It was Mr. Hitchens who recently wrote that the greatest weapon of the atheist was the “ironic mind” against the literal, and I, after briefly and in passing asking myself “what the hell is the man talking about?” and stubbornly continuing the practice of what he would later term as the “cult of death and human sacrifice”, have decided that I agree, but for all sorts of reasons Mr. Hitchens would be annoyed with.
Not to isolate all you science majors out there – I trust that whatever it is that you do has some importance to humanity – but let’s see what Christopher could have meant. If it is a verbal irony that arms the atheist, then I pity him, for his mind produces thoughts in opposition to their literal meaning, and frankly, that sounds like a confusing situation for anyone to be in. If it is tragic irony, that at least is plausible, for it would mean that the mind of the atheist is doomed to fail, and that whatever books are written as a result of it, their affect will not be to convert the huddled Christian masses, but will – ironically – create intellectual and powerful rebuttals, leading inevitably and happily to the tragic doom of atheist thought. If it is dramatic irony, then we have an explanation for the raised eyebrows and lip-corners of the new atheists; they are full of a secret, an I-know-there’s-no-God-and-you-don’t, aha, aha, aren’t I ironic?
|Doesn’t really have anything to do with anything. But I laughed.|
That at least is closer to the truth. The irony of the atheist is almost indistinguishable from the sarcasm of the atheist, from the sardonic and condescending commentary of the atheist (think for but a moment on the overplayed Flying Spaghetti Monster card, the Brights v. Dulls, the tired Freethought! mantra). When Hitchens says that his greatest weapon is the “ironic mind”, I cannot help but think – and forgive me, for I get my model New Atheist from Dennet, Dawkins, Singer, Sagan and Hitchens – there’s a poem in there somewhere – that he believes his greatest weapon lies in being snide. I stand with Hitchens then; that the ironic mind is indeed a weapon, with the only mild reservation; that it is a broken weapon. Who, if anyone, was ever converted by an excess of elitist irony, or a dash of internet sarcasm? (Hang that thought; who, if anyone, has ever been converted to atheism?)
But the real irony of the atheist is the irony of misplacement, of being at odds with the rest of humanity. It’s the cold truth the new atheists must wake to, that were they to choose any man, from any point in time, from any place and any culture, across any age group, the overwhelming odds would be that that man would think them wrong, and their books not worth buying. If their is irony to atheist thought, it is not because it is free, but because it is inhuman. For human beings have always practiced religion.
It’s true, I’m not being hip and ironic. As far back as you want to go, man was no more separated from religion than from beauty, which really melds into the same thing, looking at the art of our forefathers. This on it’s own should be shocking, that we alone among the animals worship, that we, the most advanced, intelligent creatures evolution has to offer have always bowed down. Being human, now that’s ironic – the incongruity of the animal sacrificing itself for an invisible deity, when by all rights he should be mating and eating. Religion, by Darwin’s standards, is absolutely stupid. And yet, in this great age of Darwin, religion remains, and flourishes. (And it’s not as if the big “secularization” theory has happened, that in the beginning men worshiped tree spirits and – with the rise of science – God would become more and more of an abstract entity, until by the end – surely by 2011 – he’d be no more than a law-giver that didn’t matter in the mind of the religious and merely a myth in the mind of everyone else. As it turns out, Catholic doctrine refutes this theory rather simply. Over the course of tens of thousands of years, after an absolutely staggering growth in scientific knowledge and an exponential increase in information, we have moved from God is in the tree to God is the bread. If anything, religion has managed to get more stupid. (Unless of course, the world has been getting stupid, and Catholicism has just been saying the same things it always has. Hmm….)) But wait! The atheist will text rapidly, All this religion business is just the product of environment, explaining natural phenomenons and imitating parents! It’s not like religion is integral to human nature or anything!
On a completely unrelated note, have you heard that we now know that Religion Is Integral To Human Nature? Yep, millions and millions of dollars to find out what mankind has always known, that our souls are restless. “Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” So with our boy Clive Staples, let’s all learn to be human; and get religion.