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The priestly class laments spiritual zombies

September 22, 2012

Thanks to PZ Myers at Pharyngula, for pointing out some catholic priest attacking skeptics and non-believers as part of his ministry. What the point of the ministry is, I couldn’t say — making the congregation feel good about themselves, perhaps? But he wrote a screed so bad that he felt it necessary to yank it.

Dwight Longenecker is apparently writing some awful book that includes a discussion of atheists. He has some very strange ideas about us, as this excerpt shows. [Oops, wait! That page has magically disappeared! Good thing I grabbed a copy before he deleted it.]

Yeah, funny thing. I also found it cached by Google, so it’s not that easy to get away with, ‘father.’ This is his posting, a book excerpt.

Is there really such a thing as an utterly authentic atheist? I think so. I have a dreadful feeling that there exists a sort of human sub-species who have lost their spiritual capacity completely. These authentic atheists do not profess belief in God, nor even disbelief. Instead they seem entirely deaf to such ideas. They do not hate the Church or say the Bible is a fairy tale. They do not spit out bigoted remarks that blame the Pope for the holocaust or missionaries for murder. They do not attack the arguments for the existence of God, say the universe is random, or call Rick Warren a simpleton. They do not rage against God, any more than someone born blind has dreams in color. These are the authentic atheists. They plod through life eating, working, shopping, breeding and sleeping, and God never seems to flit across their consciousness. Members of this sub-species may be sparkling sophisticates or ill-bred boors. They may be the decent and moral folks next door, or they could be despicable murderers. In a frightful way, it doesn’t matter. If they exist, perhaps they have bred and spread like the alien bodysnatchers, and exist in our midst like spiritual zombies—indistinguishable in the teeming mass of humanity except to those few who see them and tremble.

This is also an attack on more militant atheists like myself, since now we’re inauthentic if we’re not apathetic. There are some skeptics who really don’t give a damn, and if I were living someplace like Sweden maybe I would be one of them. Unfortunately we are living in this supposedly judeo-xian country dominated by xians of various sorts who can’t agree on much, other than that they all don’t like non-believers and they do love to brag about their god-concepts.

It’s just the imagining of these zombies bereft of ‘spiritual capacity’ as if there was some quantifiable region in the brain or a sensory organ for it, this insulting language of a ‘sub-species’ drifting through their meaningless lives as something decidedly less than human.

I mean, the priest is a jerk. Yes, it attacks his livelihood that people exist who could care less about…his whole line of work, but calling them subhuman is just begging for prejudice, discrimination, attacks. Against skeptics. And that’s what he calls authentic. How much worse must we be, skeptics like me, who do understand the apologetics and arguments for god-concepts and how to demolish them, who do lay blame for religiously inspired atrocities right where it ought to go.

And after writing that rant, and then deleting it because uh-oh, maybe it didn’t go over too well, he follows it up with this rant about hell. Which I will also copy in its short entirety, since that may well disappear too.

I suspect that people who deny the existence of hell because God is “too good to send anyone there” are really proposing that God is too good to send them there.

It is ironic that people who believe in heaven are sometimes blamed for wishful thinking. Isn’t it that more likely true of those who disbelieve in hell? I say this because the person who disbelieves in hell doesn’t really believe in heaven either. He believes in oblivion. He desperately hopes that he will cease to exist after death. In other words, he hopes he will not have to give an account for himself–that he will get away with it after all, and this, it seems to me, is real wishful thinking.

The priest flips the problem of evil around into a personal attack on the challenger. Rather than address the apparent injustice of infinite punishment for finite ‘sin,’ instead he suggests that these debunkers are just bad people, who have lived shameful lives, and hope there is no afterlife justice because of that.

Beyond the problem of wishful thinking for heaven, there is also the believer’s wishful thinking for hell. Let’s face it, where do epithets like ‘go to hell’ come from but the fervent hope of the believer that someday, somehow there will be some accounting for folks who seem to get away with things, or whose crimes seem so beyond the pale that the believer lashes out in pain and anger. Heedless of the real meaning of calling for endless torture and suffering.

I think I know why this priest prefers to go on the attack and flip challenges around, rather than actually address them. He doesn’t have an answer for the problem of evil. I know it; I’ve spoken with catholic priests about it, I did before I left the faith more than two decades ago. They can’t answer now, they couldn’t then, they couldn’t a thousand years ago. They’ll try to baffle you with seeming logic and they’ll try to explain away pieces of it and they’ll try to shift blame, which is essentially what the priest is doing here. What they can’t escape is responsibility — which is what makes this attack so ironic.

And the best their god-concept can do is give the answer god gave to Job, in that story. Might makes right. Fuck you, I’m God.

God’s speech also emphasizes his sovereignty in creating and maintaining the world. The thrust is not merely that God has experiences that Job does not, but that God is king over the world and is not necessarily subject to questions from his creatures, including men. The point of these speeches is to proclaim the absolute freedom of God over His creation. God is not in need of the approval of his creation.

Anyway, interesting to find prejudice in an argument complaining about skeptics’ “bigoted remarks,” or the desperate hopes of an arrogant bastard cloaked in his own complaints about others’ supposed desperate hopes. I suppose he’s just emulating his god-concept.

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