Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sec’s Appeal: The Other John Waters Vs Secularism # 1,014

At the risk of oversimplifying John Waters’ most recent book, LAPSED AGNOSTIC, the Irish Times journalist found God through Alcoholics Anonymous, and then learned to justify an entire belief system by viewing it through the prism of his own experience.
  Now I’m delighted, for his sake, that John Waters managed to escape the demon booze, because you wouldn’t wish alcoholism on your worst enemy, but I really do wish that he’d stop trying to belittle those who have yet to share his epiphany by suggesting that they are somehow less human than he.
  He was at it again in today’s Irish Times, when he had this to say:
“Religion, rather than just another “category”, is the guiding hypothesis that makes sense of the whole, the public expression of the total dimension of human nature. No other channel has the capacity to convey the broadest truths about man’s nature and his relationship to the universe. Secularists do not like this characterisation of the situation, but it has long been obvious that they have nothing to offer society as an alternative source of ethics, meaning or hope.”
  Of the first part of his assertion, I’d suggest that science has not only “the capacity to convey the broadest truths about man’s nature and his relationship to the universe”, but is in fact the only rational approach to trying to understand the whys and wherefores of being alive.
  As for secularists having “nothing to offer society as an alternative source of ethics, meaning or hope”: leaving aside the basic human capacity to instinctively understand good from bad, and all that flows from that understanding, Waters fails to suggest how humanity managed to survive for the 100,000 years or so of its current incarnation (up to about 14,000-12,000 BC, when the first inklings of religion appear) without even a primitive system of ethics, meaning or hope to sustain it.
  Humans invented religion, the most perverse case of wishful thinking every visited on the race. And good for us, it’s a tribute to our imaginations and the brainy brains that got us this far in the struggle for survival. In the grand scheme of things, though, religion is Santa Claus for slow learners. Here endeth the sermon.


53degrees said...

John gets a lot wrong in this post but don't rise to it. Like the X Factor, he will go away if enough people turn the page. He is trying to distil a larger, more considered movement away from seeing science and religion as opposed but failing in that. Try Immanent Frame for better readings of where this is going.

Dana King said...

His attitude reminds me of the analogies used on college entrance exams. For him

Religion is to alcoholism as methadone is to heroin.

Tom said...

Amen brother Declan.

Pat McArdle said...

Religion is Santa Claus for slow learners.I love it. I'm stealing that. Thanks Declan

Declan Burke said...

The acid test of 'religion vs science': your kid gets sick. Where's your first port of call, the doctor or the priest?

I'm fascinated by religion, and people's need for it. But religion doesn't have a monopoly on ethics, meaning or understanding.

Cheers, Dec

Bob said...

Well said Dec.
You nailed it and expressed it far more eloquently than I ever could.


sex scenes at starbucks said...

I can't agree with how Waters characterizes faith, but I can't condone your response, either. I'm disappointed. I expected better from this venue, even putting aside the fact that I'm highly insulted by your characterization of my personal beliefs.

Making fun of someone who thinks differently than you, especially when the belief is near and dear to their hearts, is NEVER RIGHT. Is your point to create even a larger gulf between believers and non? Because your statement is as separating as anything I've ever witnessed by terrorists and faith-mongers. You're proslythising and insulting, just as badly as Waters.

Like I said, really disappointed, while recognizing that you can choose what you say here. I can also choose not to read. I'd really enjoyed my time here. Too bad you had to go and ruin it for me.

Declan Burke said...

Ms Sex Scenes - I'm afraid you've misread the post: I wasn't making fun of John Waters' faith, I was simply stating facts.

If you're referring to the Santa Claus comment, well, I really don't know what to say other than surely faith in anything shouldn't automatically preclude a sense of humour.

I'm disappointed, naturally, that you won't be coming back here, but I think you're over-reacting. "Because your statement is as separating as anything I've ever witnessed by terrorists and faith-mongers."

Really? Comparing religion to Santa Claus is as 'separating' as, say, 'Kill them all. God will know His own'?

If you read John Waters' piece, which I've linked to, I think you'll find that his article is much more 'separating' than my response. In it, he effectively claims that those 'moronic' enough to prefer secularism over religion as a way to run a modern society are less human than those who prefer religion.

Compared to that, I'd suggest that the Santa Claus gag is fairly tame stuff. Unless, of course, it strikes a chord ...

Cheers, Dec

Tom said...

@ sex scenes at Starbucks.

I believe that you're being an over-sensitive, religious lap dog. That's my belief. I am assuming that you won't challenge it because it is my belief and you wouldn't want to ruin it for me.