Atheists flexed their muscles this weekend, with the ‘Reason Rally’ in Washington, D.C. (I guess only atheists use logic and reason). I was going to ignore the subject all together, since most Americans really don’t care what your personal belief or non-belief in God is, but then I ran across Ross Douthat’s piece in the New York Times, Tebow in Babylon. It’s an interesting take on the future of Tebow in the Big Apple. I think most sports fans can appreciate it, except many from Chicago and Boston, where there’s often a latent inferiority complex rooted in the fact that they’re not New Yorkers…
Douthat rolls until he starts talking about what a “sophisticated” atheist and a “sophisticated” Christian would believe about Tim Tebow. First, the “sophisticated” Christian:
The sophisticated Christian, meanwhile, may be a little embarrassed by the whole Tebow business. A sophisticate’s God doesn’t care about trivia like who wins football games. A sophisticate’s theology doesn’t depend on what some musclehead does with the pigskin.
Actually, Ross, if God gave all of us talents and wants us to realize those talents to our greatest potential, on many levels he does care. Life is a celebration, and all around us are things of beauty. In the middle of a vast empty cosmos (itself a thing of complex beauty) sits us, human beings with free will and imagination. It’s not the Christian’s fault that when Ross Douthat goes to a football game he can’t see the miracles taking place all around him. God most certainly has a vested interest in the hopes and desires not only of every person on the field, but of every person in the stadium, provided those hopes and desires are pure.
And that’s the rub. Deep down, we know when we are driven by the desire to be the best we can be, and when our motivations are poisoned by greed, vanity or vindictiveness. We know when the preparation we put into an endeavor is fueled by something inside us that screams, “Live life to its fullest, because it’s the only one you’ve got!” We put ourselves through pain and suffering that can only come from doing something others say is impossible, and we know when it’s done not for material gain but to quell the thing inside us that asks, “What have you done with your life?”
The Ross Douthat’s of the world are being disingenuous when they frame the debate as if God is sitting back with a bag of potato chips causing off sides penalties or creating touchdowns as he tallies the prayers of the players on the field. They do this because they know that when they’re paired up with a “sophisticated” man of faith, it is they who often look the fool.
And with that, we come to Douthat’s take on the sophisticated atheist, who highlights nicely the hopelessness that makes atheism so unappealing to the majority of earth’s population:
The sophisticated atheist will inform you that in a vast and complicated cosmos, there will inevitably be temporary patterns that give the appearance of some divine design. But it would be even more ridiculous for a secular-minded football fan to root against Tebow than for a religious fan to root for him: in a godless, random universe, failure is no more metaphysically significant than success. (Or as Grantland’s Brian Phillips put it: “If you’re against Tebow, you can’t read too much into Tebow’s failures, or else Tebow has already won.”)
Got that? There is no good or evil. There is no success or failure. Everything (I’m assuming also the laws of physics?) we experience is but a “temporary pattern” and random mish-mash of atoms and molecules that miraculously caused all the wonderful things around us. Consciousness? It’s an illusion, created by synapses firing in precisely the right way for you think you love your wife or son or daughter, when the truth is we’re all no different than robots. Those wily electrons do that sort of thing, you know.
I suggest reading Tebow in Babylon, just as long as you realize that the author isn’t as sophisticated as he thinks he is.