Friday, August 01, 2008

PZ Myers confesses that atheism is insufficient

For those who haven't been following this story, PZ Myers is a US academic, and atheist, who obtained (apparently) a consecrated host, and desecrated it. See his blog here.

I'm not without sympathy for his fundamental attitude (see my earlier post here) but what strikes me the most about what he has done is the fact that he has resorted to a ritual action. Surely the Enlightened approach would be to resort to rational argument? No, he has carried out his own personal drama.

‘Kissing the picture of one’s beloved. That is obviously not based on the belief that it will have some specific effect on the object which the picture represents. It aims at satisfaction and achieves it. Or rather, it aims at nothing at all; we just behave this way and then we feel satisfied.’ (Wittgenstein)

As human beings, we are ritual animals. Ritual has an inescapable part to play in furthering and expressing our humanity. We are impoverished without it. It is not based upon rationality - it is based simply on humanity.

‘One could almost say that man is a ceremonial also perform actions which bear a characteristic peculiar to themselves, and these actions could be called ritualistic actions... the characteristic feature of a ritualistic action is not at all a view, an opinion’ (Wittgenstein)

It seems to me that the humourless variety of atheism cannot account for what PZ Myers has done. Surely, he has demonstrated convincingly that there is more to humanity than is accounted for in his philosophy.

I have no doubt that the recent upsurge in atheist agitation is due to the acknowledgement, deep in their bones, that the tide of history has turned against them. Their conception of the world is insufficient.

My sailing instructor the other day said 'At some point, the boat has to do the teaching'. It was a way of indicating that some realities are not negotiable. Cheap and abundant energy has insulated the rich world from reality from a few centuries - that age is passing, and the reality of the divine is re-emerging, like hard rocks temporarily obscured by a high tide.

That is the significance of PZ Myers' actions.

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