/ New Atheism / Gentle Reformation

Anathema (Letter Five)

I can see your point and do certainly embrace it.  Yet I cannot help but think that the line that exists between unlawful belief and state sponsored “religion” could be refined, if ever so slightly, in a few specific instances.

Allow a moment to illustrate.

If we consider the liberalization of Christianity in the 20th and 21st century, that fairly progressive and healthy advancement of the meme, and compare it to the acceptable forms of today, there is much by way of agreement.  Yes, it is true that the older mutation still harbored a positive outlook on all religions in general, as each facet supposedly told us something about “the elephant,” but wouldn’t it be fair to say that liberal Christianity, as it has been called, was nothing more than agnosticism wrapped in deism?

Ah, but you know, even now, as I dot the question mark on that last sentence, I feel the weight of your point.  Agnosticism isn’t the problem, it’s that little word “deism.”  It interjects into the human consciousness a genuine supernatural element, even if the proverbial watch is left to unwind by itself.

Anything supernatural is unacceptable.  Therein lays the cardinal rule.

I suppose that is the great difference between the liberalism of old and the approved “religion” of today.  Those of us who still want a form of spirituality, with all of its community and ritual, can safely possess it.  We can stand in an awe-inspiring cathedral, gaze upon the lofty architecture, ponder the stained glass with all of its sublime images of secular figures, read the plaques, admire the pictures, and take in all the sights and smells, but we know that there is nothing beyond the roof but space and time.  No benevolent being is watching us.

So your point about Santa Claus is well taken.  In one sense, we believe in him, so far as he is a human construct.  But in another sense, he doesn’t at all exist.

It does appear that the liberals of old did believe in Santa Claus, strange as that might seem.  Perhaps my congeniality is simply a matter of romanticizing the past?  Is the nostalgia floating my head?

I’m not sure.

It is easy to confuse the two though, isn’t it?  When miracles are tossed out and when “the sacred text” is functionally emptied of its meaning, what is left?  A faceless theism?  It would appear that those older neo-orthodox thinkers were essentially atheistic, but just didn’t quite know it.  Oh, I know I’ve overstated the matter just now, but it isn’t far from the truth.  What is atheism, if not disbelief?  Or what is atheism, if not a recognition of all that is absurd, insofar as ontology and metaphysics are concerned?  I suspect we could have sat down with many of the liberals of old and quickly come to agreement, shared a good cup of coffee together.  They may have maintained their arcane beliefs on some level, but those beliefs would have been so thoroughly compartmentalized, so gloriously severed from everyday reality, especially where test tubes and history books are found, that the difference would be essentially negligible.  Instead of viewing God as the foundation of everything- even knowledge and science- like my poor female patient, these forerunners of progress were content to call unknowns in science “God.”  They just needed to read more science journals.

Would they have required gene alteration?  I doubt it.  Either way, I can now better appreciate the brilliance of those who made the hard decisions about state religion.  A mist in polity is a fog amongst the people, after all.


C.L. Jones