Another Note, Another Table

22 01 2014


I was so taken by the note I’d run across the other day in Nebraska (see recent blog “Note on a Table”), I figured I’d return to see if lightning struck twice. It did. Same coffee shop, different table, another note. Does this guy see me coming? Does he regularly leave his missives at the table for any random person to read? Is this his way of “getting the word out”? Whatever his reasons, here is another letter I discovered from Mr. (or is it Mrs. ?) D.B. Wyatt.

Nothing but Now
by D. B. Wyatt

“Probably Not”

I see what I see. All I’ve got is what I have. A couple of grown kids, a pleasant spouse, a few kicks and bruises doled out by life. Some irreparable friendships, a few lies for safe-keeping, a good dog, a comfortable house with a fenced back yard for the grandchildren some day (knock on wood). And some stories. Quite a few of them, actually. Life lived at the micro level, where paying attention is required. You see things others don’t — and probably don’t want to. Sometimes you have to shake your head and look again. A memory of something very small, happened on a Tuesday afternoon about 3,000 Tuesday afternoons ago. You remember. But you’re not sure why. Sometimes you are.

I’ve seen a lot. All I’ve got is what I’ve had. Some poems published in reputable magazines. Long conversations with friends long since gone. A run-in once with William Faulkner. He and his wife were visiting Omaha for some writers’ conference at the college where I taught, and he had been asked to speak. My better half and I were selected to take “Bill and Estelle” out for drinks and dinner afterwards. They both drank more than they ate and got into a big row about money. I made the fatal mistake of siding with Estelle to minimize the embarrassment it was causing all of us. Didn’t end that well. Then there was my friendship with Gus, my mechanic for 30+ years. Smartest guy I ever knew. Would quote Wittgenstein while fixing my carburetor. I asked him once if he believed in God. He told me, “Wittgenstein said, ‘Since the mystical is inexpressible, there is nothing more to be said.’” That was his reply. That’s all he ever said about the subject. Every once in awhile I’d catch him walking to the local Baptist church on a Sunday morning, all dressed up, smart shoes, bow tie. Alone. Never quite figured Gus out.

If you focus on the frame, that’s all you see. If life is supposed to add up, you’ll only see the additions. But if it isn’t ~ if it’s supposed to not add up, which is presumably where faith comes in, then we’re stuck doing additions while the truth is not a sum but some product, a quotient. I’m reminded of my early math lessons when I thought I’d go that route instead of writing poetry: “The derivative of a product is not the product of the derivatives.” You’re not even asking the right questions if you think life is supposed to add up. Is God supposed to add up? If God were God, he wouldn’t.

So probably not. I’ll keep my manifesto for another day, just in case. But God? This is about all you can say:

(f g)≠ f t g t


Note on a Table

18 01 2014


Had to go to Nebraska for a couple of different reasons. Went to a coffee shop for breakfast and found a note lying on the table. This is what it said.


My Future’s Manifesto
by D. B. Wyatt


I can see it and hear it now: Computers so smart they can actually mimic spirituality, because we’ll find that that a sufficient amount of computing power actually leads to an innate exocentricity – the impulse to “go beyond” one’s capacities, and this inevitably leads to a belief in God. The replication of intelligence begets replication, which by law of finite extrapolation, always leads to a desire for more. So get smart enough and you’ll want more than you have, and need more than you are. It’s a natural urge, which means that religion would have been developed whether or not there was a God. This doesn’t disprove the existence of God, but it makes it much less likely that such a being exists.

I can see it and hear it now. Computers so smart they can out-write, out-rhyme, out-paint, and generally out-create us. Because we’ll find certain innate algorithms built into nature that are expressly designed to create, and we’ll be able to replicate (and even manipulate and perhaps even improve upon) those algorithms in computers, but given that their computing power is so much greater, they will be able to out-perform us in creative tasks. So a computer will be funnier, more charming, even more sexy, than its human counterpart.

So religion will become a relic of the past, a natural stage in the progression of human intelligence, as we find that computers themselves begin to get not only personalities, but faiths. And this will prove, convincingly to most people, the true provenance of religious belief.

We’ll also come to the conclusion that we actually aren’t moral animals, we humans, and that our instincts for goodness are actually adaptability strategies in order to get along. We’ll find that there is no right and wrong, technically speaking, and that such concepts are developed for the propagation of the species. We make this shit up in order to survive, in other words. And it usually works, except when it doesn’t. It backfires because nature backfires. Every natural cycle is incomplete. Nature isn’t perfect – if it were, it wouldn’t change. Evolution is the process of attempting to reach perfection, which would be homeostasis. Religions call it eternity.

Anyway, all these religious impulses, all this morality wrought out of guilt, all this inspiration that supposedly came from the gods – all of this will, in time, be understood for precisely what it is – mechanisms built into the process of change for the purpose of insuring the survival of the host. Morality has no actual moral content of its own. Things are what we make them to be, and we make things that reflect what we want to be.

Will this lead to chaos and a rupture in the social fabric? Hopefully not, as people begin to accept that to live is better than to die, and so we must do everything we can to insure not only our own survival, but the survival of our progeny. This instinct alone, the desire and will to survive, will be recognized as the ultimate impulse—the ultimate religious impulse, if you will—that must be protected. Living will become the God. Life will be the God. Life will be God. God will be Life. It will be reduced to that kind of simplicity. There will be no need for sufficient complexity. It will be a call for sufficient simplicity. The simpler, the better, the more elegant, the more economical, the more efficient. Nature is actually on course to becoming more simple. It’s just that the road to get there is pretty complex ~

“I’m sorry this letter is so long. I didn’t have time to write a shorter one.” Blaise Pascal

The Jig is (almost) Up

5 04 2013


I think I’m slowly coming to terms with the whole phenomenon of the atheist fad for the ruse it truly is; that it isn’t so much about whether God actually exists or not (that’s an accidental philosophical by-product) but more about not liking to be told what to believe and how to live. It’s essentially an anti-establishment impulse wrought to a blunt point. I find that atheists are generally of two types: 1) malcontents who don’t like to be told what to do or how to live, even though they’ve been told what to do all their lives–and continue to be told what to do by their betters; 2) and existential elitists (this includes scientist types, bitter and/or entitled members of the cultural elite, and second-tier philosophers), who don’t like to be told what to believe, even though they are told what to believe by their betters every day.

Look, I’m the first to admit that one of the most aggravating establishments known to humankind is the Church, which has had a lot of desperately terrible things done in its name over the last 2,000 years, which gives a lot of people a lot of reasons to be anti-establishment. But the plain fact is, the Church has also done innumerably good and wonderful things over that same span of time, things that don’t typically make the five o’clock news because good news historically makes for bad copy. Just like any human institution, it’s a mix of good and bad, tawdry and sublime. Like Martin Luther once said, “The Church may be a whore, but the Church is my mother.”

And let’s admit it, the standard atheist explanation for existence is just plain ugly and brutish. They may claim their explanations for existence are elegant, even beautiful, but that’s only because they focus on either the products of existence (a sunset, supernovas) or its mechanics (action at a distance, the double helix). Yeah, I think those things are beautiful, too, but that has absolutely no bearing on whether the Atheist explanation for why they exist is beautiful (or not). That’s like pointing to a beautiful child who is athletically gifted and concluding that she must come from a wonderful family. Huh?!? One has nothing to do with the other. Fact is, the atheist’s explanation for life is existentially threadbare. There’s nothing beautiful or mysterious about it. It fails the aesthetic test, and fails it miserably. I miss the atheists of old who at least had the requisite huevos to understand that God’s death was nothing to celebrate, but instead was something to mourn because it made for a pretty bleak existence if it was true. But there aren’t many of those folks around anymore (the Sartres and Nietzsches of the world) because it takes “men with chests” (as C.S. Lewis put it) to believe what they did.

Scientists are concerned with the questions of what and how, which they happen to be quite good at answering. The trouble comes when they assume that, in answering the questions of what and how, they’ve simultaneously answered the question of why, too. But that’s just… well, bad science. I think of my high school math teacher, Mr. Anderson. I’d been moved a few years ahead in math because apparently I showed a proclivity for numbers and abstract quantities. Actually, I remember loving math. By my sophomore year in high school I figured I’d reached a sufficiently advanced stage of math that I could justifiably start asking the question “why” certain mathematical properties held. Big mistake. Mr. Anderson looked at me like I was from Mars when I started to press him on why, exactly, the Pythagorean theorem worked. Why?!? he said incredulously. What do you mean Why? It was the last math class I ever took, at the tender age of fifteen. Point is, you can know the what and the how of something and not have the vaguest idea of the why. You can know the what and how of material existence, for example, and not have a damn clue about the why of it.

I read and re-read the stories of Scripture that answer the questions of our existence, and I find them compelling, even beautiful, for a number of reasons, not least because they have the feel and smell and taste of reality. They’re so un-made up. Take, for example, the stories surrounding Christ’s post-resurrection appearances. These do not read like tracts someone conjured up in order to sound convincing. In fact, on one level they’re very unconvincing. The disciples don’t recognize Jesus at first, women are the first to report his resurrection (which you’d never say even if it were true because, back in those days, that didn’t exactly add credibility to your story), and still, after Jesus has made an appearance, some of the disciples don’t believe. The first century was not a stranger to rumors of ghosts and apparitions and hallucinations. It took fish over a fire on the shores of a lake to convince the apostles of Jesus’ bodily resurrection.

For these very reasons, the stories have a feel of authenticity, an eye-witness vibe to them. They’re life size, exactly what you’d expect from eye-witness accounts, so that in their expressed incredulity shines the very heart of their mystery. They contradict each other in small places, make the ones who are doing the reporting seem daft. There’s little, in other words, of propaganda about them (though those with a political or theological or ideological axe to grind see propaganda dripping from every word. “To a hammer…” and all that).

This is all to say that the atheist jig is up, at least for me. They–atheists, too many of them–just seem too angry to be thoughtfully engaged, too cock-sure to be trusted, and too agenda-driven to be taken with anything more than a grain of salt. And they too often end up foisting themselves on their own petard by insisting on logical, proof-ridden arguments for their positions, positions that so often lack precisely those things: logical precision and any proofs beyond anecdotal evidence. Those who believe in God, on the other hand, have no trouble with anecdotal evidence and aren’t imprisoned by the constraints of airtight logic simply because they’ve never claimed for an historical second that the position of faith can be proved. Faith rests on anecdotal evidence, on witnesses with holes in their testimonies, on the intuition of the masses. And when it comes down to it, that’s all our explanations have to live up to.

A Pair of Docks

12 03 2012

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” G. K. Chesterton

Virtually everything we do — all transactions, social, economical, psychological, emotional, and practical — depends on what Kant called the “categorical imperative” and what I’m calling the paradox of trust. For trust between two people to exist, which is what is required in the successful completion of a transaction of any kind, there must be sufficient reason to uphold trust as a reliable value constant — in both giving it and receiving it — that necessarily transcends mere altruism or even self preservation. And to those who say that we trust each other because it promotes the longevity of the species, I say, “How do you know?” It appears as if not trusting in some cases is every bit as much a reliable harbinger of survival.

At some point, when you divest yourself of small probabilities and simply decide to trust the enigmatic creature next to you called a human being, you must be counting on something that runs against every instinct hardwired into your cerebral cortex. And yet this decision to trust is the foundation of all human culture — and it clearly cannot be the other way around, as we would perpetually stalk the sidelines waiting for the first person to act altruistically. At what point does baby brother become competition for resources rather than partner? I get the man/woman thing, but a couple does not a culture make. And the extrapolation from couple to family to tribe to culture is not a linear one. Introduce a second family and you’ve introduced a pretty large variant. Introduce two groups of families and you’re now dealing with tribal mentalities. Everything in evolution, in other words, works against forming large communities (aka cultures). To simply assume that people decided to get along, and that that’s what eventually led to villages and towns and cities and cultures, is to bury the conclusion in the premise. How did it ever get to anything beyond sheer propagation and maybe a scatter of family connections? I mean, isn’t family often the least reliable group of people one should count on? I guess my point is, whence the altruism?

And that’s a whole other point, actually — the genesis of altruism. There is no room for altruism in a strictly materialistic view of things, since altruism presupposes that you willingly, and with no thought to your advantage, engage in a highly risky venture of doing something for another’s sake. But then, you’re acting against instinct, and why would you do that? I don’t see other animals doing it. They only appear to do it if it means that the species is being extended in some way. But then, if that’s so, it isn’t altruism at all, is it? since it still comes down to satisfying a primal urge to reproduce on a species-level.

So this basis of trust that forms all successful transactions of any kind must be based on something other than our instincts and other than altruism. And yet it must be, in the main, reliable. But for this to be so would require that it be a separate mechanism from the evolutionary one. It must come from a different place entirely, be of a different quality altogether from the sheer physical impulse to survive; have a different telos, even.

Chesterton was right. If you are a strict materialist and believe in nothing but the brute fact of our random existence via natural selection and survival of the fittest, then you can’t even finally say “Thank you” to someone for passing the mustard. Trust, that basic foundation of all human culture, must have its origin in something entirely outside of human-to-human transaction for it to be, well… trustworthy. A system cannot depend on itself for survival; it always extrapolates to something greater; is always inevitably referential. Turns out, basic human culture is the biggest and best argument for why God must be real. Or for why, at the very least, belief in God must be culturally advantageous. Actually, belief in some higher power is an absolute necessity for our survival as a species. We cannot engage in any meaningful activity otherwise.

Admittedly, we’re still left with a decision about whether the object of our belief is necessarily real, or whether only the belief itself is necessary. But no matter how you slice it, you can’t fault someone for believing. It’s precisely what allows all those disingenuous atheists out there to survive, ironically enough (which is why the very name, not to mention the belief system, of atheism is intrinsically parasitic: it depends on theist for its survival. This is what Chesterton meant in his quote above). Call it a paradox, call it a tautology, call it irrevocably circular, call it what you will. But the fact is, not believing in God makes absolutely no sense in the end, whether or not God is real. Believing in him is quite simply the most rational and logical thing one can do.

None of this, of course, directly proves the existence of God. It only proves the necessity of the existence of faith. But then, what does that tell you?

The Evolution(s) of Man

7 03 2012

Let me see if I’ve got this straight. According to an article in TIME magazine this past week entitled “Getting to NO: The Science of Building Willpower” by Jeffrey Kluger (5 March 2012), the reasons you do the things you do can be summed up pretty tidily by simple reference to your prefrontal cortex, “the CEO and chief justice of the bedlam that is your brain.” Turns out, it’s the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of your decision-making apparatus all wrapped into one. Nice.

So here’s how it works: your midbrain is the adolescent who only knows “Yes.” I guess the functional equivalent of your id. It is responsible for your most “decadent appetites — for drinking, gambling, eating, smoking, sloth, sex…”

Fascinating that eating and sex are “decadent appetites” right up there with gambling and smoking. Who would’ve thunk?

And apparently, in our highly developed brains, the midbrain has a distinct advantage over our prefrontal cortex (so much for your prefrontal cortex being CEO and chief justice): “The battle between your noble lobes and ignoble ones isn’t even close. Eating, having sex and sleeping are vital for the survival of the species, so evolution arranged for them to be irresistibly pleasurable.”

Now eating, having sex and sleeping are considered “ignoble”? Who wrote this piece? Some lapsed Nazarene? Turns out, the same guy who wrote “Too Many One-night Stands? Blame Your Genes” and “Spend Too Much for those Shoes? Blame Your Genes” in past issues of TIME magazine. Is Mr. Kluger suffering from an over-weaned guilty conscience and needs to find scapegoats for his unsavory appetites? My genes made me do it! Hey, at least he’s aptly named… (see my post on “Kluges, Klans, and Chocolate Kake”)

And since when did evolution *arrange* anything? I thought it was a blind process, dependent on random mutation and natural selection? At least that’s what I learned in school. Has the definition of evolution changed?

But I digress. So the front part of your brain and the middle part of your brain are in a pitched battle for your allegiance. One generally says “yes!” and the other says “no!” But now I’m confused. If, as Kluger claims, “Eating, having sex and sleeping are vital for the survival of the species, so evolution arranged for them to be irresistibly pleasurable” explains why the middle part of your brain wins over your prefrontal cortex (it’s a biological matter of necessity!), then why are smoking, drinking, and taking drugs, also urges regulated in our midbrain region, so irresistibly pleasurable, too? Clearly they’re not essential for our survival — quite to the contrary. Turns out, according to Kluger, these urges “sidestep evolution and pick the chemical locks of the brain’s pleasure centers directly.”

Now evolution can be sidestepped? How the hell do you do that? I mean, even mutations are merely another one of the causes of evolution, along with genetic drift and natural selection. But sidestepping evolution? That’s about as ludicrous a notion as evolution *arranging* something. And this guy is TIME’s science editor? Did he have a bad day when he wrote this article? ‘Cuz he’s written a lot of really interesting articles, too. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

And now we get to the part of the article that deals with the title’s theme: willpower. Your front brain, turns out, has an ally, and it’s a muscle. No, wait… it isn’t a muscle. Or is it? Kluger states, “We work that willpower muscle every day — and like any muscle, it often goes weak,” and again, “Most folks trying to strengthen their willpower muscles…” But then he also says, “Of course, the brain is not actually a muscle, apt as the analogy seems.” So I guess it’s not a muscle. But then, where does the willpower part of the brain reside? In the frontal part, right? Well, not exactly. Apparently willpower is a matter of balance between the front and middle parts of the brain. But then, who regulates the balance? I mean, where’s the mind when you need it? According to the article, the midbrain “regulates desire; the prefrontal cortex governs control.” But who governs the midbrain and prefrontal cortex? The cerebellum?!? Kluger says that there are ways to strengthen your willpower through a series of mental calisthenics. But that still leaves the question unanswered: who controls willpower– who strengthens it, in other words — and where does it reside?

One theory is that glucose regulates willpower. The more glucose, the more willpower. But apparently not all scientists agree. Bummer, because if it all came down to glucose, then recovering addicts could just suck sugar cubes all day. Or tic-tacs, since willpower “requires the sugar equivalent of less than half a Tic Tac per minute.” So here’s a tip: want to remain chaste on your next hot date? Just bring about 60 Tic Tacs, which should give you about 2 hours of willpower. You’re on your own after that.

But wait, it gets better. We find out that willpower is “elusive” and yet “trainable and cultivatable.” Apparently not that elusive. Bigfoot is elusive. The Shepherd’s Beak whale is elusive. My dog is trainable (though maybe not quite cultivatable). But you can’t be both. We then learn, “The simple truth is that the brain evolved from the back to the front . . . . The back is the wanting part, the front is the restraint part, and they’re both with us all the time.” So the wanting part came first. Why is it, then, that of all the animals in the animal kingdom, we suffer the most from lack of restraint? I mean, we have the advantage of a really developed prefrontal cortex, right? Then why are we the only species that takes more than we need? Dogs and cats don’t. Elephants don’t. Bees do, okay, but that’s only so when the inevitable bear comes along and steals the honeycomb, the colony doesn’t implode. Even our closest relatives the Great Apes don’t take more than they need. I don’t know about you, but I’m becoming less and less impressed with my prefrontal cortex.

Once again, Kluger “kluges” (can I use that as a verb?) when he writes, “… the lower brain may be trouble now, but it was not designed with moderation in mind.” Wait a minute, the lower brain wasn’t designed at all, remember? It just evolved that way. (Sorry, but I just had to straighten that out.) The article goes on, “Human beings emerged in a world in which resources were highly limited and there was no percentage in reflecting too much on whether and when we availed ourselves of them.” So apparently there was no advantage to restraint. But then, why did our prefrontal cortex develop in the first place? Did our world, over the course of millennia, become less dangerous, and resources become less limited? That would have to be the case, since our midbrains would have been in control the whole time, and midbrains don’t like to be restrained. Kind of like legislators voting for their own term limits. Just doesn’t happen (even with our prefrontal cortexes intact!)

The article only manages to get more convoluted if you happen to be paying attention. Kluger writes, “As with all studies, it’s difficult to tease out whether a malfunction in the brain led to the compulsive behavior or the compulsive behavior changed the brain.” Compulsive behavior — the very thing our midbrains are wired to encourage — is now related to a malfunctioning brain? But I thought we evolved that way? First there’s no advantage to restraint. Then we find that doing only what you want is a malfunction. But which is it? The article concedes, “It’s even harder to know exactly where on the spectrum (of compulsive behavior) problem gambling becomes addictive . . . . Still, the behaviors (of non-problem gamblers and problem gamblers) have similar roots. ‘In both cases there is an imbalance between the restraint and indulgent systems’ . . . . ‘Indeed, when you look at true addiction, compared to a moment of giving in, it doesn’t even look all that different in the brain.'”

Well that’s interesting, because it sure as hell is different in this thing called real life.

In the end, the article never really answers some of the most obvious questions, at least in any coherent manner. Questions like, Why are our desires strongest for things that harm us? And why does evolution include systems that sabotage each other? At many points along the way, the article concedes to ignorance: “Not everyone agrees that this is how neural metabolism works” and “If it’s clear that we all occupy different spots on the willpower continuum, it’s much less clear why.” And yet another question arises: wouldn’t it make sense that those who are low on the willpower continuum would eventually be sampled out by evolution? But it seems like the exact opposite is happening in the evolution of culture. Self-restraint is as low on the collective continuum as it’s ever been. We’re giving our Cro-Magnon ancestors a run for their money in the immediate gratification department. But the article doesn’t address any of these things.

Kluger ends where his other articles (the My-Genes-Made-Me-Do-It! articles referred to earlier) began: it’s not my fault. He writes, “You’re on a diet, you have a bit of ice cream, and then — what the hell, the day’s a loss anyway — you might as well finish the whole pint. There’s a lot of what passes for thinking in this, which makes it hard not to blame yourself after a binge is done. But you may be less responsible than you think.” But of course.

More and more, neuro-psychology and evolutionary biology are going the way of Freudian psychology. They are becoming pseudo-sciences obsessed with conclusions that are not, in principle, falsifiable. They can explain anything by simply being fluid enough in their definitions. If something doesn’t fit the evolutionary model, then it must be “side-stepping” evolution. If a particular mutation doesn’t have the requisite causes to explain its existence, then its environment of origin is tweaked to account for its presence (one minute our ancestors’ environment was hostile, wherein the midbrain was sufficient for our purposes, then the next geological minute, our environment is safe enough to account for the development of a prefrontal cortex; whence the change?)

This article is but yet another clear example of the evolutionary hypothesis dictating from behind. It adjusts its definitions to fit its findings. But then, isn’t that the scientific method? Of course it is, and that’s perfectly fine. But at what point are we going to wake up and admit that the evolutionary hypothesis by itself cannot account for itself? I’m not advocating creationism here, mind you. Far from it. But I mean… evolution has so many holes the more we scrutinize it, it’s beginning to look like a mosquito net.

The article ends with studies and their attendant “findings” that don’t even pass the “no shit” test. I’ll spare you the details, but if you do happen to read it, do yourself a favor and ask yourself, after reading the conclusions of some of these scientific studies, if your mom didn’t tell you the same thing when you were 5. Or Aesop didn’t write about it 2,500 years ago. Or the Bible doesn’t say the same thing in a much deeper and more clever way. The article ends with this bit of cookie-cutter wisdom:

“None of this is easy — and the fact is, none of it is fun, at least in the very short term. But if there’s a happy side to all the new research, it’s that the muscle analogy works both ways. It’s true enough that exercising willpower can lead to a kind of psychic ache, and it’s true too that that can lead to a short-term failure of resolve. But over time, incrementally, fatigue becomes strength and ache becomes commitment. Your lower brain may always have the fun, but your higher brain, with practice, can still say how much.”

Isn’t that called growing up?

The Claw

26 02 2012

A really lovely story that just posted in that nascent cloud of non-news called social media got me thinking. It’s a story about a little 3 year-old Australian kid named Noah who somehow finds his way into one of those claw vending machines. You know the ones…. built for the sole purpose of frustrating any effort at nabbing the little plush toys that stare back hopelessly from their little plastic purgatory? Not to be deterred, little Noah found a clever work-around (Noahs are good at that sort of thing). He climbed up through the down-chute and, once inside, started handing out the plush little toys to all passers-by (mostly of the 10-and-under variety). It was a wonderful, non-Euclidean moment of cosmic divine pay-back.

So what’s the point of telling you all this? Well, it reminded me of atheism, naturally (clearly I need a new hobby). You see, it was much easier for Noah to get into the vending machine than to get back out. He had to be coaxed, prodded, pulled, cajoled, and begged back through the chute to his waiting, anxious mum. Atheism, too, is much easier to get into than out of (philosophically speaking, that is) since it requires nothing but a set of eyes, half a brain, and a working pulse. And once you’re in, the temptation and pressure to stick around rivals that of any religious institution or cult (except maybe the Mormons and a few other sects mainly ensconced in Oregon). And not unlike little Noah’s experience in the plastic box of plush toys, once the “toys” run out, atheism turns out to be nothing more than a really hot, oxygen deprived, see-through plastic box. With atheism, once the obvious arguments against religious belief have exhausted themselves by dint of their existential flimsiness, you’re left to stand on nothing but a false sense of courage and bravado for being able (supposedly) to stare into the abyss without blinking.

Atheism fetters itself by making life mean nothing and everything all at the same time. It makes complete sense and yet no sense at all; it is, as G.K. Chesterton once famously quipped, “a mean infinity, a base and slavish eternity” (from “The Maniac” in Orthodoxy).

The Eagles once sang about my lovely part of the world, “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” Well, you can leave atheism, of course, but like love and war and, well…. claw vending machines, it’s much easier to get into than to get out of, for the simple reason that getting out requires a healthy dose of common sense and not a small measure of humility, not exactly things in full supply over at Atheism Headquarters. True, the same could be said of many believers of the more conservative variety, but at least they’re right about God’s existence. They’re just wrong about almost everything else.

Needless to say, little Noah was the belle of the bowling alley, and his charming story can be found here:

Intuition vs Reason

3 02 2012

A study at Harvard published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology (Sept. 19, 2011) entitled “Divine Intuition: Cognitive Style Influences Belief in God” concluded that when people use intuition rather than reason, they are far more likely to conclude that there is a God. Intuition is a different way of knowing than reason. Attempts to know God by reason alone will fail. Atheists insist that reason is the only way to truth. That’s why they’re atheists.

I have to laugh at those atheist websites that have a laundry list of “celebrities” who don’t believe in God. That’s like having a laundry list of conservative Baptists who don’t believe in evolution. Probably the single greatest asset to a celebrity is his/her popularity. It’s not very popular in the world of celebrities (of the Hollywood or literati type) to be religious. So what do you get? A list of celebrities who don’t believe in God. Alert the media.

But even if it weren’t that disingenuous and these celebrities actually didn’t believe and had reasons beyond what any idiot might say about the matter, why should I care? If I want my teeth cleaned, I go to a dentist. My heart fixed? A cardiologist. My toilet repaired? A plumber. To be amused? A celebrity. For meaning larger than myself? Religion. I could no more care what Brad Pitt thinks of God than what Rebo the Clown thought of quantum mechanics.

I pity the souls who have willingly trapped themselves inside the Church of Atheism, where the common, everyday realities of love and courage and brotherhood must necessarily be reduced to nothing more than evolutionary coping mechanisms wrought by synapses in the brain. Talk about an impoverished religion.

No thanks. I’ll stick with common humanity on this one and believe (and intuit) that there’s still such a thing as mystery, and among the bigger mysteries, the human capacity at hubris, which is, in the end, what atheism boils down to. But then, isn’t that what Genesis 3 has been saying all along? The unbridled pursuit for total knowledge–to become gods ourselves–always ends in a fall of some kind. It’s Humpty-Dumpty all over again, people.

And all the king’s horses…