You have to read this essay to believe it: Militant atheists are wrong. It’s a collection of what I call indignant pieties — “how dare atheists challenge my precious faith!” — and it’s also distilled, concentrated, essence of stupid, painful to read and even more agonizing to have to waste time arguing against. But then, it’s by Lee Siegel. Lee Siegel. There’s a man who has a lot of courage, exposing himself on the internet again. Siegel is the amazing hypocrite who denounced the ethics of the blogosphere, and then cobbled up a sock puppet ( remember “Sprezzatura”?) who went trolling around the blogosphere singing the praises of Lee Siegel. Fortunately, I don’t have to suffer over his nonsense too much — Melissa takes a bullet for the rest of us, stuffs Siegel’s brain in the toilet bowl, and flushes.
I do want to touch on one bizarre claim he makes while swirling down the drain, though.
Because the existence of God is undemonstrable, unverifiable and the object of an impractical leap of faith, religion, it seems to me, is one of imagination’s last strongholds.
Credo quia absurdum est. I believe because it is absurd. That sentiment — either a corruption or a paraphrase of the saying of an early church father — is the essence of religious belief. By taking a leap of faith in God, you create value out of nothingness. The more difficult it is to believe, the stronger the faith that flies in the face of absurdity. Your willingness to stake your life on the possibility of an impossibility makes a fact out of a fantasy.
I love that admission. I wish more theists would make it. It’s saying that the value of religion lies in its awesome idiocy — that no rational, reasonable person could possibly believe in that load of tripe, therefore, because so many people do believe in it, it must be valuable (and they so blithely overlook the possibility that the reason so many accept it is that they are irrational and unreasonable). A willingness to believe does not make a fact out of fantasy — it makes you a believer in nonsense, nothing more.
He also makes the claim that atheists sole argument is that religious people do bad things — “Judging religion by its instances of fanaticism is like judging a democracy by its crime rate” — but that’s not my argument at all. I think both theists and atheists do bad things all the time because they are human beings, and that what that really tells us is that religion does not rescue us from our human failings.
My gripe with religion isn’t that it makes one evil at all. My complaint is that it encourages people to believe in incredibly stupid things … a contention that Lee Siegel ably affirms and demonstrates.