A Nonsense Option

goodandevil

The nonexistence of God is nothing more than a nonsense option. The categories of good and evil themselves require some sort of transcendent standard. What makes things good? What makes things evil? Atheists have, by and large, given up on the idea of an absolute standard of morality. After all, spiritual emptiness and the nonexistence of anything outside of the simple material universe is no way to come up with an ethical system. Morality is cultural preference (which cannot be said to be right or wrong) and fundamentally relative. It takes on (to be generous) the same authority as Wisconsin speed limits on a Nevada highway at night.

People are raped in this world, and rape is evil. Because evil exists, there must be no God. Because there is no God—no authoritative standard over creation—the badness of rape downgrades to a mere matter of societal taste. Ethnic cuisine, ethnic ethics. In God’s absence rape is no longer fundamentally evil. In our country, you’ll get confined to a cell (if caught and convicted), but that just means we enforce our taste, not that our taste has any real authority over anyone else. In other societies, girls have been passed around and traded like baseball cards. Is that right? Is that wrong? You like exploitation; I like apple pie. The two discussions exist on the same plane. There’s no such thing as moral and immoral. In this country, we eat gyros. In this one, we eat pizza. And we’ll give you a ticket for jaywalking. . . .

I’ve watched the Discovery Channel. I’ve enjoyed the Discovery Channel. But in that world, if I want to reproduce with you (or tear you limb from limb) I just need to be bigger and stronger than you are. You look pretty small and a little sickly. Shall I feed you to my young? Why not? Cannibalism might not be condoned in your culture, but it has a long and storied tradition in mine. Are you saying that your culture is superior, that it is somehow right while mine is wrong? You’re being a racist, but likely you’re still small, and even racists taste good in casserole. . . .

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True atheism is nonsense. If there is such a thing as beautiful, such a thing as good, or even such a thing as bad, then there is a transcendent standard that determines which is which. An atheist can say that society prefers mothers to murderers, but he cannot say that this is as it should be. Tell us what is, by all means. But without God, you cannot tell us what ought to be.

An atheist can tell us that he is a good person. I believe he has never stolen a lawn mover or murdered his wife. I believe him. What he cannot tell me is what is fundamentally wrong about lawn mover theft and wife killing. He will try, but he can’t change the fact that in his world there is no such thing as fundamental wrongness.

Let the man with the biggest armies and booming voice make the rules. Jews and gypsies and homosexuals be damned.

I don’t like that picture. I look at the world and I see beauty. I see love and loss, birth and death, joy and sorrow. I see a world where color exists, and in enormous generosity we were given eyes to see it. This is a world where bread makes a smell as it’s baked, and we just happen to have noses to smell it. Color, smell, sound, taste—these are things that could have gone unnoticed; we could have been senseless in this reality, careening around like so many spattering particles. Were our noses invented first, or the smells? Our eyes, or the sights? Breasts, or desire?

We have been created as recipients. I look at the stars, at the stars, at the grass, at my fat-faced children, at my fingernails, and I am oppressed by gratitude.

I have been given a belly so that I might hunger. I have been given hunger so that I might be fed.

I look in the atheist’s mirror. I look at his faith in the nonexistence of meaning. I look at this preaching and painting. I see nothing but a shit-storm.

Why should I walk through that door? Why would I live in your novel?

― N. D. Wilson,
Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl

Brimming with Magic

witchdoctorGive me priests. Give me men with feathers in their hair, or tall domed hats, female oracles in caves, servants of the python, smoking weed and reading palms. A gypsy fortuneteller with a foot-peddle ouija board and a gold fish bowl for a crystal ball knows more about the world than many of the great thinkers of the West. Mumbling priests swinging stink cans on their chains and even witch doctors conjuring up curses with a well-buried elephant tooth have a better sense of their places in the world. They know this universe is brimming with magic, with life and riddles and ironies. They know that the world might eat them, and no encyclopedia could stop it.

― N. D. Wilson

The clumsiness of atheism

N_D_Wilson_pic copyAtheism is an idea. Most often (thank God), it is an idea lived and told with blunt jumbo-crayon clumsiness. Some child of Christianity or Judaism dons an unbelieving Zorro costume and preens about the living room.

Behold, a dangerous thinker of thinks! A believer in free-from-any-and-all-goodness! Fear my brainy blade!

Put candy in their bucket. Act scared. Don’t tell them that they’re adorable. Atheism is not an idea we want fleshed out.

Atheism incarnate does happen in this reality narrative. But it doesn’t rant about Islam’s treatment of women as did the (often courageous) atheist Christopher Hitchens. It doesn’t thunder words like evil and mean it (as Hitch so often did) when talking about oppressive communist regimes. His costume slipped all the time—and in many of his best moments.

Atheism incarnate is nihilism from follicle to toenail. It is morality merely as evolved herd survival instinct (non-bindng, of course, and as easy for us to outgrow as our feathers were). When Hitchens thundered, he stood in the boots of forefathers who knew that all thunder comes from on high.

― N. D. Wilson,
Death by Living:
Life Is Meant to Be Spent

A finite picture of the infinite

N_D_Wilson_picWhat is the world? What is it for?

It is an art. It is the best of all possible art, a finite picture of the infinite. Assess it like prose, like poetry, like architecture, sculpture, painting, dance, delta blues, opera, tragedy, comedy, romance, epic. Assess it like you would . . . a love story, a tornado, a smile, a heartbreak, a sweater, a hunger pain, a desire, a fulfillment, a desert, a waterfall, a song, a race, a frog, a play, a song, a marriage, a consummation, a thirst quenched.

Assess it like that. And when you’re done, find an ant and have him assess the cathedrals of Europe.

―N. D. Wilson
Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder
in God’s Spoken World

Why would I live in your novel?

We have been created as recipients. I look at the stars, at the grass, at my fat-faced children, at my fingernails, and I am oppressed by gratitude I have been given a belly so that I might hunger. I have been given hunger so that I might be fed.

I look in the atheist’s mirror. I look at his faith in the nonexistence of meaning. I look at his preaching and painting. I see nothing but a shit-storm.

Why would I walk through that door? Why would I live in your novel?

―N.D. Wilson
Tilt-A-Whirl