The Charming Naivete of the Atheist

My blog’s Village Atheist remarks on his teenage confusion between the words “scatological” and “eschatological”. He announces to a world breathless for his insights that discovering what they meant “was also one of the first moments where I learned that things aren’t as simple and complete as CCD or Sunday School would make out — that the world is a much more interesting, fascinating, tragic, scary yet still sublimely wonderful place than any of the good books ever proffered.”

I know this was intended to be a starry paean of praise to a True Thinker by a True Thinker. But it comes off as merely hilarious. I can practically see V.A. standing silhouetted atop a windswept hill, heroically vowing to fight to the last against the forces of conformity and banality there in Smallville, a legend in his own mind. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out how learning that you have no idea what the difference is between two extremely different words could possibly produce an Epiphany about how Life is Complex, nor how said Epiphany could equip you with the certainty that somebody as ignorant as you was the very first person to discover this, nor how it could confer a sense of anointing to deliver this news bulletin to the benighted religious hoi polloi. Nor can I see the discovery of one’s lexical ignorance suddenly unveiling to one’s eyes the Babbit-like existence of his fellow Sunday school attendees and teachers. Why, one almost gets the impression that this view of one’s own genius and the contempt for one’s fellows preceded the discovery of this interesting little dictionary factoid.

But least of all can I buy the notion that V.A.’s comfy suburban existence is really the true fount of insight and forge of experience that far outstrips the insights, ecstasies and agonies that created the great sacred texts of East and West. I somehow doubt that V.A.’s cozy little American home, tidy income and three squares a day have really done the job in revealing that the world is a much more interesting, fascinating, tragic, scary yet still sublimely wonderful place than any of the good books ever proffered.


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