In James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the novel’s protagonist Stephen Dedalus is listening to an argument his father and aunt Dante are having with a Mr. Casey about the place of the clergy in Irish society. The talk was prompted by the scandal surrounding Charles Stuart Parnell, an Irish nationalist leader who was condemned by the Catholic Church. This condemnation set back the movement for Irish independence considerably.
—God and religion before everything! Dante cried. God and religion before the world!
Mr. Casey raised his clenched fist and brought it down on the table with a crash.
—Very well then, he shouted hoarsely, if it comes to that, no God for Ireland!
The passage came to mind as Pope Francis, traveling in Mexico, commented that political leaders who wanted to build barriers to illegal immigration were not truly Christian. He was referencing Donald Trump, the current front-runner for the Republican Party’s nomination for president, who has made opposition to illegal immigration a central part of his campaign.
Who are we to argue what is Christian with the Pope? We’ll take him at his word: building walls instead of bridges is not the Christian thing to do. Trump is a big phony and a blowhard who is not a good Christian. Sure thing, Francis.
Let’s not jump on the Trump bandwagon, but let’s also be fine with giving Christianity the boot in the ass out of public life that it richly deserves. Let’s be absolutely fine with America not doing the Christian thing; we’ll be a better and stronger country for it.
Building a society around a holy book isn’t a recipe for success. And like many other religious documents, the Gospel of Christ is full of a lot of very bad ideas. Loving your enemies is masochistic. Turning the other cheek only gets you hit twice. The current Pope comes from the Kumbaya school of Christianity that holds that if we all just love everyone enough, we can create a just and peaceful world. Christianity has (in theory at least) been trying this for more than 2,000 years, I think it’s safe to say it doesn’t work.
Where are the secular social-justice warriors telling the Pope to butt out of our national debate on immigration and sovereignty? Where are all the self-proclaimed “male feminists” objecting to the import of thousands of the unenlightened?
The Christians who are promising love and world peace are just as delusional and self-righteous as the ones threatening fire and brimstone. Both camps will gladly lead us to ruin, if not by the Christian right’s aversion to science and obsession with gays and abortion then by the Christian left’s naïvely embracing those who would destroy us.
Donald Trump is a fraud and a buffoon, and he’s not the answer to our national question. But for all Trump’s idiocy, his campaign understands this simple fact: if you don’t have real borders, you don’t have a real country.
We cannot solve the world’s problems by inviting people from all corners of the world to come live with us. There are other ways to help that won’t harm our country. Any charitable efforts ought to be tempered with a measure of rational self-interest.
Our well-meaning religious friends think that they are doing God’s work and that the magic of their good intentions will somehow turn bad people good and make everything OK. I wish them luck with that, but these beliefs are not a basis for a responsible immigration policy. As a country we need to be the adult in the room.
I don’t remember the exact time I converted to atheism, but the September 11 attacks were the nail in the coffin of religious faith for me. The deadliest faith-based initiative in New York’s history, the attacks illustrated religious fundamentalism and proved that human decency and religious faith were two very separate and unequal things.
For years I had tread that line in the middle of the road as an agnostic, but that’s long over. I don’t believe there is a God or any gods. Of course I could be convinced if presented with evidence of the Devine, but so far none has been forthcoming. It’s not something I like to argue about or point out in conversation; most of my family and friends follow some sort of religion or another. But I left religion behind and never looked back. I gave up church for Lent years ago and my life has been improved.
So it’s with a church scold’s dismay that I have learned that the “atheist church” that was started in London as a joke has become a real mega church with branches in several cities including New York.
These gatherings, known as The Sunday Assembly, feature some interesting speakers at times, at least according to their web site, but otherwise seem to promise all the obnoxious kumbaya of hippie-poisoned religion with the self-congratulating zeal of evangelical nonbelievers.
The atheist church is an illustration of the spineless nature of our times. People want the comforts of religious faith while being able to look down their nose at people with religious faith. They want to revel in the label of atheist while cocooned in a congregation of followers.
Atheists don’t go to church and that’s one of its greatest benefits. We don’t have to sing hymns or put money into collection plates. Atheism is turning away from the comfort of religious faith because intellectual honesty and cold hard facts make it impossible to accept.
Be above the constant navel-gazing identity affirmation that gums up so much of the current discourse. Not believing in God is a fine thing, but replacing faith in a mythical creator with an obnoxious need to belong just makes you another weak drone.
These atheist groups are either a smug mocking of people who are religious or a sad admission that people can’t live without religion. When atheists flock to church, or some sad excuse for a church, they’re trying to have it both ways.
The whole point of being an atheist is that you can’t be a follower like that. And this whole free-form meeting to read and discuss whatever you want, that’s been done already. The Society of Friends (a Christian denomination) beat you to this racket by almost 400 years, so congratulations: you’re Quakers.
This is the same garbage attitude that sends people to new age religions. People want the transcendence of spirituality but don’t have the stuffing to make up their minds about the tenets of a religious faith.
So please, if you’re an atheist, be an atheist. Atheists don’t go to church.