Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How Things Concerning Religion Change

Someone asked, "How did you become an atheist?"

I was helped along toward a rational approach to religion by various books. Especially the description of a theologian's studies early in William Gaddis' novel The Recognitions, studies which included Frazer's anthropological work -- or whatever you want to call it, some anthropologists object to it be categorized as anthropology, and I don't care how it's categorized -- The Golden Bough.

As I've written before on this blog, "I myself believe that the most interesting efforts of mankind in the arts and humanities defy categorization." Works like The Recognitions and The Golden Bough don't fit into categories, they're too good for that. They create categories into which later, lesser works fit.

Someone -- sure wish I'd written it down, I saw it once years ago and I've been searching in vain for it since -- someone said, in the 19th or early 20th century I believe, that seminaries produced more atheists than anyone else. Since then, of course, the knowledge which had been kept in the seminaries is much more widely known in the general public, and the percentage of atheists in the general public has risen, while the seminaries have become havens for hard-core hold-out believers. (And also, of course, people who prey on children and bank accounts while pretending to be hard-core believers. Yet another occasion to refer to Kurt Vonnegut's brilliant nugget: "We are what we pretend to be.")

It seems to me that there used to be, 2 or 3 centuries ago, a much higher percentage of open and unapologetic atheists in the Christian clergy than there are now. I'm judging by that remark about seminaries producing all those atheists, and also by positive remarks about Jesuits by atheists like Goethe, not to mention the number of the earliest openly-atheist 18th-century published works in modern Europe which were written by clergymen.

The Christian clergy today does not seem to be the sort of haven for open atheism which it once was.

It's interesting and ironic that The Golden Bough, which surely has helped some others besides me and that pastor in The Recognitions toward secular humanism, got perhaps its single greatest push toward fame and (at least in its 1-volume abridged form) bestsellerdom by the notoriously Christian TS Eliot. And not Christian in a cynical way and mainly by affiliation like the above-mentioned 18th century atheist clergymen, but either sincere or hiding his insincerity from me quite well so far.

I'm not going to explain TS Eliot for all of you at this point. I can't say that I've figured that one out yet.

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