the pervasive reality of which is pretty challenging and self-perception-shattering (or perhaps, better put, is spurring me on towards redrawing my self-perception).

1 comment:

jchan985 said...

a good post - I really enjoyed reading this one. The whole New Atheism thing is admittedly a little forward and brash, even for many atheists. but more so, it's been humbling to see the finger pointed back at ourselves, as you do.

on (1) - you sound like you'd really appreciate Nietzsche's "thus spake zarathustra". His whole story is mourning the loss of such a narrative.

most of the non-new atheists seem to admit the loss of a God or overarching meta-narrative. the difference in new atheists seems to be a lack of appreciation for such a thing.