Friday, January 18, 2008

John C. Wright

A diagnosis:

That central image of God being stabbed and vanishing into dust is a paramount one to the emotional nature of atheists. The atheist (I speak from personal experience) feels like someone fighting a ghost. An atheist utters a simple and logical argument to show why no one should believe in God, and yet, for some reason, the belief in God persists. No matter how often you clobber the ghost, not matter how frail and insubstantial it seems, the damned thing just won't die.

It does not make sense. Reasonable people cannot believe such nonsense, yet, for some reason, everyone does, everyone you admire, all the great figures of history, all your ancestors. The stress of facing the impossible warps the mind: something has to give.

What gives is your sense of humility. Something snaps in the atheist mind, and he becomes an Illuminati, an Enlightened One. The atheist realizes, with breath-taking, awe-inspiring, wondrous awe, what the answer is. The reason why he does not believe in God and everyone else does is that He Is Smarter Than Everyone Else. He is enlightened; they are benighted. He is rational; they are superstitious. He is the Man of the Future; they are apish men of the past. He is brave; they are craven.

Some atheists stop at this point and go no further. They are reasonable men, and they stay reasonable men. They have, either on an emotional level a sense of decency, or on an intellectual level a stoic philosophy, that enables them to carry on in a rational way, and they do their work and don't cheat at cards.

Other atheists cannot stand the strain of being the Lone superhuman in a world of ape-men, and the stress causes a second rupture: they think that they are above moral rules. The temptation whispers in their ear: if God is dead, everything is permitted. If the belief in God is irrational, who is to say the belief in social mores, traditions, laws, honesty or chastity is not equally superstitious? The atheist remembers the day he stopped believing in God, or the day he realized he was smarter than everyone else: every time he swings the hammer of the iconoclast, and breaks another long-held ancient rule, every time he shocks the world, a sense of liberation, of enlightenment, comes once again.

They get drunk on iconoclastic shock. They want to smash ideas. They want a revolution.

They become followers of Nietzsche, or something equally as depraved. They say they stand beyond good and evil; they say that notions of right and wrong are control mechanisms, and that a brave man casts aside normal notions of right and wrong. They say that sex is natural and marriage is unnatural, and that unnatural sex is the most natural of all. The atheist ceases to be a real atheist at this point, and becomes a member of a cult, in psychology, but in in actuality. Their new beliefs have all the earmarks of religious dogma, but merely leave out a personal or conscious God. The atheist-turned-cultist becomes a partisan of some causes or some mystical concept, the Life-Force or the March of History or Evolution or Transhumanism. Those with less lofty ambitions turn their devotion and energy into political causes, like environmentalism, or socialism.

The one strangely recurring theme in their various different philosophies, and I cannot explain why this pattern shows up again and again, is a hatred of innocence. These atheist-turned-cultists never seem to like marriage, families, children, babies. If they like one, they tend not to like the other. (Robert Heinlein, for example, liked babies, and had definitive opinions on child-rearing. But he hated marriage: he regarded monogamy as a trap and fornication as liberation. If you believe my theme given above, you can see in Mr. Heinlein's writing career when he suffered iconoclasm addiction and went from a reasonable, decent atheist into an atheist-turned-cultist. I will give you a hint: STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND.)

This dislike of family life takes several forms. In AMBER SPYGLASS, the sexual neurosis of Mr. Pullman are sufficiently clear that they need little comment from me: Mr. Pullman is trying to make the argument point that Christianity discourages and demeans the sex act, which is the central life-creating and liberating act of all time, the very thing that saves the universe. It is just not sex withing marriage that has this magical and uplifting power. When he talks of the liberating and creative power of sex, Mr. Pullman means "unchaste sex" only. No one in the end of his novels ends up married to anyone else. No one even ends up together.

In atheist-turned-cultists of the Leftist political persuasion, the sexual neurosis takes the shape of a ghastly desire to kill babies in the womb. They want sex without real-world consequences, and since one of those consequences is Junior, Junior has to be depicted as a mere mass of cells, a Nigger, and subhuman, and subjected to abortion.

But it is innocence itself that these iconoclasts dislike, the simplicity and purity of innocence

It looks like there is also some good discussion going on in the comments to the post.


Plastic Yank said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Plastic Yank said...

Thanks for bringing this up. It was illuminating, as John C. Wright's thoughts always seem to be.

Matt said...

Every sin is wound up together in iconoclasm.

James A. Donald said...

Christianity is a memetic disease, as vaccina is a viral disease. Vaccina protects one against a far more serious viral disease, and Christianity protects one against several far more serious memetic diseases.

John Wright said...

Odd that Mr. Donald should mention this, because, of course, the belief that ideas are memes is itself a memetic disease. It merely spreads, like a virus, from intellectual to intellectual, and it numbs the faculty which would otherwise warn them that, if their idea were taken seriously, it would apply equally to themselves as to others.

One can see why the meme of "meme" spreads so quickly. It allows someone of humble mental accomplishments to sound profound when he admits he has no willingness or ability to grapple with the actual content of the idea so glibly thus dismissed.

The "meme" meme is a convenient mechanism for avoiding reflection.