The mediocrity (or not) of humanity

Recently onegoodmove, a site I like a lot, posted an excerpt from a book called The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality. It was called “Six Reasons to be an Atheist” and seemed all right at first, until I got to number five…

  • The weakness of the opposing arguments, the so-called proofs of God’s existence
  • Common experience: If God existed, he should be easier to see or sense.
  • My refusal to explain something I cannot understand by something I understand even less.
  • The enormity of evil.
  • The mediocrity of mankind.
  • Last but not least, the fact that God corresponds so perfectly to our wishes that there is every reason to think he was invented to fulfill them, at least in fantasy; this makes religion an illusion in the Freudian sense of the term.

No, no, no. Also no, and no. If you think mankind is mediocre, you’re an idiot. Please shut up and go be mediocre yourself in a far-off corner. Humanity mediocre? Give us a fucking break. Monstrous, yes. Insane, yes. Heroic, too. Self-indulgent. Idiotic. Brilliant. Clever. Imaginative. Godlike. Wormlike. Evil. Good.

All of the above aspects of humanity, as paradoxical and maddening they are, are real. We’ve done terrible things. We’ve also done amazing things. But only the most bland and pessimistic moron, who has never understood anything about the passions and ideas and fears and visions that drive us, would think humanity to be mediocre.

So yes, many people believe in God because they’re afraid of death. That doesn’t give you the right to feel superior because you’re not. Yes, it’s great that you can look death in the eye like that. I truly admire that. But if you think that the mind that posits an all-knowing and all-loving being in response to the fear of death is mediocre… then you have no imagination, and no perception, and I’m sad for you. Yes, the Bible is full of bullshit. But it is also filled with writings and thoughts of amazing beauty and depth, not to speak of the works it has inspired. Religion gave us the Inquisition but it also gave us much in the way of visions and dreams and poetry that we would never have had otherwise, and I pity the small-minded fools who cannot see that. A distaste for dogma, blindness and fanaticism is a good thing, in fact a necessary thing in these times of intellectual and social decline; but fashionable misanthropy and snobbishness have as little to do with reason and logic and the principles of thought as the Democrats have with Democracy, or the Republicans with republicanism.

Re-reading the list, only points 1, 3 and 4 make any sense; the rest are extremely flawed. Texts such as this one (much like Richard Dawkins’ work) mean well but are ultimately pretty damn shallow and illogical. Religion is a complex issue, and should be treated as such.

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