Somebody below asked “How do you ‘practice atheism’?”

Well, in the US, “practicing atheism” typically means sneering at Christianity, since this is the dominant religion. Lately, the sneers have been extended to Islam for understandable reasons. Judaism gets fewer sneers, since atheists are as sensitive to charges of anti-semitism as the rest of us and Judaism is unique in that it has an ethnic as well as religious character. Since Americans are obsessed with sin against race, they are more cautious there.

Atheists do not spend a great deal of time fretting about non-Western religions. Few atheist websites spend many electrons sneering at animism, or Sun worship, or Norse religion. As Chesterton said, if you want to know what a culture holds sacred, just look at what it considers blasphemous. “If you don’t believe it,” said Chesterton, “try to have a blasphemous thought about Loki.”

Interestingly, the most volatile terms in our culture are not religious, but ethnic. Take the name of the Lord in vain and nobody frets much. Say “niggardly” and a hush of dread falls over the crowd. That too, tells you what we regard as sacred.

This, by the way, should be a caution for us. Nothing is held sacred for long without generating a perverse backlash. A certain percentage of people will applaud *anything* they deem as “transgressive” against the Establishment. Civil rights have made legitimate gains in the past century. That will be endangered, not by 19th Century KKK types longing for the past, but by 21st punks who think they are being “daring” by blaspheming accepted Establishment figures like Martin Luther King. Look for the day when the same negating mentality that animates mindless atheism is turned from Christian sacred things to secular sacred things. If it can be held sacred, it will be blasphemed by somebody. And the blasphemer *always* congratulates himself on being a cut above the common herd of mankind.


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