Atheism and the Unrequited Love of Truth
The truth is, truth is a kind of violence, in that it necessarily severs one thing from another, just like a surgical procedure, i.e., good from bad, true from false, and beautiful from ugly. This is why "the truth hurts," or at least why it hurts some people sometimes.
Put it this way: if you are a pathological liar -- say, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, or Al Sharpton -- the truth doesn't hurt at all. In fact, you don't even feel it. It bounces right off as if nothing ever happened. Lies are your weapon and your shield. If you aren't a pawn of satan, you might as well be. These fölcks don't believe truth because it is true but because it is convenient, which automatically converts truth to something contingent and therefore tainted with falsehood.
Importantly, this does not just apply to religious truth but to scientific truth. Consider the etymology of science, which comes from the Latin scindere, meaning "to cut." It is related to words such as scissors, schism, decision, and schizophrenic. This is the coontext of Jesus' assurance that I came not to send peace, but a sword. Please. Bush is nothing compared to Jesus' divisiveness, but I can certainly understand why the schizos of the left think otherwise.
Furthermore, this is one of the primary reasons people do not alter their beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence, especially once tenure has been secured, as it is painful to do so (it's also one of the reasons I never really enjoyed being a psychotherapist, except with a certain kind of patient who is passionate about truth above all. With them, it's easy).
As I explained in the cOOnifesto, the word believe is etymologically related to belove, and any discerning person can see in an instant how even -- or especially -- supposedly secular people fall in love with ideas that cannot possibly be true. (At the moment, I'm thinking about dopey liberals such as Nancy Pelosi who are simultaneously concerned about global warming and the high price of gas; if you are worried about one, then you needn't worry about the other.) Reason has its own absence of reason that reason cannot comprehend, and if you don't understand how this works, you will likely end up believing patent nonsense, the reason being that Truth is supposed to be luminous and attractive, a fundamental Truth for which secularism cannot account because it's not countable.
In other words, human beings were not created to be pure "logic machines," like a Vulcan or a MENSA member who wonders why he's never kissed a girl, unlike Captain Kirk. The enterprise of logic alone cannot tell us when logic has arrived at a profound truth. Rather, this can only be determined by a higher form of discernment that is "aesthetic" through and through.
Again, this is the whole point of our gööd friend Gödel and his ironyclad theorems. The reason why the theorems are ironyclad is that Gödel employed logic to precisely and irrevocably set the limits of logic, which cannot disclose those platonic truths which humans can surely know but not prove -- or at least prove with mere logic. They can most certainly be proven in a manner appropriate to the realm from which they arise, so long as the person in question has sufficient intelligence and good will, or heart and mind (the former taking precedence over the latter in these eternal questings).
This is why it is impossible to prove the existence of God to people of bad will who aren't all that bright to begin with, and who simply want to believe in their own beloved truth, no matter how homely or unfaithful she is. For example, the classic ontological proofs of God are sufficient to convince a soul who is equipped to understand and believe (and therefore belove) them, and who is not inclined against them. This, of course, is one of the esoteric dimensions of faith, which is a deep intuition that our beloved Sophia could not be unfaithful to us.
Perhaps this is too abstract. Let's bring this luce talko down a couple of nachos, to something more audible. I am a big fan of what is called post-bop, avant-garde jazz, which was a movement that moved from about 1961 to 1970 or thereabouts (this is not to be confused with "free jazz," as it retains a more traditional structure, although it is right on the roiling cusp between structure and freedom, like this blog and like existence itself, which I believe is why I am so attracted to it). Some of the major artists of this genre include Jackie McLean, Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson, and Sam Rivers, plus the last great Miles Davis quintet that featured Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams.
These names will mean nothing to most of you. And if you were to be exposed to their music, it is likely that they would mean even less, for this is challenging music, and most people do not wish to be challenged by music. They don't want to take the effort to "elevate" themselves to music; rather, they would prefer that music "descend" to them. I'm not even criticizing this, as music, like everything else, has different purposes for different people at different times. I myself don't listen exclusively to this kind of music. For example, yesterday I was blasting the Who Live at Leeds, which every person must now and then do for reasons too obvious to get into here. Needless to say, my delighted three year old -- both inner and outer -- understands the reason for Keith Moon.
Anyway, the point I am making is that although this music embodies a kind of higher beauty, the average person will probably be repelled by it, or at least they wouldn't feel any attraction to it. Indeed, this was initially the case with me. However, I continued listening to other forms of jazz that took me to the "edge" of the avant-garde, so I was gradually able to "conquer" and assimilate it.
But one of the ways I made the leap was through faith. That is, respected critics -- people who knew much more about jazz than I did, and whose taste I came to trust and rely upon -- raved about this music, so it gave me the faith that there really was a "there there," my initial impressions to the contrary notwithstanding. In short, in order to "penetrate" this harmonically dense music, I had to trust that these musical pinheads weren't just böllshitting me and faking the funk -- which certainly does happen with modern art, the recent Aliza Schvarts kerfuffle being a darchetypal example of same.
Also, once you come to trust a particular artist, you accept the idea that they are further along than you are, and that if you have faith in them, they won't let you down. This doesn't mean that they never fail, because they do. Indeed, this is one of the inevitable prices one pays for being "on the edge," as we were discussing a day or two ago. The cutting edge cuts both ways, so it is certainly possible for novelty to be false or trivial -- which, not to get ahead of ourselves, but for Raccoons goes to the question of why it is so important to remain within the confines of an orthodox tradition instead of simply "winging it" on one's own. In the case of avant-garde jazz, if you just compare Louis Armstrong to Freddie Huzbbard, it may be a bit of a jolt. But if you begin with Louis Armstrong in 1925, you can trace a sort of straight line of development that slowly unfolds and eventually leads there in a disorderly ordered manner.
Now, how does this relate to religion? Well, first of all, Raccoon spirituality, like avant-garde jazz, may sound jarring and dissonant to the non-initiate, which is no doubt why my readership is so small and always shrinking. I think it's about 60% of what it was a year ago, which means that I am obviously driving away more people than I am attracting, which is all to the good. I do not wish to be known, much less understood, by a large audience, for that would tell me that I must be on the wrong track, given the barren intellectual and spiritual conditions that obtain in the soul of mass man.
Does this mean we are elitist? I don't think so. In my case, I don't really see how I could be more down to earth or more of a regular guy, for the reality is, in order to penetrate the clouds, like a pyramid, you must have a very wide base, and like a skyscraper, a foundation that extends deep into the earth. No one suspects Peter Parker of being Spiderman, and even he struggles with the concept. Furthermore, there are times that he would prefer not to be, as it's a burden and a responsibility. Reminds me of something Van Morrison said about his "relentless need" to make music:
"Everything is a curse and a blessing," he argues with some vehemence. "There's two sides to everything in this life. Music is no different. Don't think I haven't tried to walk away from it all. I've made a few concerted efforts at walking away. But it's pointless. You have to understand that I don't choose the music; it chooses me. My love for the music is the core of it for me. Maybe there's people who do music for different reasons. Financial reasons or ego reasons. Maybe they can walk away from it. But I can't. Because my connection to the music can't be broken. This is a need. Let's be clear about this -- there is no föcking choice."
To conclude the jazz analogy, there are certain luminous pneumanauts whom I initially did not understand, men such as Schuon, Anonymous, Eckhart, or even a Son of men, for that martyr. Now I understand that they've been stealing into my thoughts and whistling my tune all along.
Kandinsky, Improvisation 31, Sea Battle... it figures