The typically brilliant Mark Steyn has a great piece on how secular atheisists are rationalizing themselves out of existence. Particularly pithy for the holiday season.
Peter Watson, the author of a new book called Ideas: a History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud, was interviewed by the New York Times the other day, and was asked to name ‘the single worst idea in history’. He replied:
‘Without question, ethical monotheism. The idea of one true god. The idea that our life and ethical conduct on Earth determines how we will go into the next world. This has been responsible for most of the wars and bigotry in history.’
And a Merry Christmas to you, too. For a big-ideas guy, Watson is missing the bigger question: something has to be ‘responsible for most of the wars and bigotry’, and if it wasn’t religion, it would surely be something else. In fact, in the 20th century, it was. Europe’s post-Christian pathogens of communism and Nazism unleashed horrors on a scale inconceivable even to the most ambitious Pope. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot: you’d look in vain for any of them in the pews each Sunday. Marx has a lot more blood on his hands than Christ — other people’s blood, I mean — but the hyper-rationalists are noticeably less keen to stick him with the tab for the party.
So the big thinker would seem to be objectively wrong in what, for a secular rationalist, sounds more like a reflex irrational bigotry all his own. A thinking atheist ought to be able to appreciate the benefits the secular world derives from monotheism — for example, the most glorious achievements in Western art and music. By comparison, militant atheism has given us John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, that paean to nothingness whose lyric — ‘Above us only sky’ — is the official slogan of John Lennon International Airport in Liverpool.