Saturday, June 30, 2012

Responses to 'Atheism'

My last post has produced some fantastic responses via facebook that I would like to share here.

First, Grant Kaplan, one of my professors and mentors from Loyola (now at SLU) writes:
 Hey Andy... I'm glad that you're blogging, and it appears that some people read it. Second, if you're interested in atheism, you should read the work of Michael Buckley. For Buckley, the term "atheist" is one that gets its meaning from its opponents. So Christians were atheists, before Spinoza was an atheist, although neither claimed to be atheists anywhere. They were against "the God of their day." What you see recently is an owning of the term by atheists and making it positive. You seem to contrast Gen-X and Millennials. I'm not sure the generational breakdown works like that. Plenty of Gen-X people are "spiritual" but feel no institutional religious loyalty. Also, by talking about "perfect" atheists, you are using a value term. I'm not sure that's helpful if you're just trying to describe. 

One anomaly you seem to overlook is that the term "atheist" emerged in early modernity before the term "theist" ever did. Aquinas would have never called himself a theist. The older distinction is between "theoretical" and "militant" atheism, the latter being a 19th century thing. For people like Nietzsche and Freud, religion is harmful to humanity. So too, Dawkins. If you think something's harmful and potentially death-dealing, then by all means you should oppose it fanatically. This is of course a very different argument from those who say that religion is a myth, but a good one, because it makes people more loving. In the end my preference is for Nietzsche over the Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett crowd because none of the latter seem to have anything more than a rudimentary understanding of religion, or Christianity, whereas Nietzsche actually tried to understand Christianity, and came up with some very penetrating insights. To conclude, keep blogging.

And Chris Lirette, whose opinion I've highly respected for years, writes: 
I too think Dawkins style atheism is ridiculous for more or less the same reasons. But I think that "perfect atheism" is also like religious faith because it is still a misprision (Bloom's use) of empirical reality. Whether or not God or gods are involved, we create narratives for ourselves to make cogent our experience of life. Both worlds with gods and worlds without gods come from our imagination and that unified, unspoken theory forms the basis of our ideologies, ethics, etc. And of course our supreme fictions can be influenced by others, culture, political fads, etc. I think the strongest argument you have against Dawkins, et al, is the number two, because resting so much of the argument as an activism against an interpretation of reality you don't agree with forms pretty weak misprision, existing only as criticism and not as a reimagining. In either case, with or without a god, there's so much mystery in the world and life that imagination is not only awesome but necessary. And that's something I think is worth living for.
Also, I have no idea what Dark Theology is, but I'm guessing it's apophatic theology? If not, I want to know what it is because IT SOUNDS AWESOME.
Chris, it is awesome.

This article was an experiment using the Policymic website, balancing accessibility and brevity with systematic integrity. From the friendly discussion here to the 20 not so friendly comments there, I see I could have done a better job on the integrity end. Mea culpa.

I hope that the studied advice of my friends Grant and Chris help round out my last article.

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