Sunday, July 28, 2013

More thoughts on the "internet / television Atheist."

The argument that the Atheist most often makes, most often in public but also in private conversations, is NOT an argument that God does not exist. It is also not an argument that the Bible or the Koran or whatever holy book a particular faith adheres to is somehow incorrect or false. Instead, the most common argument of the mission-driven Atheist is that a person of faith cannot also be a person of reason or intelligence. In simpler terms, the atheist argues that if you are a Christian (for example) you are an idiot.

The argument that the Bible is *not* true, at least in an objective, testable way, isn't much of an argument when posed to anyone but the most strict biblical literalists. Most educated people of faith understand a holy book to be a very different document than a science book or a treatise on logic, a book that is understood differently than one understands science or even more subjective forms of writing such as history or journalism. This premise is easily testable--what reasonable person believes that snakes talk, or giant fish swallow men? If we allow that this is a small percentage of reasonable people and we also allow that a greater percentage of reasonable people also profess to be Christians or Jews or Muslims, we can deduce that many reasonable people of faith don't literally believe many biblical accounts.

In a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, the host accuses a Christian guest of "cherry-picking" only the "good things" in the Bible. I am surprised that the guest didn't point out that Maher, in pointing out the bad things (as when he calls the Old Testament God a mass murderer--a characterization I can't disagree with) is also "cherry-picking." This should not surprise anybody--we do this as a matter of course all the time. Accepting or rejecting certain parts of a whole does not mean wholesale acceptance or rejection of the whole. This fallacy, though, allows Maher to accuse people of faith of hypocrisy or stupidity. The fact is, reasonable people of faith do not, on the whole, believe everything in the bible as literal truth. They just don't.

Similarly, ask a religious person to prove that God exists. He can't do it. He simply cannot. But there are plenty of people who believe in God. This point, then, is hardly arguable. The Atheist easily wins this. You cannot prove a negative.

So what the Atheist is really saying to the believer is that the believer is somehow less intelligent or, at least, misguided for professing religious faith. In simpler terms, I'm smarter than you.

The Atheist, then, is not making an intellectual argument so much as a social one. The Atheist doesn't want to associate himself with someone who possesses Keats' negative capability. The Atheist is not trying to convince you that God doesn't exist or that the Bible is bunk. He is trying to tell you that he thinks of you as a lesser being for having the audacity to believe in or find comfort in something that is not scientifically testable. The Atheist does not like you. Why? Because his myopic view of the world dictates that he is smarter than you. And he doesn't like to hang out with fools.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mission Statement

To re-imagine the "writing life" so as not to drown. To continue to write with 1) no pretense to ambition and 2) no actual ambition save that to clear a space for better thoughts, for more lucid practice, by which I mean, living.
Beneath a sriracha-washed summer sky,
my kid said "puffy cumulus clouds"
while all of us, the entire town,
tried to talk about our feelings.

Monday, July 22, 2013

on Whales and Old Pals

My friend, former classmate & colleague, and generally amiable gal, Tamara Holloway has a new blog. She's writing about Moby-Dick at the moment.

So of course, I got to thinking about the white whale myself and my first encounter with Melville.

I read Moby-Dick when I was 20 years old and in the Navy. Fitting, I guess, though at the time I was not on a ship but land-locked in the San Joaquin Valley, surrounded by fighter jets, cotton fields, and methamphetamine people.

I read it because a tall, blonde, dashing shipmate of mine told me I should read it. I believed him because he had an easy air of nonchalance, was flip, good-looking, a scratch golfer, a stock investor, and a card-counting blackjack player. He let his hair grow too long and he put his feet up on his desk. I figured that he was pretty wise, and that if he said I should read Moby-Dick, I should read Moby-Dick. I hadn’t read *anything* at this point in my life except for comic books and pulpy sci-fi and fantasy books.

That same spring, I enrolled in a community college course–it was American History, part 1–taught by an old, Nixon-worshipping retired professor/Methodist minister. For one of our papers we had a “book review” option, namely, read a “great American novel” and write about it–what does it say about American History as you understand it, having been a student in this class for the past 16 weeks, and so forth. I wrote mine on Moby-Dick. I talked about Alexis de Tocqueville in the introductory paragraphs. Pequod as pre-muticultural multicultural America. Etc. I got an A and decided that I might keep going to college.

I remember hating the chapters on ambergris and whaling minutiae, not because I hate stuff like that but because I just wanted to get back to the damn story. I might have to read it again, 20 years on.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

summer song

In a summer of spearmint
& sinuous heat, books
dismantled on the hearth,
our heart beats one two
for an emergent emergency,
forms come from each plaint
of this chest & that.

Ain't got no Florida up in this grave, today. Great men perch along fenceposts with condors, buzzards, bald eagles,

& other connoisseurs of carrion.

Crawl at me like a Stutz Bear-Cat, Jim. Sum up the summer with a frothy refreshment.

What's black & white
& read all over?

A few months ago, it was a newspaper, & the answer was the answer to my daughter's favorite riddle, because she's only four & she'd never seen a newspaper until I showed her one last week.

"Daddy, that's not red!"

But it was.

Summer of Sharknado & Northeast heatwave. Summer my friend sent a book out into the world.

Summer of chest heaves & miniature donuts.

June was wet & melancholic,
July is hot & patriotic.
August will be august & sincere.

Sincerely, severely,

Anthony Robinson