Monday, October 5, 2009

Atheism in my modern world

Fortunately, most of us are intellectually capable of changing our opinions over time... except, maybe, for politicians who look upon changed opinions as a sign of weakness. The other day, I laughed when I observed Christine's marvelous dog Gamone waiting until our dirty plates were stacked nicely in the dishwasher before she moved in to lick them... much like polite humans wait until everybody is seated and served before tackling their food. Christine pointed out that she was horrified the first time she saw me inviting my dog Sophia to lick clean our plates, as if the dog's saliva were poisonous, infectious. I used to think in that silly way, but nowadays I know that the only way of being infected is to get bitten by an animal with rabies. As for the rest, the dog's saliva contains no harmful bacteria that won't disappear in the dishwasher. Inversely, I'm constantly afraid that my dog might bite into a rodent that has just eaten poison. That's why I prefer to catch mice alive, in the following excellent trap, which I've been using for years:

Whenever I find a mouse snared in the wire-netting cage, I accord him a fighting chance of survival—in a kind of Dalai Lama spirit—by taking the trap and its contents down the road and opening the cage in the presence of Sophia. I look upon what ensues as a kind of physical-alertness exercise for my dog, a little like those books of elementary problems, based upon letters and numbers, that are a popular pastime for elderly folk who prefer this mental stimulus rather than, say, writing blogs. Sophia seems to use her olfactive capacities, rather than her eyesight, to locate the fleeing rodent in the grass. And she soon pounces upon the mouse, generally crushing it beneath her heavy paws... whereupon I take the dead mouse by the tail and hoist it to eternity in the creek bed.

Now what does this have to do with atheism in the modern world? Well, in the same way that Christine has ceased to be disgusted by canine saliva, I've ceased to be anguished by atheism. With the wisdom of my many years spent in France, including in particular the time I've been living alone here at Gamone as a kind of areligious hermit, I've become totally enthralled by atheism... or, rather, by its positive dimension: my profound love of life and scientific knowledge, culminating in a total fascination for all living entities such as dogs, roses and even bacteria (although I haven't got around to domesticating any of the latter, and keeping them as pets). Admittedly, observers might claim that I don't seem to have got up to an acceptable cruising speed as far as admiring and loving my fellow human beings is concerned. But give me time. For the moment, there are attenuating circumstances: I've been watching too many films about the world wars, Hitler, Stalin and company. One day, if I continue my Dalai Lama-like ascension, I'm sure I'll end up accepting humans to the same extent as all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small... such as mice, weeds and viruses. [Don't take me too seriously. Towards the end of that last sentence, I was just joking. But I must be careful. How shall I ever find myself a wife if I start to fall into the trap of using misanthropic language? OK, I heard somebody say that it's already too late. Be that as it may, I should nevertheless take care of my language.]

The truth of the matter is that I had the privilege of growing up in a unique cultural environment—that of Grafton, New South Wales, Australia—which was an excellent breeding ground for future atheists. You see, the municipality was composed, about fifty-fifty, of Catholics and Protestants. Better still, my mother was Catholic whereas my father was Anglican. So, you might say that I had it in my genes to cease believing in God. [No, that last sentence is not really sound genetic talk.] In any case, I was strongly inclined to believe, from an early age, that it was absurd to imagine the peaceful coexistence of a Catholic god and a Protestant god, and this surely meant that both parties were misguided.

As a kid, I must have ridden my bike past this impressive edifice many hundreds of times. It was Saint Patrick's in South Grafton, the official church of my own mother, Kathleen Walker. But neither she nor any other member of my maternal family ever invited me to set foot in that newly-constructed building. I grew up looking upon that church as forbidden territory. As the nun's told my aunt Nancy, my mother was a mortal sinner, since she had married a Protestant. So, I was the offspring of a woman who had sinned, and her iniquity had no doubt rubbed off onto me from the earliest instants of my procreation.

Insofar as I was comfortably accepted into the refined gentlemanly circles of the Anglicans in Grafton, my personal experiences were insipid compared with the delightful tales told by the Irish comedian Dave Allen:

Today, there's a splendid website that deals with both the wonders of atheistic evolution and the stupidity of conventional religions.

Since the publication of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins has become an anti-religious militant. I have the impression that his stance was motivated, less by the traditional conflicts in the British Isles between Catholicism and Protestantism, than by the upsurge of ultra-conservative Judaism and radical Islam. Then, the shock of 9/11 was another terrible indictment of fanatic religion culminating in hatred and horror. The following video is quite long, and some of the images are hard to watch. But they are a striking demonstration of the consequences of madness caused by the God delusion.

1 comment:

  1. My own road to Atheism was a long and tortuous one - but was well worth the trip.