Monday, March 28, 2011

More Awful Truth, or -- Free Your Inner Walter Mitty!

A lot of atheists comment upon the articles in the Religion section of the Huffington Post -- in fact, HP's Religion section has become, among other things, the largest online community of religious skeptics of which I know.

To be sure, HP's authors on religious topics are almost all believers themselves, and it often seems -- especially to us godless types -- that the moderation leans heavily toward the religious side as well, and displays some intolerance toward atheistic readers' comments. (Of course, it's impossible to be sure about this without being able to see all the comments which don't make it past the moderation. Maybe they're much more fair than I imagine. Maybe some of my comments today didn't get posted for a long time today because it's Monday and there's a huge volume of comments on Monday and the mods get swamped.) There's no official atheists-are-not-welcome policy there -- on the contrary: recently some of the article authors have remarked on the large number of atheists commenting on their work, and made some gestures meant to be understood as reaching out toward us -- but not infrequently a religious reader will ask us atheists why we are there, or, even less pleasant, flatly assert that we are not atheists or we would not be there. Occasionally someone goes even further and claims, smugly -- "Smugness is stupidity's surest sign" -- William Gaddis --that no-one is really an atheist. (A fairly popular standpoint among mainstream Christian theologians two to three centuries ago.) [PS, 31. August 2011: It appears I misquoted Gaddis. It would be quite presumptuous to add, "He would've loved that!" but he was very interested in misquotations and made them a significant theme of his fiction, along with forgeries, impersonations and so forth. Sorry, Mr Gaddis. Anyway: the character McCandless in Gaddis' novel Carpenter's Gothic says several intelligent and earnest things about stupidity and smugness. Right now I can't find the authentic quote which morphed in my mind into "smugness is stupidity's surest sign." Much better by far anyway that you simply read the whole novel. Wise men tell us great things.]

It's generally not asked in a nice way, in my humble opinion, but the question of why so many atheists congregate at HP to comment on articles about religion posted by believers is, of course, not entirely unreasonable. I don't think there is any better answer than that we are there because we have happened to find each other there. There are not buildings in every city and town in Christendom expressly built for us to meet and exchange our thoughts about the nature of the universe, as there are for Christians. Even Jews, Muslims and Hindus are much better provided for with meeting places. We gotta go with what we got. The overwhelming majority of HP's readership is on the Left, it shouldn't surprise anyone that many of us are atheists. Indeed, perhaps the surprising thing is how solidly theistic the editors and writers on religion are.

People tend to daydream about what is lacking in their lives. Hungry people, whether dieting or desperately poor, dream of food. Lonely frustrated people dream about romance. I dream about great professional success as a writer, as I confessed in a blog post posted here yesterday. Earlier today I read another one of those "Why are you atheists here?" comments in the Religion section at HP, and I began to daydream about a more atheist-friendly Internet forum -- and then very suddenly that daydream combined itself with the daydream of success from yesterday: I daydreamed of Internet traffic beginning to flow here, to The Wrong Monkey, in proportions rivaling HP's business, many thousands of readers' comments on my blog posts being left here every day, The Wrong Monkey replacing HP as the place on the Internet for atheists to meet and get all atheistic. ("Sorry, Arianna, you HAD your chance to do business with me. I pitched my blog to HP -- and you never got back to me! Oops! MWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HAAAAA!")

Yes, you may say that I'm a dreamer. Some people seem to mock all dreamers. I've never imagined for an instant doing what they suggest, and ceasing to daydream. But I do think about them sometimes. I can't imagine that they've thought things through. Surely the briefest realistic contemplation of a world full of people like them, fully devoid of dreamers, must horrify even the most drab mind.

Or maybe they just assume that successful people are substantially different from anyone they would ever happen to know personally. While it may be true that anyone with an ounce of ambition would LIKE to avoid their company completely, as we all know, you can't always get what you want. Again, I think the mockers of dreamers have not thought things through. Very few people were ever born rich and famous: Liza Minnelli, John-John Kennedy, not too many others. Most of the rich and famous were at some point in their lives mere dreamers, being mocked by unpleasant people who never in their wretched lives thought a damn thing through with any consequence.

Albert Einstein is a particularly clear case of the connection between stupendous success and the sort of daydreams routinely mocked by loathesome little human worms. This is not always recognized, because Einstein referred to the daydreams upon which his success was based as thought-experiments. Po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to. Keep dreaming. It's vital that you do, or else we'll all end up like --- brrrrrrrrrr! (Ha! No way we'll ever ALL end up like that!)


  1. I briefly read a religion column at HuffPo - it was about religious leaders joining to protest the Congressional budget cuts that would cause increasing burdens for low-income families. This needs support from concerned Americans.

    My sweet wife leads a small group of women who raise funds for children in this area who are facing bad family situations. They give them funds for clothing, school supplies, some special needs, and kids get a gift card on their birthday. Several church groups make donations to help - I suggest that every county should consider doing this.

  2. I work with a local Christian organization which runs a food bank. Somebody's gotta do it, people are going hungry.

    Of course, in some countries there's no need for private organizations to help out with such things, they're all taken care of by the state. In some countries the government actually feeds and clothes and houses everybody who needs help with those things, and provides free health care for everyone, free university educations to anyone who passes the entrance exams -- native citizens, foreigners, anybody -- and also provides low-income university students with small stipends, so they can be full-time students, not distracted by money worries and jobs. Those countries have longer life expectancies than the US, lower infant mortality rates. The US is backwards when it comes to things like basic human decency.

  3. My point is, I'm in favor of people helping people who need help, and I'm not going to let metaphysical differences get in the way of my helping out with that. At the food bank we don't ask anybody about their religious beliefs before they get their food, and so far I haven't seen anyone turn down the food on religious grounds, either.

    But I still think religion is an outmoded, primitive way of looking at the world, which has outlived whatever usefulness it once had, and I think that Christianity is particularly bad because it's been particularly intolerant. The way that all competing religious were just wiped out in Christian territories between the late 4th century and recently is unparalleled in human history. I think maybe the stories of the early Christian martyrs were partly invented in order to hide a record of Christians behaving horribly to non-Christians and not the other way around. There's no doubt about horrible Christian behavior later, between the Crusades and the Inquisition and various Protestant witchunts.