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Lilith, my four year old, woke up this morning and asked where our overnight guests were.

Jana:  Katie had to go meet her parents.

Lilith:  She doesn’t know her parents?!!


I think it’s just a bad choice of words, but it’s something the good Cardinal should clarify and apologize for.  To say one isn’t fully human carries all sorts of interpretation.  A better choice of words might have been, “the search for transcendence is an important part of the human endeavor which atheists ultimately deny themselves.”  It would still sound patronizing, but it wouldn’t literally be dehumanizing.

I got the clip from this Daily Kos poster who also provided this cartoon which I think makes a decent point, although some of the attacks on religious principles do often seem to be more than merely defensive.  And I do in fact find the poster’s equivalence of religion and superstition to be as patronizing as the Cardinal’s statement.

As an agnostic who has flirted with both atheism and religion I would refer to my History of Religions professor Noel King, who told me as I was exploring the Christian faith: “Atheism isn’t through with you young man.  It is a powerful spiritual force, and a necessary one.”

Of course we’re talking about the professor who was visited by some fundamentalists of the Santa Cruz community when he gave a talk about early Christianity.  When they told him it was a shame that Jesus had been run off of the UCSC campus, he responded:  “yes it is a shame, half the campus would be Buddhist by now if he was still around.”

From my perspective, it’s a big universe out there.  The fact that anything exists, anything at all, is a miracle of extreme magnitude when you think about it.  And then when you consider the apparent random nature of most of the universe in contrast to the potential woven into its fabric for all of these colorful and animate objects to pop up out of the dirt, it’s really not irrational to believe that there is a benevolent idea behind it, whatever the form.

Then again, there is wishful thinking and a tendency to endow our perception of the universe with garments of our own imagination, desires, fears, and hopes.  Maybe it’s the atheist with the courage to actually bring meaning to the universe, as part of the universe as the great agnostic Carl Sagain poetically put about life, “the material of the universe becoming self-aware.”  Which is the more poetic vision and which is the more beautiful?  It is provincial to suggest that the atheist’s endeavor is somehow lacking in humanity, particularly where the atheism dares to look to the utopian.

As to whether there is more to the universe than the universe itself, as a national icon recently said, “it’s above my pay grade.”

Kym Kemp, aka “Redheaded Blackbelt,” and her family went through the worst last Sunday, or close to the worst (on Mother’s Day of all occasions)- the worst averted perhaps by good Karma.  Kym wrote about it, beautifully as ever.  You might want to head over to her blog and wish her family well.


May 2009
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