(The title is a bit of an inside joke, coming from a former boss who was having a little fun when telling me what the editor’s mark “stet” meant.) In any event, I very much appreciated at recent post of Tipsy’s entitled, “The Fool, Revisited.”
He was offering some thoughts on Christopher Hitchens and the interaction of non-believers with believers of various kinds. Not to suggest I have Hitchens’ level of learning or writing chops, but I did recognize more than a little of myself in Tipsy’s description:
[Hitchens’] many Christian friends tell of how delighted he was to discuss religion with a true believer, but he rejected humbuggery.
I used to describe my particular brand of non-belief as agnosticism rather than atheism; possibly more as a reflexive aversion to the label “atheist” than anything else. These days, I’ll accept either label. I am agnostic in the sense that I don’t pretend certain knowledge that divinity does not exist. But, I suppose I’m atheist int he sense that I don’t think it’s a 50/50 proposition. In areas in which the divine seems necessary — e.g. “where did all the stuff come from” — I think the more likely explanation is some natural phenomenon we don’t yet understand. Replacing the question of “where did all the stuff come from” with “where did God come from” hardly seems like an advance in our understanding of the beginning of the universe.
As to the rest of it, most people in the world disbelieve in the legions of gods believed in at one time or another by others; I – to paraphrase Dawkins – just happen to disbelieve in one God more. That said, I sincerely enjoy discussing the matter with those who sincerely believe and through which belief they are able improve the world; either because they are inspired to be better people, create more, get up every day, raise wonderful families, or however it is their belief helps improve them. But, at the same time, I’m not above skewering the beliefs of those who use their religion as an excuse to make worse the lives of others.
Toward his close, Tipsy observes that, [a]ll fools are not equal.” Very true. I’ve often found the fool to be an interesting historical and literary figure. In my mind, the fool is a notable character when he uses his power to speak truth to power when others dare not. Hitchens sometimes played that role.
Update: Today seems to be my day to think about and discuss religion. Gary Varvel, of the Indy Star, put out a Tweet that tripped a wire with me:
It didn’t take long for the Tebow mocking to begin. He is in good company. Jesus was mocked too.
So, here is the exchange that followed:
Me: The NFL is thick with devout Christians loved by fans. @varvel should consider why Tebow is mocked, and they aren’t.
Him: Please educate me, why Tebow gets mocked, Doug.
Me: For starters, he engages in the sort of ostentatious display of piety Jesus derides in Matthew 6.
Me: It’s also backlash against favorable media attention beyond his qualities as a quarterback because of his ostentatious displays.
Me: He has also become a proxy in the culture wars – another excuse for the sides to hate on each other.
Him (in response to #1): I just thought he was letting his light shine before man as commanded in Matt 5.
Him (in response to #2): I guess Sports Center should tone down the 4 OT wins with the odds being 1 in 320,000.
Him (in response to #3): He’s not the one hating. He is kind to those who are rude to his face – like Shannon Sharpe.
Me: O.k. So what is your explanation? God cares about football games but everyone hates Tebow because he loves Jesus?
Him: I’m wise enough to know that I’m not wise enough to know.
I’m not going to go at Mr. Varvel directly. He was polite enough, and I engaged him. But, this Tebow stuff is part of why I have a hard time taking a lot of mainstream Christianity seriously. The Tebow phenomenon seems equal parts culture war and superstition from where I’m sitting.