I believe in Darwinism and evolution and biology. I believe in atheism. I believe you get one shot; the rest is dust. That’s my creed, and I’ve decided not to even bother defending it any more.

A lot of ideas have been simmering away under this one.

Like the survey that found Americans trust atheists less than they trust homosexuals and Muslims. “Many Americans seem to believe some kind of religious faith is central to being a good American and a good person,” said the study’s leader.

Like the fuss kicked up by Dan Dennett’s book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, to which I have no intention of linking exhaustively, Lance Mannion having already done so to my total satisfaction.

Like the whole benighted mess created by the latest IDiot manifestations.

But it all came together as I listened to a podcast by Rodney Stark, a sociologist of religion. In The Market Approach to Understanding Religion1 Stark takes what was, to me, a new and eye-opening approach. Instead of viewing religion as making good some defect in human construction, Stark (like Dennett) seems to take as given that people want to believe something and then, answering a different “why?” than Dennett, says that the specifics of why they believe what they believe owe more to the individual marketing strategies of different religions than to anything inherent in a specific belief system. (There’s no way I am going to summarize more than that. I simply urge you to listen.)

This was the first in a series of four lectures,2 and I look forward to the others, but even on the basis of this introduction I’m sold on the idea. It does, however, make mincemeat of my long-held and long-cherished belief that if only people had access to all the facts they would come to the only sensible conclusion and get on with their lives.

They don’t need facts. They need a sales pitch. And neither Darwinism nor atheism has one fit for the average yearner. Richard Dawkins tried, with his “Brights,” to give some coherence to this view of life, although personally I take a Marxist (G., not K.) view of membership in any club for which I am patently eligible.

Perhaps Pastafarianism is a better gauge. For a while there it was probably the fastest-growing faith of all time. I would guess though that satire is as ineffective as smugness in combatting allofaiths.

So, what to do? Create an insanely great sales pitch for atheism? It isn’t going to happen. What the Brights call “a naturalistic worldview” will always be a minority pursuit, enjoying a small market share among an enlightened elite (rather like the Mac thing). Stark’s lecture helped me to understand that.

I’m going to abandon those who have bought the patter of other religions to their fate. I reserve the right to mock them mercilessly and to point out their foolishness, should I care to. But I’m not even going to try to save them from their stupidity and I’m not going to tiptoe around their sensibilities just because they are faith based.

And I’m not going to deny my faith.

The difficulty, of course, is that leaves the towelheads and god-botherers in charge, and their mayhem doesn’t really care what I believe. I don’t believe what they believe, and that’s good enough for them.

(If all this is tired and old hat, forgive me and explain why; it excited me, obviously, and I was surprised I had never come across similar ideas.)

Some other sources of fun:

  1. 2022-03-31: Princeton seems to have dumped the audio. I found something, which may or may not be the one I listened to. 

  2. 2022-03-31: And Vandebilt University has lost that link, but the one I found for Lecture 1 gives access to the other three. 

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