Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Honorable Atheist by John C. Wright

For those of you who have not discovered this writer, I would like to point you to his work. He is not brief. He is not fluffy. He is, however, worth your time.

The Honorable Atheist

I don’t think it is necessary to defend the idea that there are honest and virtuous atheists. Unlike Leftists, there is nothing innately wicked or innately dishonest in their core values or basic assumptions which require them necessarily to support and defend wickedness, lies, indecency and cruelty.
Indeed, many of them are atheists because they conclude it is the rational position, and, if they are serious, they will hold that same standard of reason in other arenas when facing other questions, and may well live honorable and honest lives, because virtue is life lived according to right reason.
However, I think an atheist society (that is, a society whose basic values and virtues reflected in its institutions and laws are atheist and anti-Christian) cannot be honorable or honest for long. We cannot conclude merely from the fact that an atheist living in a primarily Christian society can be a decent man that the creation of atheist laws will create just laws, or atheist institutions will be decent institutions.
Atheists, even very honest atheists such as I once was, cannot be quite honest about history: either they ignore it altogether (a type of dishonesty) or they believe a self-congratulatory Victorian myth about how the modern world rose from the cesspool of the Dark Ages lead by that archenemy of the Church, winged Science with her Shining Sword of Truth, and in triumphant march overturned all the obscurantist superstitions of ignorant churchmen like  Copernicus and advanced, singing with glory, to the clear-thinking Scientific Achievement of men like Karl Marx and Ayn Rand, cured polio, fired rockets to the moon, split the atom, and we even now hover on the brink of one last final step upward to Utopia.
One would have thought the Great War would have put paid to this myth, but it is as current among atheists now as it was in the days of H.G. Wells. We Christians do not expect Utopia to appear on this Earth at any point before Doomsday, but there are good societies and bad, and pre-Christian and post-Christian societies are much more vulnerable to the temptation to be bad.
The testament of history makes it all too clear that such abominations as ritual sodomy, temple prostitution, child sacrifice rule the ancient pre-Christian world, and sacred sodomy, pornography, “one-child policies” and abortion rule the modern post-Christian world, with gulags and holocausts the accompanying the more vehemently anti-Christian societies, and political correctness and thought police accompanying the more benign strains of the disease.
Let us not mistake a belief in virtuous pagans, exceptional men like Trajan, Aristotle or Confucius, with the belief that a pagan society would be honorable or just or tolerable.
Let us also make a distinction between the morality that a rational and honorable atheist can reach and that which a Christian saint can reach. A rational atheist can find perfectly sound reasons to be just, temperate, moderate, and courageous, because these are examples of the reason ruling the unruly and selfish passions and tempers. However, no rational atheist can understand or justify the mystical love of chivalry, of charity to the poor, of self-sacrifice, or any of the Christian virtues of Faith, Hope, or Love. Loving your enemies simply is not rational and no non-Christian can see any reason to do it. At least, not rational by what the material world counts as reason.
Even a rational atheist, such as I was, is and must be a snob, because he must regard ninety-nine percent of all humans who have ever lived, and all the wisest and best men who ever wrote, as either chumps of a massive con game, or fools addicted to folly in the one area that most concerned them.
All atheists are snobs, and snobbery is no basis for an egalitarian society, or one that treats the poor and downtrodden with charity and generosity, or one that treat women with chivalry.
You see, even an honorable atheist has to fall into one of two camps: he either has to have the temperament of a pagan Stoic or grim and fatalistic Viking, someone who regards life leading nowhere but to death, but who defies the eternal darkness nonetheless (perhaps with a touch of self-congratulation because he facing a sad fact other men sugar coat in Santa Claus tales of a life after this one). Or the honorable atheist has a temperament of hedonist, who merely dismisses the innate tragic loneliness of that flicker of human life aboard Sol III with a shrug or a laugh. He knows an infinite darkness will follow the extinction of all human life on earth, and the death of all the stars, but he is concerned only for his own momentary gains and pleasures and pursuits, noble or ignoble.

In the final analysis...(continue)

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