Friday, September 16, 2011

With Ourselves at the Center

Any heaven we think it decent to enter
Must be Ptolemaic with ourselves at the center.

- W.H. Auden

My understanding is that Carl Sagan wasn't an atheist. I'm not either. But this is about the most effective argument for atheism that I've ever seen. It's actually deeply spiritual. Perhaps it's just me, but many of my encounters with atheist remind me of my encounters with the born-again. Indeed I often suspect that the latter was once the former, and is really angry about it.

Yes, this again. Check your metaphysical bingo cards; it looks like we might have all the usual tropes in this concise paragraph! No, I'm not going to bother addressing it directly; these days, I'm afraid this tired old fanatics-to-the-right-of-me, fanatics-to-the-left-of-me dichotomy only merits a bored, masturbatory miming motion while rolling my eyes. Oh, wait; it does give me a chance to post one of my favorite Jesus and Mo comics again:

But I do find it interesting how people really seem to need a sense of psychological balance like that; there always seems to be this urge to ideologically position oneself squarely in between two polar opposites. Always splitting the difference. You say 2+2=4? And you say 2+2=12? Then clearly the answer must actually be eight, and why can't you two be more flexible and understanding?

If you actually have principles, and aren't simply attracted to compromise for the sake of compromise regardless of where your arbitrarily designated midpoint lies, sometimes you find yourself agreeing with the world, and sometimes you find yourself standing alone in opposition to it. Neither one has anything to do with the truth or validity of your stance. And self-righteousness can take many forms, such as in the barely-disguised condescension of those who place themselves above the fray, levitating on a lotus blossom, tut-tutting at those of us down in the muck and the mire.