Lisa Miller, Newsweek's Religion Editor, thinks you are boring. Okay, actually she thinks that arguing over religion is boring. So stop it. Seriously.
She wrote an article title and subtitled so:
Two White Guys Walk Into a Bar … Let's move beyond faith versus reason.
Well, maybe she thinks a specific documentary was boring.
Fourteen minutes into the new film Collision, my fingers started to itch for the fast-forward button. I desperately scanned the movie's press materials: "How long can this go on?" I wondered. (Answer: 90 minutes.) The documentary, which opens this week, shows the public intellectual Christopher Hitchens and an Idaho pastor named Douglas Wilson arguing in one drab venue after another over whether Christianity is "good for the world." So uncinematic is this picture—two middle-aged white men talking—that my attention insistently wandered toward anything humanizing and finally dwelled, for too long perhaps, on a fleck of something on Hitchens's eyelash. All the while Hitchens and Wilson went on and on and on and on, always well mannered, never conceding a thing. Really, what's the point of all this?
I haven't seen this particular film, so I couldn't answer her question. However, her question coupled with the sub-header under the headline suggest that her question is reaching further than two white guys locking horns about religion over beers. What is the point of this, Lisa? I'm tempted to ask rhetorically the point of the Civil Rights movement, but no doubt Miller and those of her ilk would find it boring and melodramatic, so I will leave it for now as I found it; a silly question framed impossibly poorly.
What does she think of you, dear Think Atheist reader?
The atheists are, more than other interest groups, joyous cannibals and regurgitators of their own ideas. They thrive online, where like adolescent boys they rehash their rhetorical victories to their own delight.
Oh my! What an interesting claim from someone who would only know of her God through indoctrination. I'd argue history might show her, too, but history shows a plethora of gods, yet she doesn't seem keen on worshiping them or protecting them from atheism's masturbatory vomit. Maybe she would if Odin were the God of choice and Christians were powerless in the public realm. I can imagine then that she would find the resulting conversations more interesting and important.
As advocates for those whose lack of belief has historically made them suspect, Harris et al. have been extremely important. But this version of the conversation has gone on too long. We have allowed three people to frame it; its terms—submitting God to rational proofs and watching God fail—are theirs.
Lisa seems to think that it is unfair that prominent atheists have framed the god question with reason and science. After all, belief is largely emotional and can't be reasoned with and science is not able to prove negatives, therefore it is a faulty system to judge this particular claim. I'd invoke Russell's Teacup, but Miller would find it as irrelevant to her special belief as any other god claim such as Horus or Zeus.
There are other voices out there, and other, possibly more productive ways to frame a conversation about the benefits and potential dangers of religious faith.
The strident atheists are annoying to Miller. Despite centuries of proselytizing by fire and brimstone preachers and followers alike, Miller would like to say that all is even after a mere handful of years of New Atheism. The music is too loud for her and she demands a quieter party. This may be why she starts recommending atheists that we should emulate.
In 2003 the historian and poet Jennifer Hecht wrote Doubt: A History, an exhaustive survey of atheism. She advises readers to investigate questions of belief like a poet, rather than like a scientist. "It is easier to force yourself to be clear," she writes, "if you avoid using believer, agnostic, and atheist and just try to say what you think about what we are and what's out there." Hecht is as much of an atheist as Hitchens and Harris, she says, but she approaches questions about the usefulness of religion with an appreciation of what she calls "paradox and mystery and cosmic crunch." "The more I learn, the more complicated things get, the more sympathy I have with religion," she told me one recent morning by phone. "I don't think it's so bad if religion survives, if it's getting together once a week and singing a song in a beautiful building, to commemorate life's most important moments."
See? An atheist that sympathizes with religion! An enemy that helps you apologize for your atrocities, maybe? An enabler for your addiction? You don't have to chase that dragon with me, just don't be too harsh when I do? Okay, for the sake of argument, let's go along with it. What next?
We need urgently to talk about these things: ethics, progress, education, science, democracy, tolerance, and justice—and to understand the reasons why religion can (but does not always) hamper their flourishing. This new conversation won't be sexy, but let's face it: neither is two white men in a pub sparring over God.
? Does she mean that it is time for atheists to listen to what people like her have to say about things like ethics
, and justice
Miller is defending a morally and intellectually bankrupt position. And the plummeting numbers in many Christian churches are probably not as alarming as the rise of non-believers and their growing chorus. Other religions are not as much of a threat as reason and science. So why not deride the very direct conversation as being boring and ineffectual in an effort to create more malleable atheists that won't snicker at their absurd beliefs and actually have the gall to point it out in the public forum? Perhaps they prefer we treat them as they treat Fred Phelps and his hate group the Westboro Baptist Church? Disagree with a few items and leave the core infrastructure unmolested so no one has to give any long, hard thoughts about themselves and their equally wacky beliefs.
Fuck you, Lisa Miller. And the fairy tale you rode in on.