June 5, 2009 - May 29, 2009
normally use Rachel Lucas's site
to cheer myself up when I'm having a bad day. She seems immune from
most of the downers that afflict us ordinary folks, and she makes it
possible to believe that a defiant quip really does suffice to banish
the blues. So imagine my surprise upon discovering that she had made
herself a target
for abuse in a moment of personal vulnerability, when she was
soliciting good wishes for an ailing loved one. (I know that a lot of
you will immediately go to her site to tender best wishes for her
boyfriend's father, so there's no need to suggest it....) But what
really knocked me for a loop was the news that the abuse was coming
from atheists. Because she
quoted, in the course of discussing the medical crisis, the old
chestnut that "there are no atheists in foxholes."
Never mind the fact that Rachel is herself an atheist, or at least an agnostic, despite her fascinating response to the Pieta. Who would have suspected that the "foxhole hypothesis" could have inspired such fury and irrational hostility?
Isn't the whole point of being an atheist to be free of imprisonment by mere myths and fairy tales? To move through life unaffected by the emotional maelstroms that so complicate life for believers in various spiritual orthodoxies? I mean, shouldn't the prospect of the death of someone's loved one inspire only sympathy, the pure condolence of those who know that life ends when the last breath leaves the exhausted body?
But no. Atheism has apparently become its own religion. Atheist websites are irate. Atheists who have been in foxholes -- or claim to have been -- found it necessary to register their outrage about her cavalier generalization, as if she had thought it up herself. This is a sacrilege that cannot be brooked. And when Rachel, in her natural wisdom, deleted such comments, she exacerbated their ire. Now she's become a symbol of the bigoted anti-atheist, which singles her out for even more abuse.
I don't know whether to describe the Articles of (non)Faith of the Atheist Church or to mock them in simpler terms. Well, that's not true. I do know. Atheists need to be mocked from here to the next blue moon. It hardly matters whether their Pope wears a mitre or a baseball cap, and whether their Sunday services involve masturbation or mirrors. It's their belief system which is nonsensical and eminently worthy of ridicule.
The agnostic is worthy of respect. He doesn't claim to know. He just doesn't believe that there's any story of divinity that accords with the facts. The atheist, on the other hand, is a narcissistic popinjay. He stands at the end point of a creation no one can claim to understand fully, and he declares that there is no higher intelligence than his own in the fabric of a universe many hundreds of trillions of times larger than himself. But he knows there is no meaning in any of it. What an ass.
Show me a true atheist and I'll show you an idiot, a poseur, a vain seeker of attention. Which is why I really wasn't surprised that Rachel's offhand comment provoked an assault. What's important about being an atheist in not the attainment of an enlightened objective philosophy free of the savage prejudices associated with organized religion. It's about being recognized as a superior intellect.
Imagine being disappointed and humiliated by the post-death discovery of an afterlife. That would have to be the biggest "Oh shit" moment anyone could conceive of. It would instantaneously reduce your surviving soul to the size of a peanut.
Unless that's the size it was already.
P.S. Uh, the Cheetos? Well, I -- unlike all of you, I'm sure -- have these streaks I get on. A couple months ago, it was Cheetos. Right now, it seems to be Rachel's website. But don't worry that there's anything sinister about it. I'm easily old enough to be her father. I think that's part of the fascination. If my daughter were just a bit older and had a blog, I think it would be a lot like Rachel's. Fun, smarter than it looks on first blush, and charming. So if there are any atheists out there who want to give her a hard time, come here instead. I'll give you all you can handle. (Before you join battle, you might want to take a look at this.)
UPDATE. Rachel has this to say: "So. In all seriousness, it’s been an interesting discussion and more than a little illuminating. Nicki and Instapunk have joined in, and the angry atheists are already on Nicki’s site, comparing me to a racist for using the foxhole quote." Same old, same old. C'mon. COME ON. But they don't. Atheists and lefties are cowards to the core. The last thing they'll ever do is enter the InstaPunk brush-chipper, where our comment policy is never to kill the comment, only the commenter.
Atheists! Come! Fight! We can't wait to kill you.
Yeah, I know. You're just a bunch of fucking retards. I'Il let Rachel know. And her friend Nicki.
. I'm going to suggest a different kind of chronology by which we
can understand the times we live in. It's one that should make more
sense to young people than to traditionally educated historians. It
also monkeys with the concept of distinct generations, which has been
overused by those who presume to interpret cultural and societal trends
for us. Baby Boomers know, for example, that their break with their
parents was much more extreme than the rifts they've experienced
between themselves and their own kids. When we speak of the Victorian
Age, we are talking about a 60-year period, from 1840 to 1900, three full generations unified by a
more or less common set of values and customs. That age might have been
followed by what is now known as the Edwardian era, a slightly more
relaxed and rococo phase of imperial Brit decadence -- except for the
violently traumatic intervention of World War I, which reset the clock.
That's why the next milestone is the Jazz Age, whose official start date is the publication of Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise, the first work of real literature which documented the power of music and social rebellion to drive a sea change in cultural mores. Note that it's common to represent this phenomenon in technological terms -- as the ascendancy of popular music made possible by the emerging availability of records, radio broadcasts, and moving pictures. But this is the story as it is rendered by secularists. One can as easily make the case that it was jazz music which fueled the rapid advance of technologies capable of disseminating it to a generation starved for an avalanche of change. Because jazz was a revolt against formality, family tradition, and programmatic lives. It represented a reassertion of individual choice and spontaneous creativity at a time when traditional obligations had resulted in the worst carnage ever recorded in human history. Monarchies, aristocracies, elite credentials of family and class, immersion in the beliefs of the past were all suspect. The Jazz Age, for example, was the real beginning of the civil rights movement in America, as privileged white people discovered that wholly uneducated (in their terms) black people were capable of generating a brand new fom of music that was as intellectual as it was passionate.
The Jazz Age lasted for 40-plus years. All the way though the Great Depression, World War II, and the burst of prosperity in America that led to the election and presidency of John F. Kennedy. Long before the Rosa Parks moment and the first marches in the south, jazz music was a driving force of integration. It had served as an elemental diversion from the privations of the Great Depression, the insouciant soundtrack of the Second World War, the effervescent accompaniment of fifties confidence, and the clarion affirmation of all things American in the early sixties. It accorded entirely with who we were -- individual, adaptive, indefatigable, and in tune with the deep rhythms of personal freedom and expression. It was also -- in its respect for the individual voice of a saxophone, trumpet, xylophone, drum set, or human being (Sinatra, Nat Cole) -- a paradoxical demonstration of the American melting pot: individual spirits of widely divergent backgrounds could somehow bridge all the differences between origins, traditions, and times to produce a kickass togetherness of product.
The Jazz Age died with JFK and Vietnam. It had already accomplished a miracle -- delaying the nihilism implicit in the total savagery of World War I for 40 years. But it had subsisted on a false belief, that there was some kind of intellectualized theory of art that could legitimize the cost of so much human failure. Jazz had been a new incarnation of faith, a faith in the rhythms of life and the productivity of pushing essentially intellectually ideas of variation and expression into a creative realm that would offer a new kind of salvation for people who had grown weary of fairy tales.
If you're starting to get the idea that black people have been a kind of emotional barometer of the health of our culture, you are correct. The Victorian Age represented the compleat amputation of emotion from intellect. The Jazz Age was the first attempt to bridge the rift. It failed finally in the crashing careers of Coltrane, Davis, and Byrd. The Rock and Roll Age was a high stakes gamble to substitute emotion for intellect. Emotion and carnal instincts.
The Rock and Roll Age lasted from the mid-sixties to a few years ago. It provided the soundtrack to assassinations, the doomed war in Vietnam, and most of the lifetimes of the most spoiled, self-absorbed generation in several hundred years of history, the Baby Boom generation. But the Rock and Roll Age was even more flawed in its bases than the Jazz Age. Its prime assertion was that we were not questing intellectual creatures, but animals. Universal peace and contentment were to be had if we could at last recognize that our natures were governed by the need for sex, endorphins, and an absence of rules.
Both jazz and rock and roll arose from the same sources. Jazz was an intellectual thrust, very close to Bach and Mozart in its aspiration to make of music a sound-based expression of the universe. The music of the spheres, if you will. Rock and roll was the opposite. It was the music of the evolutionary biologists. We are animals. We can't help what we do. We feel, we lust, we seek sensation, and we're not at all concerned with the meaning of a Miles Davis solo or a Nietzchean rant.
And, sure, there are still jazz musicians. And rock bands. But their age has passed. Now we have returned, in the manner of threes, to a new version of the Victorian Age. Now we have given up real hope for a breakthrough and have decided to believe again in Old Testament sin. We have decided to believe that we must be manacled in laws, and repressions, and denials of our humanity that are more consistent with Yahweh's judgments on us than Christ's exhortations to freedom. After all, Christ was the ultimate rebel. He dared to suggest that we could live with only two commandments because we all have a spark of the divine in our makeup. But if there is no divine, then we are deserving of annihilation.
When you meet the true-blue Green, the worshipper of Gaia, the ones who want to punish mankind for environmental sins and so push him back to the fantasy harmony with nature they see in Native Americans who died at 28 from scurvy and hunger, you are seeing the price of disbelief in a higher power. You are seeing the final impact of the Law of Threes. It takes three times three generations of human beings to feel the full impact of a mistake. Three Ages.
It's all rather predictable, isn't it? But the question you have to ask yourselves is this: if science has liberated us from the need to believe in judgment, condemnation, doom, and hell, why are we so anxious as a secular people to embrace the concept that an insignificant by-product of random evolution should somehow subscribe to a death wish that values a few thousand tigers or polar bears over the species that produced the Sistine Chapel, the pyramids, and the works of Shakespeare, Newton, Einstein, and Jesus Christ?
Three Ages. Are you prepared for the next one? Now for my final idea of Ages. They also come in threes. Here are two YouTube videos, both focused on the subject of "The Trial." The first is based on a book written in 1925, about five years after the beginning of the Jazz Age.
It's actually a pattern. We put ourselves on trial again a few years
Roll Age. (It takes longer when you're not thinking.)
But the idea of coming up short against a brick wall is the same. The
first inquiry is a philosophical and theological drama. The second is a
lugubrious exercise in self pity about the human plight of being
sexual, psychological, emotional, powerless, and animal.
Next comes the reversion to paganism inside a veneer of science AND superstition. Try this unofficial poll. How many believers in Global Warming and Saving the Planet from Mankind would deny that this little display of pop culture was a significant breakthrough in human understanding?
Uh, yeah, stupid. But ask them. How many doubt that Obama is the
"dawning of the Age of Aquarius"? Perhaps that's why their children and
grandchildren are intent on sending us headlong back into the era of hippies
The old'uns may think they're turning the clock back. But that's not how it works. The New Age will be the precursor to a wholly different age, in which the need to believe in a higher power will manifest itself in slaveries unthought of during the twentieth century. That's how strong the need to believe in a higher power is. Even if it's one invented out of whole cloth by objective science.
That's why Nietzche was smarter than the Nazis and all who sought to belittle him after the fact. He knew what people would do. That's why he collapsed in a heap at the abuse of a horse. Long ago.
The green folk are pretty sure by now that Nietztche was a
fascist. They can't possibly imagine that they were his worst nightmare,
brilliantly and presciently conceived as the end of all things human.
And Dostoevsky before him knew exactly what would happen when the "smart people" took control of the rest of us.
"Joined whom, what clever people?" cried Alyosha, completely carried away. "They have no such great cleverness and no mysteries and secrets.... Perhaps nothing but Atheism, that's all their secret. Your Inquisitor does not believe in God, that's his secret!"
"What if it is so! At last you have guessed it. It's perfectly true, it's true that that's the whole secret, but isn't that suffering, at least for a man like that, who has wasted his whole life in the desert and yet could not shake off his incurable love of humanity? In his old age he reached the clear conviction that nothing but the advice of the great dread spirit could build up any tolerable sort of life for the feeble, unruly, 'incomplete, empirical creatures created in jest.' And so, convinced of this, he sees that he must follow the counsel of the wise spirit, the dread spirit of death and destruction, and therefore accept lying and deception, and lead men consciously to death and destruction, and yet deceive them all the way so that they may not notice where they are being led, that the poor blind creatures may at least on the way think themselves happy.
So what's the next age? Victorian without the prosperity or the belief
in progress. Politically correct, totalitarian, suicidal, and filled
with the spiritual anguish of those who must have a God but can't
believe. Luddite with a desire to punish and reduce. There can be no
more youthful rebellion. Rap is the last pyrotechnic explosion of that,
as outrageous as it will be short-lived. What's left is collectivist,
Stalinist chorales celebrating the life of Earth purchased by the death
You're gonna love it.