Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Atheist Evangelical

Oy. The Washington Post has an article on a guy intent on telling the world to renounce religion and God for the evils done in their names. Even moderates come in for it as mere covers for the more "fanatical" elements of any religion.


The one part of the article I found very revealing was when a meditation teacher who had taught him years before said:

"His passion was for deep philosophical questions, and he could talk for hours and hours," Salzberg recalls. "Sometimes you'd want to say to him, 'What about the Yankees?' or 'Look at the leaves, they're changing color!' "

My own sense of the divine is so much entangled with creation (How can you understand an artist without looking deeply at their art?) that I likely would have asked him to think about whether he might be putting words between himself and the world, and to just sit with some leaves or with a fellow creature and appreciate the fall for the exquisite moment that it is.

But what do I know? I believe that he's throwing out the baby, soap, and washtub as well as the water. (Maybe even the towels and baby lotion, too.) The God I believe in issues a call, continuously and throughout history, to kindness, to peace, to joy, to love. There's this beautiful world we're in, with its cycles and marvellous creations. (From the sea turtles with their graceful flicks of a fin to go wherever they want, to the delicate grace of cobwebs, to all the wonderful people I've been blessed to meet, to...)

And then there's the irony of someone with such a black-and-white view of the world criticing folks for embracing "extremism" - sigh.


Blogger Little Black Car said...

In other words, he's no different from any other religious fundamentalist.

It seems to me that "putting words between himself and the world" is a common problem with absolutists in any denomination (or--dare I say it?--party affiliation). I suspect it's a form of putting one's fingers in one's ears and humming; it's easier to denounce your perceived opponents if you refuse to hear and understand them.

The issue I have with people like this is not the belief in particular but the mindset--whatever it is they believe, they believe 150% and feel like they have to put the rest of us in an ideological head-lock. I'm sure this guy would dismiss me as an atheist because I'm not out to convert the world. Likewise, my issue with [some] believers is not their belief, but the attitude of a select few that what I think and do has no merit unless I agree with them.

10/26/2006 7:55 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Well, yes, basically.

I just found that image both illuminating and sad. I see someone ignoring the beauty of the world around him in order to pontificate further.

Just to make it clear, I am in no way tarring all atheists with this brush, any more than, for example, I feel Quakers should be held responsible for the mess the Puritans made.

10/26/2006 9:56 AM  
Blogger Little Black Car said...

Oh, I know you're not. I wasn't out to bring down believers, either; I hope it didn't sound like I was trying to rain on the parade.

10/27/2006 6:46 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

No, no. The problem I too often see is that those of us who would prefer to stay in the grey areas are all too often told to get our butts on one side or another of an imaginary line. But it's like I once told an art teacher of mine: "Our imaginations are not the same." (He was trying to impose his vision of what I was doing and get me to change the underlying concept of what I was doing rather than confining himself to technique, so I told him to keep his imagination out of my painting until I was done with it. After looking stunned for a moment, he turned to the class and began talking about how this was an important lesson in artistic integrity.)

10/27/2006 9:22 AM  
Blogger Little Black Car said...

Oh, I am so with you on that. Religion, politics, art, you name it--there's always somebody who has to have everyone pigeonholed. So tiresome and so counterproductive.

10/27/2006 9:54 AM  
Blogger jesperanda said...

One thing I do find interesting about Harris is that he considers certain spiritual practices to be valuable (i.e., meditation), even without believing a connection to the Divine or anything else supernatural. I'm curious to hear more about his perspectives there.

But in other aspects of his arguments ... yeah.

11/05/2006 10:10 PM  

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