February 15, 2009

Of course it's improper to critique a book just from a review....

...but liberal thinking just doesn't compute, and I'm willing to bet money this stuff wouldn't make more sense if I read the whole thing...

Beliefs - The New Atheism, and Something More - NYTimes.com:

...Mr. Aronson proposed that neither it nor the other [atheist] books under review provided "the most urgent need" for secularists today: "a coherent popular philosophy that answers vital questions about how to live one's life." [It can't be done. You've been trying for several centuries now.]

A "new atheism must absorb the experience of the 20th century and the issues of the 21st," he wrote. "It must answer questions about living without God, face issues concerning forces beyond our control as well as our own responsibility, find a satisfying way of thinking about what we may know and what we cannot know, affirm a secular basis for morality, point to ways of coming to terms with death and explore what hope might mean today." [Tall order! You've rejected authority, so if you succeed, what authority will validate your success? It will just be a theory, competing with ten-thousand other theories.]

"Living Without God" (Counterpoint, 2008) is now the title of Mr. Aronson's own effort to provide such a popular philosophy. It is meant to take up, he writes, where books like "The End of Faith" leave off.
Mr. Aronson makes a good argument that Americans are far more secular -- or at least less religious -- than is often recognized. But, he says, contemporary secularism has lost the buoyant confidence it once gained from "its essential link to the idea of Progress, which promised so much and came to such grief during the 20th century." [Nuh uh, pal. Secularism and "Progress" caused the grief of the 20th century. YOU killed a hundred-million or two people in pursuit of various secular paradises. It doesn't work to pretend that these things just happened out of the blue. The blood is on your hands.]

"To live comfortably without God today," he says, "means doing what has not yet been done -- namely, rethinking the secular worldview after the eclipse of modern optimism." [That optimism was itself a transference of the HABIT of Christian Hope to the secular realm. But the habit's wearing off. Now you are realizing you are bankrupt. ]

Indeed, "religion is not really the issue, but rather the incompleteness or tentativeness, the thinness or emptiness [couldn't have described it better myself], of today's atheism, agnosticism and secularism. Living without God means turning toward something." [Well fancy that! Let me just guess--it's going to be a very amorphous "something." Characterized by... incompleteness or tentativeness, thinness, emptiness... Right? C'mon pal, surprise me! Invent a secular worldview that has even one one-hundredth of the gritty REALNESS of the Church Catholic.]

For Mr. Aronson, that "something" is not the ideal of an autonomous individual striding confidently into the dawning future but the drama [drama??] of an interdependent humankind embedded in complex systems of forces, knit into networks of natural environment, historical legacies, social institutions and personal relations. [What a load of galumpfh. "Embedded in complex systems of forces." What does that MEAN? Embedded like bees in a hive? Like raisins in a cookie? If you have complex systems, then decisions need to be made. Who makes them? How do people set priorities and goals?

What if your priority involves my being eliminated for the good of the whole? Hmmm? What if people don't WANT to be knit into networks? Every revolution starts with wooly-headed intellectuals sketching vague paradises of happy embeds. But the kulaks prefer not to be embedded in the collective farm. So then the ruthless rise to the top, and start forcing people into the mold. And probably sending guys like Aronson on that long march to nowhere.]

From this larger story of interdependency, he draws a ground, not surprisingly, for responsibility and morality: a recognizable left-of-center commitment to collective struggle against "domination, inequality and oppression, rooted in scarcity." [This one sentence has enough lunacy to write a whole essay on. To take just one, morality requires drawing lines. Saying X is immoral, and it is wrong to do it. Period. But just proposing your own morality gives no authority to draw hard and fast rules. How can you? What justifies your rule over someone elses?

And, importantly, who DEFINES things? Liberal morality tends to say "I can do what I want if I don't hurt someone." BUT, it's the liberal himself who is defining what "hurt" is. And who is a "someone." So they can define an unborn baby as "not human," and murder it. Or define the entrepreneurs who provide society's wealth as "parasites" and zeks, and expropriate them, or send them to the camps.]

More originally, he argues that this interdependence should summon gratitude -- gratitude "for," even if not "to." Giving thanks, he recognizes, has been central to religion, and secular culture needs to be enriched with an equivalent.... [There is no equivalent. Gratitude is, in its essence, humble. You can't be grateful for something you think you deserve; you are grateful for a gift. You must acknowledge something bigger and better than oneself. But that's a religious attitude. No one's ever going to feel gratitude to "complex systems of forces."]

I suspect that the recent spate of atheist books is not because atheists think they are winning, nor that, as some have suggested, they think they are losing. I think we are at the moment that Guardini predicted, back in the 1950's. (link) They are staring into the abyss. They are finally realizing what it's like to live without God, or without anything greater than the self.


Posted by John Weidner at February 15, 2009 6:37 PM
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