“You’re Gonna Have to Serve Somebody”

In yesterday’s post, I talked about the unenviable invulnerability of indifference, and, it so happened that the play I saw this weekend (Tom Stoppard’s Rock and Roll at the Actors Ensemble of Berkeley) touched on similar themes.  The play is structured around (among other things) resistance to Soviet-dominated Communism in Czechoslovakia.  At one point in the play, Jan gets into an argument with his friend Ferdinand (recently released from prison) about who represents a larger threat to the government: Ferdinand and his band of intellectual dissidents or the banned band Plastic People of the Universe and their manager Ivan Jirous.

Jan: Why do you think you’re walking around and Jirous is in gaol?

Ferdinand: Because he insulted a secret policeman.

Jan: No, because the policeman insulted him. About his hair. Jirous doesn’t cut his hair. It makes the policeman angry, so he starts something and it ends with Jirous in gaol. But what is the policeman angry about? What difference does long hair make?

The policeman is angry about his fear. The policeman’s fear is what makes him angry. He’s frightened by indifference. Jirous doesn’t care. He doesn’t care enough even to cut his hair. The policeman isn’t frightened by dissidents! Why should he be? Policemen love dissidents, like the Inquisition loved heretics. Heretics give meaning to the defenders of the faith. Nobody cares more than a heretic.

Your friend Havel cares so much he writes a long letter to Husak. It makes no odds whether it’s a love letter or a protest letter. It means they’re playing on the same board. So Husak can relax, he’s made the rules, it’s his game. The population plays the other way by agreeing to be bribed by places at university, or an easy ride at work… they care enough to keep their thoughts to themselves, their haircuts give nothing away.

But the Plastics don’t care at all. They’re unbribable. They’re coming from somewhere else, from where the Muses come from. They’re not heretics. They’re pagans.

I didn’t love the show, and I think part of the reason is that I could never quite figure out what kind of paganism Jan and his heroes aspired to.  The show told me, at length, what they didn’t care about and couldn’t be compelled by, but I remained unconvinced that they really worshiped or loved anything.  (About Jan’s romantic subplot, in my opinion, the less said the better). I had too much sympathy for my age with the stodgy character who declared, “I was embarrassed by the sixties. It was like opening the wrong door in a highly specialized brothel.”

The anti-war, civil rights, and social justice movements were turned outwards, in the service of others.   But the tune-in, drop-out culture to which Jan and other characters in the play felt sympathies for found freedom by turning inward and writing off more of the world as irrelevant.  The more disconnected the characters were from the outside world (whether because of drugs or deadening cynicism) the less vulnerable they were,  But I felt more frustration and pity for them than the aging Communist Max, who kept loving his idol and trying to serve it, even as it kept breaking his heart.

The Plastic People of the Universe may be pagans (Jan is an aspiring pagan), but, in the cozy Cambridge scenes, one of the Classics students translates Plutarch to warn us, “The great god Pan is dead.”   Plutarch goes on to tell us that a great lamentation went up at this news, but I’m not confident Jan has something specific enough to miss or mourn.


As usual when writing about a play that touches history, I’m mostly limiting myself to the representations of real people in the play, as I know nothing about Real!Jirous.  Also, fellow Patheos blogger Eve Tushnet saw and loved a production of this play in DC, if you’d like her review for contrast.

The Story of Shmuel and Tailoring Support [Guest Post]
Books that Change the Way You Think [Radio Readings]
Filing Down the Sharp Edges of Failure [Pope Francis Bookclub]
7QT: New Riffs on Prayer, Booze, and Logic
About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • Theodore Seeber

    I went through something of a revelation about myself this weekend that was similar to this.

    I miss being liberal. I feel like I am not a conservative, and that liberalism left me. My primary opposition to gay marriage, divorce, abortion and contraception is that I see a great hatred and intolerance in it. The people that are for those things could just as well be trying to save baby whales and I’d still be against them, for their political tactics alone. It is possible to obscure your message so much by the simple application of hatred for the enemy, that you hide the message of the good you want to do and accomplish only hatred.

    I really don’t understand the political divide between pro-life and Catholic Social Justice Christians- because to me, pro-life is the ultimate social justice issue, declaring that the right to life is an inherent part of the dignity and worth of every human being from conception until natural death. And that when we take away the right to life from somebody else, even partially such as paying a worker less than he is worth or turning the refugee away at the border, the real dignity we are harming is our own.

    I likewise can no longer support even civil unions- because by supporting civil unions, I’m supposedly discriminating against gays who want to destroy the connection between biology and sacramental marriage. They are so adamant that these concepts need to a divorce, that they’re willing to destroy all the rest of society to accomplish it. And it is that destructive behavior I have to be against. You can’t win out against the forces of evil by becoming evil yourself- you can’t win gay marriage by tearing apart the heterosexual family.

    On Friday, Rebecca Hamilton here at Patheos posted one of my favorite hymns: They will know we are Christians by our Love. Too bad in my mind it now takes a second place to the hymn of the followers of Byron from Babylon 5:
    We will all meet together in a better place,
    a better place than this.
    Our love will guide you, Our love will hold you,
    and Our Love will show you the way.

    And how I can have typed all of that, and still be posting comments too quickly, is beyond me. Somebody really needs to look into that.

    • TerryC

      The divide between pro-life and “Social Justice” Christians is at heart mostly a non-theological political divide. Note I put “Social Justice” in quotes because the Church’s stand on true Social Justice is quite clear. It is about just equality. It certainly can touch issues of just pay and civil rights, but it should not be confused with Charity, which is concerned with issues separate from Social Justice. For example if a child is starving, because his father (or mother) cannot work because a company or group of a certain class is preventing it feeding the child is a work of Social Justice. If the child is starving because the parent will not work then it is Charity. While government action can be very helpful in the first case, it’s involvement is almost certain to make things worst in the second case.
      The problem with “Social Justice” Christians is that they seem to believe that if the government would just throw more of (other people’s) money at the problem it will go away and we could just build heaven on Earth. This is not a theological position, it is a socialist (Marxist) based political position. It overlooks the most basic of Christian belief, that is in the absence of a saving God humanity is irretrievably stained by original sin. People are not fundamentally good, even though they were made in the image and likeness of God, and have an innate dignity because of that fact, they are fundamentally flawed, and will most often act badly.
      I also note that almost every true pro-life Christian I know also works for true Social Justice and beyond that engages in Charitable works, which as I pointed out above in not the same thing.
      I would also point out that political conservatives support many positions which are the antithesis of Christian positions, “Enhanced interrogation” and immigration policy, come quickly to mind, though I don’t doubt there are others. Mark Shea has it right. Be Christian and support whichever party will deal with issues in a Christian way and be willing to change who you support when necessary.

      • Mike

        Agree. Some conservative positions are also anti-Christian, but besides, Christianity is not foremost to be politicized! We have to resist that temptation at every turn. Christ is our King not any pol, right or left.

        • grok

          @Mike, Amen!

      • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

        When you help the poor there will always be some who abuse your help. If you look for examples like that so you can justify keeping your money then you will find them. It reminds me of Mother Teresa’s poem:

        People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
        If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
        If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
        If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
        What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
        If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
        The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
        Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
        In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

        The point is not to look for excuses as to why doing the right thing might work out badly. You just do the right thing. If you feed a child some will say you have enabled the parents bad behavior.

      • Theodore Seeber

        I know a few Christians who call themselves pro-life, but act more like they’re pro-birth; their charity and social justice activities end in the maternity ward, and they’re quite often the same bad actors who would rather a child starve than have to pay even one one-hundredth a percent higher taxes.

        But likewise I know a few Social Justice Catholics who are quite happy to drive that pregnant teenager to planned parenthood, but would balk at not taking care of the baby and mother after birth.

        BOTH of these positions are hypocritical to me; and I’m repelled by both. That’s why when I go to the State Knights of Columbus convention next month, it will be with a cashier’s check for Fr. Taaffe Homes for Unwed Mothers…..

      • Liz B

        Whether we are ontologically good is a fundamental difference between Protestants and Catholics. Catholics believe that we are created in the image and likeness of God, and thus are “good”, but original sin gives us concupiscence, or a pull toward evil. I do not believe even with your statement that people will most often act badly in a given situation.

        • grok

          @Liz B,
          Interesting. Can you elaborate please on this “fundamental difference” between Protestants and Catholics?

        • TerryC

          People will most often act selfishly in a given situation. Or they will at least limit their activities to self interest. Note how many Catholics change their stance on some moral truth when they find that some family member has placed their soul in mortal danger based on their behavior. The family member will not change their behavior to conform to the truths the Church teaches, so the person alters their stand on the moral truth rather than believe what the Church teaches, that their family member condemns themselves to eternal separation from God by their actions.
          This is self-interest because the truth makes them feel bad and they don’t want to feel bad. They alter their stand on moral issues so they won’t feel bad and then justify the change, most often in Christianity by rejecting revealed truth for some Jesus they make up. This is acting badly.
          It takes a real infusion of the holy spirit to do the right thing. St. Maximilian Kolbe, Mother Teresa, even the holy priest who lives down the block and the woman across the street who always talks to you and skips lunch twice a week so she can afford to give to the poor are the exception, not the rule. That’s why they’re people we admire (if we know about them) and while they themselves have made the decisions to allow the holy spirit to work in them (what free will is all about) like all of us they struggle with temptations and sin. They’ve just figured out how to let God work in them. How ever if everyone was like that we wouldn’t even notice them. That we do proves the mean for goodness is rather lower.

    • Steve

      My primary opposition to gay marriage, divorce, abortion and contraception is that I see a great hatred and intolerance in it.

      ** SPIT TAKE ** … what??

      Maybe you’re right. The other day I bought a pack of rubbers, and all the while I really wanted to punch the cashier in the face and called him a fag. I never thought my ignorant bigoted hatred & intolerance was related to the purchase of contraceptives, and in fact before this very moment I would have thought the two puzzlingly unreleated… like laughably ridiculously stupidly in no way whatsoever connected… but you might be on to something…

      • Theodore Seeber

        Hatred and intolerance of the next generation is the link you are missing. Divorce, abortion, contraception, and gay marriage are all about removing procreation from sexuality; in essence saying “I’ve got mine and the next generation needs to be kept from existing”.

        • Alan

          Your issues with sexuality are a reflection of your hatred, intolerance and shortcomings – it says nothing of people who use contraception, are homosexuals or have abortions.

          But hey, you are entitled to your own irrationality I suppose.

          • Theodore Seeber

            I have no hatred of sexuality used for its primary purpose, which is procreation.

            You, on the other hand, seem to want to do everything possible to destroy that purpose. My only response is that you are showing a great hatred for procreation and the love that procreation brings.

          • Alan

            You have extreme hatred of sexuality used for it primary purpose – pleasure. It is very odd to not think that the most common outcome of the act isn’t the primary purpose and an occasional consequence is.

            I am fine with procreation, I have two children of my own. I am also fine having pleasurable sex without procreation. Your view on this is so sad, but hey if it is what you need to believe in to live with yourself more power to you.

          • Theodore Seeber

            Are you so incredibly ignorant of biology that you REALLY think sex exists only for pleasure?

            I feel sorry for your children. You are teaching them to disrespect women and parenthood.

          • Steve

            Ted… are you so incredibly ignorant of biology that you REALLY think sex exists only for procreation?

          • Alan

            Ah Teddy, I never said that did I? Something can exist for multiple reasons – Miller Light both tastes good and is less filling (or it may be neither but it makes the point).

            I feel really sorry for your kids, and your wife most of all. You are teaching them to disrespect and not appreciate the pleasures of the world you believe were created by your God. It is almost as if you have to deny the good in his creation because it doesn’t align to what you would like the good to be. Like I’ve said, such a sad shame.

          • Theodore Seeber

            Those who are for contraception are directly removing procreation from the act of sex, and thus are perverting it. Has nothing to do with God. Has nothing to do with pleasure, really, unless you somehow think using another human beings body solely for your pleasure is a good thing (in my mind, that is the only logical definition of rape, and is intrinsic evil).

            Sex has one purpose- to bring eggs and sperm together for procreation. Anything else is just a side effect in an effort to try to continue the species. This should be obvious to anybody with a brain, thus in the end result, I have to think that those who practice contraception don’t have the intelligence God gave a donkey.

    • Niemand

      My primary opposition to gay marriage, divorce, abortion and contraception is that I see a great hatred and intolerance in it.

      Hatred and intolerance? Let’s think this one through…

      Gay marriage means that people who are gay can marry their beloved and have legal rights and protections equal to those granted to and taken for granted by straights. For example, marriage rights make partners each others’ next of kin and thus more distant family members overwhelmed by hatred of the partner because of his or her gender can no longer pull that partner away from the bedside of his or her sick husband or wife. The only hatred here is refusing that right to people simply because you don’t like their sexuality. A sexuality they chose no more than you chose your own.

      Divorce? Laws making divorce easy and simple are associated with lower rates of domestic violence, lower rates of murder, and greater harmony. People are told to think of “the children”, but really there is no evidence that children benefit from their parents staying in a miserable marriage and some evidence that they are harmed by seeing domestic violence, i.e. that divorce is better for the children in some situations and unknown in others. In short, where is the hatred in allowing people to end relationships that are intolerable or simply no longer working? No one is advocating forcing people to divorce. Oh, actually, I take that back: People who are against gay marriage are advocating ending marriages between gay people against their wills. Ok, in that situation I agree that divorce is about hatred. But when it’s an agreement between two adults who no longer wish to be together? I don’t see it.

      Contraception use leads to lower rates of teen pregnancy, lower rates of STDs, lower rates of abortion, lower rates of unwanted children. Where’s the downside?

      Legal abortion leads to lower rates of uterine cancer, fewer unwanted children, and lower maternal mortality. At its core, the “pro-life” movement is essentially advocating slavery: even assuming for the moment that calling a one celled organism a person makes any sense, there is no situation other than pregnancy in which one person can violate another’s bodily integrity, even to save the first person’s life. It is rarely about saving “babies” and more often about hurting women. There simply is no other explanation for the Halappanavar and Beatriz cases.

      I don’t believe in a god or gods. But if I’m wrong, are you willing to face god knowing that you advocated child abuse, forcing loving couples apart, slavery and murder, and disease transmission because of your own hatred and unwillingness to let others make their own decisions? In your heart, I think you know that you are doing these things, but your privilege and desire to maintain control won’t allow you to admit it.

      • Theodore Seeber

        All of these contain selfishness for the adults involved, and no thought for the next generation at all. ALL of your examples are just rationalization for bad behavior.

        • Niemand

          Nice example of denial there. There is no selfishness in refusing to have children who will know nothing but suffering if they are born. There is no selfishness in ending a relationship that is making your partner and your children unhappy. There is no selfishness in marrying the person you love, if that is what you both want, and living life together as partners acknowledged by the world and any gods that care to acknowledge them.

          There is selfishness in demanding that some couples not marry because of your own selfish prejudice. There is selfishness in holding your marriage partner hostage to your own desire to continue a marriage that has obviously failed (especially if you’re abusing your husband or wife). There is selfishness in spreading your genes at random, without consideration of the lives that your selfishly produced children will lead.

          • Theodore Seeber

            “There is no selfishness in refusing to have children who will know nothing but suffering if they are born. ”

            As a special needs adult who knew that suffering first hand, and as the father of a special needs child, I am grateful for both my life and the life of my child, and resent your obvious bigotry and hatred.

            Maybe someday you’ll grow up and learn to be happy even when suffering. Or maybe not, since you seem to be bigoted against people with the wrong type of genes. And here I thought Eugenics died out in the 1940s.

  • ACN

    The quoted section reminded me very much of a favorite D&D-based-webcomic of mine:

    Part 1:
    Part 2:

    • leahlibresco

      Oh, I love OotS!

      • ACN

        I’m so sad for poor Durkon right now :(

  • Mike

    I left the Church of Nothing aka modern lefty secularism (as I’ve experienced it…it isn’t all narrow but alot of it is IMHO, so don’t jump down my throat.) because well it began too feel too restrictive I suppose. I couldn’t question expanding mass transit w/o getting whapped on the head, let alone abortion or religious freedom or immigration, family structure or sexual tastes. But as I became older and more established, as I started setting up a family and thinking about the future I began to lose more and more common ground with my urban secular friends. We began to drift and then now and then something some disagreement would pull us even further apart. I felt I was being open-minded, I felt I was the one who was questioning dogma, that I was being critical and intellectual and whatever. Anyway it didn’t take long to figure out they still liked me but the old me, the go along to get along me. And, well, what did they believe in, what were their values? I was heaping them on faster and faster as I got married, bought a house, had children, and moved up the socio-economic chain alittle. But they seemed to be stuck, still ranting and going on about taxes, distribution, social services being gutted and all the rest. And they didn’t seem to be coming up with new ideas either. So, yeah, it seems intellectual and it is trendy to reject and to not-judge etc. etc. but how long can that last and how satisfying in the long-run can it be? For me, it was fun and I still miss it sometimes, but overall I am glad I’ve moved on – grown up.

    • ACN

      Good for you?

      • Mike

        :), thanks.

    • Steve

      Yeah, I totally get what you’re saying. Sometimes I find reality far to restrictive to suit my worldview so it’s easier to turn my mind off and call it being critical & intellectual.

      I mean, that is the response you’re looking for, right?

      • Mike

        Hey, lay off :)! Sure it was a bit of a rant, a lament, too self-pitying too, but, it’s what happened. Steve, I see your point, but I think you’re being a bit snarky, no?

        Look, you are convinced that certain things are taboo, untouchable, unquestionable – beyond inquiry. And I agree with you that some are, but I guess we disagree on which fall into your bucket and which into mine.

        Personally I’ve found more intellectual freedom, more latitude to explore ideas and to apply good methods of rational inquiry, in some places on the “right” and in the “church” than among my atheistic secular ex-friends. That’s been my experience: many ppl feel differently.

        BTW, Steve, how can you be so sure you’re right? I used to think I think like you: I was sure, until slowly I began to have doubts…and then my secular atheism-lite, melted away – I lost faith in it.

        Now, I am sure you have some wity bit of mockery coming my way…

        • ACN

          Please spare us the Frank Turek-esque “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist” bit.

          • Mike

            You don’t buy it, ok, what can I do, but it’s what happened to me.

            I was a cynical bright, dumping on those simpletons on the right who believed in 6 impossible things before breakfast, until something started happening to me. It was slow at first but then it just fell apart. I tried to go back and re-think my new found place but the more I went back the less convincing it became. It had gone through some kind of intellectual conversion that was not of my prompting, I swear. Like I said I fell out with a group of ppl who spent all day talking about tolerance without ever practicing it.

            Oh and I’ve heard of Frank Turek, but I don’t know enough about him to comment. But I love Kreeft and William Lane Craig – both brilliant, careful thinkers IMHO.

          • ACN

            “But I love Kreeft and William Lane Craig – both brilliant, careful thinkers IMHO.”

            Obvious troll is obvious?

            WLC is a chaucerian fraud.

          • Mike

            WLC was impressive against Hitchens, as well as many others. I don’t know about his personal background or any of his other philosophical positions, but when it comes to debating God he is superb. Look you may disagree with him but his points are always clear, tidy, on topic, never insulting, and always seem to aim for the strongest part of an argument not on its most britle. Again, just my opinion, based on youtube videos and the something faith tour he did in the UK. But I know you don’t agree with him and I do.

            BUT see I also WANT to agree with him. What I mean is this: I WANT there to be a god like the God of the Bible. As CHitchen’s asked during his opening at the Oxford God Debate, why don’t you? :) Don’t answer I think I know why. ;).

          • ACN

            You appear to be confusing “good public speaker” with “careful and/or brilliant thinker”.

          • Mike

            You’re right maybe brilliant is a stretch, but he is very careful.

            BTW you can be brilliant and still wrong don’t forget ;) and brilliant and evil ;) and brilliant and deceitful ;).

          • ACN

            Do you need to punctuate everything you write with emoticons?

            It’s pretty clear from your praise and self-described “love” of him that you don’t think WLC is brilliant AND evil, or brilliant AND deceitful. Don’t bother vascillitating about it as though I’m putting words in your mouth. If you want to admire him, admire him. If you don’t, don’t.

          • Mike

            :) YES!

            Anyway, ACN, let’s catch up on another thread, this one seems to be going stale.

            BTW I was just kidding around. I don’t know much about WLK, but what I do has impressed me. Look even Dawkins wouldn’t debate him!

          • ACN

            “Look even Dawkins wouldn’t debate him!”


        • Steve

          Look, you are convinced that certain things are taboo, untouchable, unquestionable – beyond inquiry.

          … what?? The whole point of someone being a skeptic is that NOTHING is untouchable, unquestionable or beyond inquiry. You seem to think taking an argument used to criticize religious minded people can somehow be turned around and applied to non-believers, when it makes no sense. Don’t do that. It makes you look simple-minded and reflects poorly on believers as a group.

          Steve, how can you be so sure you’re right?

          I’m certain of few things in life, and I’m sad to say having figured out the world is not one of them. Whether or not there is a god or some sort of an afterlife is unknown to me, though it seems highly unlikely and more likely to be wishful thinking. What I am certain of is that no one here or anywhere else can speak of such things with any sort of authority. Self-delusions feeding communal delusions feeding self-delusions. That the world offers little in terms of concrete ground to justify how you aught to act, isn’t grounds for justifying the use of believing in the supernatural. Making life decisions based on superstition is akin to sticking your head in the sand. That some people are happier without the burden of actually using their mind I have no doubt.

          • Mike

            “What I am certain of is that no one here or anywhere else can speak of such things with any sort of authority.”

            Ok, so you are not certain there is no god, but you are certain that even if there was, no one would be able to know it and therefore no one would be able to say anything about it. And you’re certain of this, but this and only this.

            Ok, dude, I get it, I am telling you, I used to think exaclty like you! To each his own, etc. etc.

            BTW I didn’t mean to say you don’t question things or even all things. I guess I just don’t know/understand what you do stand for, what you do believe in? Remember the post, can you pick a humanist out of a line up? Well, I guess I still can’t. Anyway, Steve, we’re just going around and around and around and around now.

          • Steve

            I didn’t say I was certain of that and only that, but that (being that no one can speak with any real measure of authority for the gods existence or any of his qualities) is one of the things I’m as close to certain as I can be. It’s as if I were to flip a coin and you claimed to ‘know’ it was going to be heads. Whether or not it turned out that way, doesn’t change the fact that prior to the coin flip your assertion that you had some sort of knowledge was a falsehood, even if the end result ended up to be accurate. (though get it right 1000 times in a row and we’ll talk). With claims of ‘knowing’ there is a god, it’s the same thing. Whether right or wrong, you don’t know anything, making your assertion that you do a lie.

            There are 7 billion people in the world, with 7 billion different world views and moral frameworks. Some folks might fit more cleanly into 1 group or another, but the more specific you get, the more you’re in a category all your own. You can read the wikipedia page for secular humanism and learn all you need to about my worldview.

          • Mike

            I hear you Steve. Look at the end it comes down to this: you look at secular humanism and see things that you like and that’s the biggest reason why you think it’s right. I do the same thing with the RCC. We all do it. We are all biased. Even the most thoughful atheist is. Even Pope Francis is. As human beings there is something that makes us want to believe in a higher power. What that is, I don’t know but it’s probably related to the survival of the fittest and our genes, which tend to make us believing animals. But I digress.

        • Niemand

          I began to have doubts…and then my secular atheism-lite, melted away – I lost faith in it.

          Why? What evidence did you find that convinced you that there was or at least might be a god?

          • Mike

            I looked into it and found that many, many nobel prize winners and world renowned scientists believed in the Christian God; I researched the claims put forward for a God proposition in the natural sciences and found them more than intriguing; I read about the atheist philosophers who had converted and found their insights compelling; I thought alot about morality and injustice and my experiences with both; I reanalyzed the good and fortuitous things that had happened to me against all odds, in my personal life, and thought I detected the hand of providence, of God; I tried praying to help myself with my personal issues, and to my surprise it began to work; I started making up thought experiments testing the theory of God and found to my surprise again that without God, without that proposition, I ran into serious moral problems and logical inconsistencies; I looked around me at the world that was being promoted by atheistic secularism and saw good things and bad things and then the bad things started to out weight the good things; I had many experiences of what felt like God trying to reach out to me; the more faith I tried the happier I became, the more fulfilled I felt, the less anxious and cynical I was; I acted as if He existed and I began to see a future full of justice, promise, life and family and beauty; I began to hope again for the people in my family who had rejected God and fallen into substance abuse and depression and mental illness; I began praying more and more and feeling better and better; I saw a world in which people were at the centre of society and money and sex and power were smaller and less obtrusive and in proportion; and then I began reading about the RCC and it felt like I’d found what I’d been looking for…and so here I am now: a wretched sinner battling demons and trying to make sense of the world around me. I didn’t so much find proof for God as I had found reason for hope.

          • Niemand

            many nobel prize winners and world renowned scientists believed in the Christian God

            Many others do not. And what does that have to do with anything? Why does, for example, being good at physics mean that you’re good at theology or philosophy?

            I researched the claims put forward for a God proposition in the natural sciences and found them more than intriguing

            For example?

            I tried praying to help myself with my personal issues, and to my surprise it began to work

            Likely placebo effect. Prayer has been demonstrated to be ineffective in clinical trials. Glad you’re feeling better though.

            I started making up thought experiments testing the theory of God and found to my surprise again that without God, without that proposition, I ran into serious moral problems and logical inconsistencies

            Again, an intriguing statement. Care to give examples?

          • Mike

            Niemand: nothing i could possibly say would make any difference, I was just trying to be as honest with you as possible. I am AWARE of the arguments you’d make, I think, so what’s the point. Look, my only point is there are many, many, many, many good reasons to believe in God. Can we at least agree on that? Even if He doesn’t exist. Even if only for the therapuetic reasons, right? If it makes people feel better no?

          • Niemand

            Look, my only point is there are many, many, many, many good reasons to believe in God. Can we at least agree on that?

            No. Certainly not if you refuse to discuss it. I will, of course, drop the discussion if you’re tired of it or feeling uncomfortable, but I don’t think this statement is valid.

            Even if only for the therapuetic reasons, right? If it makes people feel better no?

            Not everything that makes people feel good are good or good in all contexts. Marx called religion the opiate of the masses for a reason: his argument being that, although both made people feel good, both caused damage. Religion leads people to do things like burn “witches”, fly planes into buildings, bomb buildings, and murder women for the “sin” of being sexually active. If I saw a drug with side effects that bad, I’d want a pretty compelling reason to take it. Perhaps there is a reason. There are good reasons to take opiates. Intolerable pain, mental and physical, is one. But the case has to be made that the benefits outweigh the risks. Especially when the risks include risks to others.

          • Mike

            Niemand, I like you :). You are a ferocious adversary! I am toying with you a bit but only in the most genial way, I promise. Don’t worry so much about admitting God exists, or might or could or whatever, I know, at least I think I know that if you’re here you’re smart and if you’re an atheist you’re probably very smart, seriously, no joke.

            Ok, look, is there at least 1 good reason to believe in God? Even one? And stop this business about the question not being valid, I am not kidding, just answer the question, this isn’t a trick…so is there even 1 valid reason?

    • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

      This is interesting but it is not very precise. It is very hard to believe in nothing. We want to connect ourselves with something bigger and less mortal than ourselves. For many atheists that is the liberal intellectual establishment. It sounds that way with you but you have not been precise enough for me to be sure. The reality is liberalism has dogmas just like Catholicism does. So the free thinker is not always so free. Still rejecting the pseudo-religion of liberalism does not automatically lead one to embrace Catholicism. It seems like there are some steps missing in your story.

      Glad to hear you like Dr Kreeft and Dr Craig. Craig does claim too much from time to time. Still both of them show very smart people can also be very religious people and not because they duck the hard questions.

      • Mike

        I am a simple person, but how anyone can believe all of this is the result of Nothing is beyond me.

        Therefore, the strongest argument for the existence of a god is simply that there is anything at all.

        PS One of my fav. Kreeft: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ9WQ4x8QSM

      • Theodore Seeber

        From my journey- atheism, Zen Buddhism, and Catholicism are the only rational religions that I could find; and of the three, Catholicism has the largest body of work keeping it rational and is the most skeptical about its own claims. FAR more skeptical than any secular atheist I ever met, and at least on par with the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch.

        • Alan

          Please, someone as irrational on sexuality as you can’t possibly be seen as credible in determining what religions may be rational.

          • Theodore Seeber

            I’m not the one who denies that sexuality, done right, leads to procreation.

            But hey, continue trying to make an irrational position rational and support irrational subjective sexual behaviors.

          • Alan

            Sexuality done right need not lead to procreation – you might need to retake those biology courses. More often than not, sex done right does not lead to procreation at all but it nearly always leads to pleasure.

            But hey, I know you need to suppress your evil sexual pleasure to make you feel better for… what, not getting laid when you were in college? Such a sad shame.

          • Theodore Seeber

            “Sexuality done right need not lead to procreation – you might need to retake those biology courses. More often than not, sex done right does not lead to procreation at all but it nearly always leads to pleasure.”

            If you don’t have fertilization, what was the point? Short term pleasure is worthless.

            “But hey, I know you need to suppress your evil sexual pleasure to make you feel better for… what, not getting laid when you were in college? Such a sad shame.”

            More for rapes committed in college that I will eternally regret. I should have saved it for marriage; not doing so created much suffering. I feel sorry for your children though who have a father who is so irresponsible.

          • ACN

            “If you don’t have fertilization, what was the point? Short term pleasure is worthless.”

            Be sure to tell that to yourself next time you appreciate 5 minutes of interrupted sunshine, take-in any type of food that’s not a nutrient paste, put on a record (yes a record, the damn mastering on mp3s and cds make them almost un-listenable), enjoy a comedy sketch, or feel smugly self-satisfied in being more right than someone on the internet.

            What utter nonsense.

          • Alan

            “If you don’t have fertilization, what was the point? Short term pleasure is worthless.”
            Wow, I mean I feel real sorry for your wife… Maybe some day you will be able to appreciate the pleasures your God created instead of denying them – so sad, so sad.

            “I feel sorry for your children though who have a father who is so irresponsible.”
            Ah, are you projecting again? More of your inferiority complex? MIT wouldn’t have you, you couldn’t get laid when you wanted to, your parenting is denying your children the wonders of the world, your sexual repression turns your back on your own God’s wondrous creations. It must be really hard being you.

          • Theodore Seeber

            There’s far more pleasure in a chocolate cake than there is in sex.

            At least I’m not cheating on my wife and removing procreation from sex and turning it into rape.

      • Mike

        “It seems like there are some steps missing in your story.”

        Just realized this was meant for me.

        Yes it did not lead directly but I guess that like Leah I wanted to test Christianity so to speak by trying out its most authentic, most long-lived, most tried, variation to see how well it would stand up to scrutiny. I wanted to try the most counter cultural Church. The one that most liberals didn’t like the one that dared say no, a person’s a person no matter how small, no, all children have a right to a mom and dad and on and on. It was exhilirating, trying on something so taboo, something so BAD!

        There were of course cultural factors as well and some familial but the decision to try the big RCC was my own.

        • Niemand

          all children have a right to a mom and dad

          Yet you are blissfully uninterested in the right of a child to have a parent who won’t beat them and treat them like a pet? Children do fine with two mothers, two fathers, one mother, one father two grandparents, or a foster family. Numerous studies have indicated no differences in the psychosocial outcomes of children raised by lesbian couples. The only one which showed otherwise was withdrawn for fraud-and wasn’t even all that impressive before the fraud was known.

          Religion says children must have two parents, one of each gender. No matter what. No matter how abusive the parents, no matter how miserable the parents-just as long as one has an XX and one an XY, all is well. “Liberals” say that happy parents who want to raise children are more likely to make happy healthy children. That love is important and not to be limited to the lucky few that society accepts (the straight, racially congruent, etc). That children need love and security and respect far more than they need a “male” role model and a “female” role model.

          You’re a bright guy. Make your own conclusions. Maybe it’s time for you to get over your adolescent rebellion and acknowledge that, yes, what your doing IS bad.

          • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

            Just because you want a child to have a mom and a dad does not mean you are willing to accept any sort of abuse. That is just silly. I would not assume that having a child obey their father is such a bad thing. So I don’t gasp in horror at the thought like Libby seems to.

            Children do fine with two mothers, two fathers, one mother, one father two grandparents, or a foster family. Numerous studies have indicated no differences in the psychosocial outcomes of children raised by lesbian couples. The only one which showed otherwise was withdrawn for fraud-and wasn’t even all that impressive before the fraud was known.

            This is just nonsense. The political environment is so charged no scientist will study it unless he can guarantee the desired result. He who pays the piper calls the tune. Politics funds science so science will obey just as surely as the child in Libby’s post. The scientist in the last line of your post is proof. He does honest science and his career is over.

            I am sure there is bias on both sides but the liberal bias is going to be larger. They control the universities and the government and the media. Not 100% but pretty close. It really makes science useless because basic integrity has broken down.

          • Theodore Seeber

            It’s only bad if like the rest of the Eugenicists, you are prejudiced against pregnant teenagers with permanent tans.

          • Mike

            Niemand, do you know who your mom and dad is? Did they raise you?

          • Mike

            Niemand: You’re right 2 men can be good parents, but as ALL 100% of children are the result of a women and a man coming together, ALL children 100% deserve to be raised by their mom and mom and if that is not possible than by a mom and a dad, one representing 50% of human species and the other the other.

            Look you may rant and rave until the end of time, but it will not change one bit the fact that ALL children are literally physically one part MUM and one part DAD. Tonight, look in the mirror and you’ll see BOTH your mommy and your daddy.

            Ok, we’ll catch up again soon. Take care for now.

          • Alan

            I guess nothing is more evil than when your God kills a mother during delivery – robbing the child of their rights before their first feeding can only be the work of a callous monster.

  • deiseach

    I disagree with Stoppard that (the character) Jirous is letting his hair grow because he’s indifferent; long hair was a political as well as a personal statement, and so he too is participating in “the game”; a truly indifferent person would cut his hair because he doesn’t care about whether that’s fitting in or not, or making a point, or defying petty laws, and continue doing whatever it is the Plastic People were doing anyway.

    Besides, I’m slightly wary or disbelieving of those who claim to be (or those who claim it on their behalf) pagans, in this context; like it or lump it, we in the West (and that includes the former Eastern Bloc nations) are post-pagan, so there’s no going back, there’s only re-constructing a notion of what paganism might mean.

    Though the Stoppard quote reminds me of something I read in a spy novel from the late 60s/early 70s, about a band of those kind of youth (not hippies but the counter-culture types) walking down a street where there’s a fancy car parked; the narrator stopped to admire – and be a bit covetous – of the car, but the kids didn’t even give it a glance, and the narrator thinks (to paraphrase) that he envied them that, their detachment from material things society dictates we should want, so that they didn’t even care enough to look at the car.

    Personal disclaimer: I missed the 60s but was just old enough for the 70s, truly The Decade That Taste Forgot :-)

  • JeezusHimself

    Christians worship a God that walked around the ancient Middle East desert belching, farting and squatting over a hole to shit.

    If I were going to worship one of the hundreds of Gods that humans have invented, I’d definitely prefer one without an anus.

    Just the idea that my God could have had a bad case of diarrhea is sort of a downer.

    • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

      It is a huge scandal that Jesus was a pretty typical man yet He claimed to be God. We don’t get just how crazy that idea would have been in the first century. Now we have the idea that bread and wine become God. Some have suggested that was to perpetrate the scandal.

      • Alan

        That’s ridiculous – claiming deification was a tried and true move of man from emperors in Japan to those in Rome.

    • Theodore Seeber

      Today, for me, as I’m suffering from the same fate, it seems somehow appropriate that God loved me enough to become a Man and get the runs.

      • JeezusHimself

        Theo, when you pray to Jesus, I hope he’s not up in heaven on his golden throne taking a huge shit.
        He might not be able to hear your prayers due to his straining to dislodge a huge turd from his asshole!

        What a god!!! I hope he gets plenty of fiber!

        • Theodore Seeber

          Bilocation is possible for Christ. But why be bothered by that?

          Being one with me in my suffering is more important than answering prayers- but I’m sure you wouldn’t understand that either since you’re such a sad example of a human being.

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