I read Charles Pierce’s delightful evisceration of Ross Douthat’s new book yesterday. Ross is pining for the old time religion, which is Catholic, and preferably the old Latin mass variety. Gosh, remember the days when we all wore lace doilies on our heads and gloves, carried rosary beads everywhere and couldn’t understand a single word that Father Gentili said?
Anyway, if we all just went back to mass and did what the Pope told us and stayed in the rigid little boxes that conservative religion creates for us and stopped searching the internet for answers to the questions that we all have about who wrote the bible and why Jesus didn’t leave explicit instructions about his succession and code of conduct, we’d all be a lot better off. Don’t question anything and no one gets hurt.
Ross is also hung up over something called the Didache, which I’ve never heard of. It turns out this mysterious tome has some proscriptions against abortion that Christians are supposed to follow. Hallelujah for that one since the rest of the bible doesn’t seem to have an opinion on abortion or birth control. There’s some stuff in the Old Testament about compensating a man for the loss of a fetus due to injury to the mother but it’s a bit tenuous when applied to abortions of fetuses where the paternal unit doesn’t really give a f^&*.
But whatever it is that Douthat is still yearning for is eclipsed by the fact that so many of us out here don’t care about his esoteric scribblings about which ancient 1st and 2nd century texts have the true religion. If he wants to be the next Saint Augustine, great, but I don’t feel compelled to read his stuff as if it is saying something important to me. I don’t know if Douthat knows this or not but the Roman Catholic church no longer rules the western world and hasn’t since Henry VIII chucked it out of England.
Former Pentacostal pastor turned atheist Jerry DeWitt says it best: we frequently feel compelled to invest more of our lives in a concept than in the people who most deserve our attention- our family members and friends. I’d rather live in the present than bury myself in the musty, dusty texts of people who lived thousands of years ago when flush toilets hadn’t been invented and when a husband could direct his wife to expose girl babies to the elements. I’m not sure I want to be pulled back to the 1st century and I’d really appreciate it if people like Douthat would stop trying to take us there.
The thing that irritates me about some religious conservatives like Douthat is their insistence that as many people as possible think just like they do. Divergence of opinion is simply unacceptable and they will not give up trying to convert you until you fit into their predertermined worldview. They remind me of pathologically obsessive-compulsive people who have to touch doorknobs three times or must have vacuum tracks on their carpets that cannot be disturbed by children. People like that need to get as many people as possible around them to comply so that they’re not driven crazy by imperfections and inconsistencies. They need medication, not indulgence.
Besides, there is something that Douthat simply refuses to acknowledge (or is freaking out about). Many of us don’t believe in the Judeo-Christian god, bible and religion. I don’t know where Douthat has been in the past several decades but there are a lot of people of different faiths here in the US of A and not all of them have a stick up their butt about the bible like Douthat has. Not only that but there are some people who don’t believe in a god at all. And as DeWitt says, once you don’t believe, you have only two choices. You can admit that you don’t believe and be true to yourself, or you could pretend to believe. Pretending to believe is called faith and a lot of people do it. It is belief in something in the complete absence of evidence. And, you know, if that’s what you want to do, knock yourself out. Don’t let me or anyone else stand in your way. Just don’t expect the rest of us to act like it matters.
Here’s a clip of DeWitt talking about free will, predestination, faith and why did God put that tree in the garden of Eden in the first place:
God needs a major upgrade and rewrite but let’s not give a project of that importance to a twit like Douthat.