Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dogs and Dogma

Recently,  I started reading a memoir by an atheist, one who used favorite old chestnuts to describe people of faith, "fairytales" and "mumbo jumbo" being the most popular cliche words. I assume "mumbo jumbo" is a veiled reference to the Latin Mass in Catholicism. Fairytales have been around for 2,000 years and so has Latin, the "mumbo jumbo" of Virgil, Ovid, and Seneca. What is not thousands of years old is the religion of irreligion, the kind spouted in this memoir. I thought I would be reading about a woman's life. Instead, I was reading about what fools the writer perceives those who believe in God and an afterlife to be. This memoirist states the emotions of humans and dogs are very alike, only our emotions are somewhat more refined. I hasten to add we also use the facilities and not a tree when it is time to relieve our bladder. I  did not finish reading the memoir, not because I am a Christian, but because the writer was boring in the way all proselytizing zealots - whether believers or non-believers - are always boring. Groucho Marx said, "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." If a writer is dismissive and ridiculing toward those with whom she disagrees, I lose interest in her book.

When I think of atheists I know, I think of a member of a book club I participate in, who no matter what book is being discussed, always manages to work in a reference to the Inquisition in a way that suggests it happened last Wednesday. When he does, I think of the Monty Python Spanish Inquisition sketch (you can watch this treasure on YouTube). I also recall a friend telling me she cringes every time she sneezes when someone says "God bless you." I remember what a bit of a bother my atheist friends are during the holiday season (note I did not say Christmas). To avoid offending them, I have to purchase secular stamps, and cards with bunnies in the woods or santas peeing in the snow. On the very great plus side, I think of another friend, a writer who is an atheist and whose writing is filled with wit and compassion. There is not an ounce of missionary zeal about anything in her work. It is just graceful, luscious writing. When I was young, sometime after the Spanish Inquisition, there was a great deal of hoopla about the threat of godless communism. Odd conversations took place about whether or not an American could enjoy the work of a communist artist. I felt then as I do now, I can, as a loyal American, only enjoy the work of talented artists.

I can't help wondering why zealous atheists are so obsessed with denouncing faith and those who possess it. Why is faith such an apparently enormous psychic enzyme in their lives and literature? There is a wonderful scene in a film by my favorite atheist and relentless nihilist, Woody Allen. Annie Hall and Alvy Singer are waiting on line to see a movie when someone near them expounds loudly about the work of Marshall McLuhan. Alvy is upset because the man is so pedantic and so wrong in what he is saying. Suddenly, McLuhan appears and tells the man "I heard what you were saying! You know nothing of my work!" Alvy turns to the audience and says "Boy, if life were only like this!" More than once when listening to the condescending talk of an unusually smug atheist, I have thought how awesome it would be if God would make a miraculous appearance and say, "Here I am."