Atheist Schisms: Alice and Mr Dawkins
Even though Richard Dawkins taught at Oxford for the best years of his life, he never met Alice.
Alice, you’ll recall, was happiest having tea in Christ Church meadow, getting drowsy over her books, and falling down rabbit holes where she encountered all kinds of strange creatures no one had ever seen.
The probability of having never seen Alice, whose memoirs describe smiling cats, talking caterpillars, rabbits in waistcoats and the Red Queen’s caucus race–in great detail–beggars the odds and raises serious questions about whether Mr Dawkins ever taught at Oxford at all, or if he did why he never left his room.
A natural skeptic and proud atheist would want to test the testimony, as it were. Yet there is not one recorded instance of the good professor plodding through the meadow and so much as kicking up a tuft of grass or picking up a lifeless dogeared playing card to check the sources.
This raises a question in my mind. Are the atheist fundamentalists really that skeptical, that thorough? They claim not to have seen a lot of things–miracles, resurrections, God, and the like–but given the fact that they have not even taken the time over a pretty thin volume like Alice’s biography, why should we trust them with a hefty book, full of massive improbabilities, like the Bible?
They invoke something called science, or naturalism as a proof of their knowing a thing or two about not knowing a thing or two. But I ask you: the sea monster Leviathan had to be fairly impressive, or his story would not have lasted a thousand years. Wouldn’t a real atheist want to slip on a pair of flippers and a mask and head for the Mediterranean just to be sure?
According to usually impeccable American media sources like the National Geographic Channel, Noah’s ark has been spotted on a number of rocks. Even the exoskeletons of marine animals long thought extinct have been found encrusted in its petrified planks. I suppose a scientist who can’t be bothered to find a rabbit hole won’t make the journey to Sinope to check it out. But as long as those boards go unexamined, I respectfully reserve my right to believe the flood happened just the way Genesis says it did–all sloshy forty days and every drenched zebra of it. A pure skepticism requires nothing less. We’ve got the word, we’ve got the wood: what do you fellows have?
Perhaps I shouldn’t mention the New Testament, but it seems to me a little homework would turn up “thank you notes” from at least a dozen of the five thousand men, women and children who were fed bread and fishes on that hot Thursday afternoon. These would not have been sent because thank you notes never are. They are the most massively preserved species of domestic literature after unopened tax bills. Find the family bibles of their descendants, you’ve got your evidence.
After noshing all that stodge they must have been thirsty; has anybody bothered to look for the canteens? This is simple archaeology, but over the heads of our so-called atheist fundamentalists.
What I hate most of all is when atheist fundamentalists get all pious about their atheism. Take the recent bus and subway ad-campaign that tells us “1,000,000 New Yorkers are Good without God.” You’re going to trust this statistic when it comes from guys who won’t leave their lecture rooms to see if it’s raining? 1,000,000 New Yorkers are also good without a extra slice of cheese cake, while ony 75,000 look really good in spandex: so what? 3,000,000 New Yorkers don’t believe in voting. Most are atheists. Don’t believe me? Go ask. That’s what a scientist does.
Besides, numbers games are tricky. Wait till the Baptists roll out a bus that screams “22,000,000 Jesus-believers who attend fish fries can’t be wrong.”
But back to the hot topic, the atheist schism. Hardcore and softcore atheists, big tent versus wigwam unbelievers?
I agree with some of my friends that there can’t be a schism in atheism because atheism is a big muddle, a jumble of ideas. Think of your mind as the accumulated junk of fifty years just waiting to go up for sale on card tables next weekend. Then it rains. Atheism is like that. Some say it’s a stream of thought. Some say it’s a rolling river. Like love.
At any rate, muddles and puddles can’t have schisms–that’s clear enough. So how do we know that atheism can make you as good as a believer? I have thought about this a good deal since the last bus rolled by and think I have an answer that any scientist worth his powder would agree on.
It’s based on my personal method of assessment that I call the Mercurial Goodness Index.
Goodness needs to be defined as the result of how much about God you don’t believe in. If you don’t even believe in the possibility of God (there’s a very fancy name for this in philosophy but I forget it), then you are totally good. A secular saint.
If there is a particular god you don’t believe in, then your goodness has to be calculated according to the number of things you don’t believe about him.
For example, 10 points for not believing he created the world, 10 points for not believing he created the human race, 20 points for not believing he wrote the most boring sections of the Bible, 5 points for not believing that, even if he created the human race, he did not create Republicans. Maximum 80. Only fair-weather and backsliding Christians, Jews and some Muslims can play this game. Secular- leaning Muslims who do not believe in God are required to surrender their weapons as a token of their skepticism.
Skeptical Hindus will be scored according to the number of gods they don’t believe in up to a maximum goodness score of 330,000,000 (way more than the number of good New Yorkers). They receive ten extra points if they also confess that Hindusim is a very silly religion.
Buddhists can play, but must be very quiet about it and not reveal the secret of their goodness.
I think even the most committed atheist will agree, this is the best way forward.