Friday, January 19, 2024

The Atheist Class of the Twenty-first Century

In some sense, everyone knows that the true atheists now are the true believers. The structure of their belief is so absurd that they are indistinguishable from Disneyland fanatics, who own fully perfected and elaborated costumes and props to keep life meaningful, in an animated sort of way. No wonder, Donald Duck.

The named atheists, vaguely followers of the Four Horsemen, enthusiastically toss out the baby Jesus with the bathwater, requiring a materialistic cosmos which remains, in principle, comprehensible on the basis of laws and other types of regularity. 

These folks are willfully obtuse about daily miracles, which forms the same kind of willful blindness that the religionists hew to. Willful blindness is the most general term for evil; the basis for Arendt's 'banality of evil.' She must have been antisemitic, mustn't she have?

To conflate the brain with the mind is to ignore ground for signal, and to suppose that whatever happens happens 'in there.' Which of course it never does. 

I have just passed through yet another grueling and barely survivable holiday season. It's almost as personal as my previous bare survivals - bursting appendix while over the border, PE followed by TIA, both inceptions on Christmas Eve and accompanied by strange coincidence. 

This time it was Mom, and it started before anyone knew that there was anything wrong with her. Well, beyond the normal. For whatever reason, the house I live in, but don't own, became the dumping ground for Mom's belongings, without any consultation with the inhabitant, me. And then Mom had a stroke, and then she died. The uncovering for display had already begun.

I charged myself to cull and sort the mountains of photos and other memorabilia, and make possible their laying out and sorting and cataloging in preparation for the family gathering during an actual snow emergency, which itself followed the warmest and most snow-deprived lead up in the history of Buffalo, to Christmas. 

Mom's unwrapped crèche, in the same browned paper as ever and ever, was missing the baby Jesus, so I put Santa Claus there. There has always been a santa clause as codicil to my missing will. Gifts for me the gift of being relieved of gifting. I've always been happier to be in hospital.

Oh, poor long-suffering me, at least I had my daughters and sister to accompany me to nearby ward and to clear out the work-in-progress ladders and tools and coverings; to communicate, to deal with logistics, to remove the wedding band and ring since there is no morgue which can be trusted that way. I hastily built an occult platform in my overwarmed attic to sequester parts and pieces of rehabilitation. To allow for gathering and viewing and dispersal of jewelry in what had been a work in progress.

To suggest that Mom is some construct in my brain would be more absurd than to claim that godhead is absent from cosmos because there is no there there. Mom has been present in so many dimensions that when one granddaughter sent around the voicemail of Mom, from just before Mom's phone was removed because of the mountain of pledges made to unscrupulous charity outsourced callers, it felt to me a milepost too far. The voice as present as she had been so few days before. 

That was the uncanny valley for me, once constructed of stone markers atop graves where actual remains were buried. Ashes now in the most trafficked part of the old church garden, an honor which still includes the possibility to gather, to reminisce, to mourn at times when the church is not trafficked.

We all know how harmful religion has been. The false prophet basis for misplaced certainty which leads, inevitably, to war. 

I feel the same petty complaints welling up about behaviors about the family. A kind of judgyness about moral, ethical character-unbased behaviors. I think that this sort of thing is ingrown now. Closeness no longer possible, even in a family sort of way. Get out before I have to invite you out.

The actual memorial service was scheduled for the zero point of Buffalo's most recent snow emergency. We still carried on, with a group far more intimate for being small and composed of those willing to make the actual struggle and take the actual risk to make it to the church on time. Afterward back to "my" house, where Mom was hosting in absentia with her usual aplomb.

As the flowers and leftover food was being subjected to attempts to sweep it all away by howling wind and dashing snow,  my sister and I wondered aloud, "Mom, what are you trying to tell us?"

Ah well, my religion is not your religion, nor any religion at all. But that hardly makes me an atheist. Atheists are idiots, by definition. Reclused from public space, as I am. And yet I do know God.

The notion of a soul, rather like Descartes' discarded and good riddance notion that the mind infuses body in the self-same way, feels indelible. As in, that there is some totality centered on some self and composed of acts large and small and some in speech and some in handling, and that that self persists since, in any case, it is and was absent to those who loved it for most of its livelong days.

No wonder that some still see, and shall not be disabused of that illusion, the soul depart from body. And yet there shall never be any there there to look for it, the soul. It can't inhabit, for it isn't alive, any more than Descartes' mechanical sub-human creatures had any there there, to him yet not to me.

Alive in our hearts, we might say, though I say alive in what it is that we do and in artifacts and even by the gravesite. We who are so loathe to leave physical correlates behind yet wonder have they yet been organized by powers beyond the grave. Graven images of Jesus, arisen beyond the fall. 

We must have some object for our desires. Barren when guided by men for a kind of gory glory here on earth. There is no irony where there is no God. Set it to linen and flatten the shroud. The body of Christ. Amen.

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