Monday, January 17, 2011

How Can Reading Cause So Much Anguish?

Right, FLG is reading Rufus.

He writes:
There is something about most arguments for atheism that has always struck me as strange (in a way I’m not sure I can articulate fully): namely that they tend to try to undermine religious belief by offering alternative explanations for the external world; when what’s important for believers seems, to me, to be what happens internally.

And then:
Here’s why I think this poses a problem for most atheists- if we don’t believe in Gods and metaphysics, our adherence to moral rules seems a bit neurotic. Most of us, atheists or believers, don’t follow Lucretius’s advice to have sex with whoever we can, for example, because we think it’s the “wrong” thing to do. But, denial of bodily pleasure, no matter how much sense it might make in practice, doesn’t really seem to have a lot of justification in atheism. Ethics, of course, don’t generally rely on God in the same way as morality; but it’s hard not to wonder if most of the things we all do in order to live upstanding lives, in the absence of belief, don’t amount to the neurotic vestiges of faith. Libertinage is one of those words that, to rip off Ellin Mackay’s great line, “has a place in the elderly mind” among “other vague words that have a sinister significance and no precise definition.” But many of the actual libertines made exactly this argument: if you think there’s no God, why should you restrain from drinking, screwing, and violating social norms? More heretical, do atheists have an obligation to libertinage, in order to be logically coherent? Are non-believers who insist on “doing the right thing”, in some sense, lying to themselves?

I know I’m verging on Aleiester Crowley territory here, and I’m not meaning to. I live an upstanding and proper life, although I’ve yet to hear back from any Divinities. But I’ve never been able to decide if that’s not intellectually dishonest of me. A Catholic friend used to say, if he was an atheist, he’d be doing all sorts of sinful things. Lucretius seems to agree- at least in terms of sex. But, of course, the vast majority if atheists don’t behave that way. They behave like good Christians, in spite of their disbeliefs.

FLG is starting to think that Rufus is the intellectual version of Wile E. Coyote. He's chasing something that he wants so bad, but can't figure out, and so he goes to the ACME supply shop, in this case the Western canon, duct tapes rockets to his roller stakes, and gets all fucking blownz up.

First, as to the claim of Rufus' upstanding and proper life. FLG hasn't met many people who revel in depravity. Well, he knew some, but they only reveled in it for a short time. A point which FLG'll return to later. But nevertheless...don't most people think their life is an upstanding and proper life even when they may not be? In fact, FLG knows a bunch of people who would say that Rufus' non-mongomous marriage isn't upstanding and proper.

Second, "do atheists have an obligation to libertinage, in order to be logically coherent?" Seriously, dude? What kind of fucked up idiotic logic is that? A whole host of, I dunno, off-the-cuff explanations for why a atheist wouldn't have to be a libertine come to mind. Most obvious, to people whose blog posts don't make others' eyes bleed from the pain of blatant illogic, is that history has demonstrated that whoring, drinking, and other libertine activities leads to a life shortened by venereal disease, cirrhosis, overdose, and other not nice stuff. If one is an atheist, then one believes that this world is the only world, their current existence in their particular physical body is their only possible existence, then, I dunno, YOU JUST MIGHT WANT TO EXTEND THAT EXISTENCE! Holy fuck! Is that so hard to figure out?

Is Rufus drinking bottle after bottle of Bartles & Jaymes through his nose while enjoying a speedball and acid suppository?


Flavia said...

Seriously, why do you read that idiot?

Atheists (and for that matter most theists) don't abstain from depraved or hedonistic lives because they fear cosmic or even merely social punishment; they lead more or less ethical lives--according to whatever terms they understand to be ethical, which may be highly individuated--because they respect and care about other human beings. And themselves, for that matter.

Look, I'm a theist, but I don't at all believe that religion keeps most people from committing terrible deeds. And I do believe that there are plenty of coherent non-theistic moral philosophies. Isn't this the dude who's been blogging his efforts at reading Greek philosophy? Or has he ever encountered existentialism?

Anonymous said...

It sounds like he's doing a sort of half-assed version of de Sade, arguing that in the absence of God, all moral codes are equally arbitrary. Jeffrey Burton Russell does a much better job exploring this in _Mephistopheles: The Devil in the Modern World_ (Cornell UP, 1990).

The Ancient said...

[H]istory has demonstrated that whoring, drinking, and other libertine activities leads to a life shortened by venereal disease, cirrhosis, overdose, and other not nice stuff

Ah, The Short, Happy Life Dilemma!

P.S. You think this is bad? Wait until he starts blogging Dostoevsky.

Anonymous said...

"First of all, as I mentioned in a recent entry, I have never really been lonely enough long enough even to resort to a real personals ad...If anything, I have placed numerous constraints upon myself in an effort to avoid being distracted from my higher callings -- writing, political endeavors, seeking to understand the cosmos -- by too many, or too many not-quite-right, females. And still I cannot wholly prevent them having sex with me, it seems....Still, the sexual onslaught is unstoppable....This has resulted in, very roughly speaking, slightly more than one serious girlfriend per year for the two decades of my adult life -- not coincidentally, exactly the balance between diversity and lifelong monogamy I'd likely have picked in advance if I'd honestly thought about and planned it, but then it all just seems to happen in a fairly pleasant and spontaneous way" -- Seeing Like a Stud.

Mrs. P

Anonymous said... (Rufus)lost me at "christian" vs "atheist." But, oh, but "the intellectual version of Wile E. Coyote..." G.E.N.I.U.S!

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