I don't know if it's me or not, but lately, atheism seems to be grabbing a bit more of the spotlight for itself in the media. Richard Dawkins has his new book out, The God Delusion, and he was recently on NPR. Internet forums, though still populated by a majority of "agnostics", seem to be developing a more hardcore, evangelical atheistic strain. Other atheists are being featured in the news more frequently, like Elton John. Just today I turned on my favorite rock station to hear a new hit song which was nothing but a declaration of atheism.
I guess that this might be a worrisome trend, but I can't say that it's a surprise. It isn't that any new discoveries have happened or that any stunning new arguments have developed; it's simply reactionary, though it is also a predictable consequence of the over-saturation of secularism which has crammed virtually every pore of daily American life.
A life in which God is not necessary. This is the secularist American dream--to attach oneself to the company of friends and the consolations of experience as, if not a kind of salvation, then an especially comfortable despair. The indulgence of a last meal before the inevitable execution, filled with increasingly more delicate and rare delights, more powerful drinks, hotter peppers, more decadent greases, cleverer and more enjoyable companions. Dead man walking? Dead man eating.
This is not to say that such involves any more a complacency toward world evils than is the temptation of the religious sort. Liberals and atheists do have a sort of monopoly on the claim to care about the world. It's the Marxist critique all over again--the poor sods only have this life to live. Not only I, but everybody has the right to as much of a "last meal" as I do. We're all going to die, it's the worst form of inequality that most are not offered a cigarette.
I suppose it's understandable that the push for civil rights and world amnesty would develop more of a pathos within the atheist framework. Meaningless pleasures; meaningless sufferings; if all is meaningless, then the difference between pleasure and suffering itself the last measurable hill to die on. It's a mistake to suppose that it is a one-way track from atheism to nihilism; there is a far more tolerable detour, from atheism to phenomenology to hedonism, then through cynicism to nihilism. The one who is only interested in his own stomach is in some sense more advanced than the moralistic Marxist; he has learned the vanity of utopian dreams.
But human civilization has Alzheimer's; lessons learned become passe and bourgeois, and we imagine that what was really wrong with the old totalitarian ideologies was only just a small thing, and we can do better than they did at the same project. Let us ban silly religion; those who find themselves unable to "live for the day" are simply morose and can be safely institutionalized.
I can't help but feel that there is a kind of malaise which is now blanketing the earth; just as the universe is growing further apart and colder, so now the human race's very energy is winding down. Immediacy is the watchword; the only salvation I desire is the one I have to walk the least distance to acquire. And there is no distance greater than the cross for the one who has no hope.