But maybe that wording is part of the problem: see God. We've discussed in the past how someone who otherwise thinks quite abstractly -- say, a scientist -- suddenly goes all concrete when discussing or hearing about religion. Such a person might say something like, okay, show me. Come down here and perform a miracle, and then I'll believe.
A nuclear physicist, say, is fully aware of the fact that the models he employs and the language he uses to describe the subatomic realm cannot be considered "literal." Atoms aren't like little solar systems, creation didn't literally begin with a bang, and gravity isn't an "attraction." Nor, for that matter, can genes be "selfish."
In each case, language provides "points of reference" from one realm to another. The only realm we really know in a concrete way is the concrete realm to which language originally applies, and from which it draws its analogies. We can only understand another realm by way of analogy, which always introduces ambiguities and paradoxes if pushed too far.
Most famously, the analogies of "wave" and "particle" as applied to the quantum world are only so useful before skirting the boundary of paradox. One could say the same of genes and organism, each being "real" in its own way unless pushed too far.
So religious language -- like any language that transcends the concrete -- provides a frame of reference to a world beyond itself. It is perhaps most easy to be confused about this vis-a-vis the Hebrew Bible, which frequently deploys -- how to put it? -- "narrative-as-wisdom," or "myth-as-metaphysics," or "law-as-principle." The easiest thing in the world to do is to reduce the abstract to the concrete, and then ridicule the latter.
Doing so is about as intelligent as, say, a 19th century physician taking offense at someone who tells him he should wash his hands because there are millions of little creatures crawling all over him: who are you calling dirty? Such a person is confusing realms and turning an abstract scientific truth into a concrete insult from the world of "manners."
According to the Catechism -- which is in its own right a fascinating document, since it embodies 2,000 years of collective meditation on the abstractions implicit in concrete revelation -- the atheist is not to be thought of as some sort of "adversary," that is, unless he chooses to become the aggressor for unrelated reasons, e.g., the God-hating and Man-controlling left.
Rather, it says here that many of our contemporaries simply fail to perceive the "intimate and vital bond of man to God." Those who "do not perceive" may be completely blameless, or at least virtually so, given our debased cultural ambiance.
You can't blame a child raised by wolves for behaving like one, for that's all he has ever known. Likewise so many liberals who live in their friction-free ideological bubbles and second realities, never encountering opposition unless it is by way of ridiculous straw men, projected demons, or alternatively vicious or risible caricatures.
Aaaaaand, we're back. Had to drive the boy to school.
On the way back, it occurred to me that our modern, space age au-go-go society is characterized by a strange combination of cynicism and irony with naiveté and childish innocence -- say, Jon Stewart, or MSNBC, or anyone who sees through everything except their own silly liberalism.
The problem with the cynic or ironist is that he does indeed see through most everything, but not to anything. This is because cynicism and irony are perversions of a proper and unique function of the human mind -- that is, seeing through appearances -- except with no reality on the other side.
For example, in order to read, we "see through" the words on the page, toward the invisible truth they are trying to convey. It is as if the cynic reverses the process, and says, "I see through your little game. Those are just arbitrary marks on a page. There's no reality behind them, just something you invented."
And before you dismiss such a person as an irrelevant crank, this is precisely what postmodernism in general and deconstruction in particular do: render a text meaningless by systematically refusing to look at what it is referring to. One can do this with scripture just as easily as one can do it with the Constitution. In Obama's case he does it with both, i.e., "black theology" and the "living Constitution," neither of which has anything to do with the laws of the Cosmos or of the Land, respectively (except when for the sake of Higher Expediency).
Referring again to the Catechism, it says that the term "atheism" applies to "many different phenomena," which makes sense, since the Absolute is by definition One, so deviations from it are going to be quite diverse. How to pick, when there are so many ways to be wrong! Well, I suppose that's what college is for: to grow up and settle down with one particular error.
The Catechism mentions a "practical materialism" which confines man behind immanent bars of mundane space and time. Likewise, "atheistic humanism," instead of properly seeing through and beyond man, toward his transcendental source, "falsely considers man to be 'an end to himself.'"
Here is another fine example of the left's naiveté and/or self-deception, because to make man his own end renders him either a beast or a god. Practically speaking, it results in a bipolar world with auto-idolatrous gods at the top and infrahuman beasts at the bottom. Talk about your "one percent"! Imagine the naiveté of someone who wonders why "income equality" is so much worse under Obama, or why so much obscene wealth encircles Washington DC!
Yet "another form contemporary atheism takes is for the liberation of man through economic and social liberation." It maintains "that religion, of its very nature, thwarts such emancipation by raising man's hope in a future life, thus both deceiving him and discouraging him" from participating in the glorious revolution -- you know, Obama's hope for dopes and change for chumps.
This cynical and manipulative stance is always on offer by the left, but it's really just the same perennial temptation to turn stones into bread. With every election cycle, every speech, every program, the left promises that this time the stones will finally turn into bread, but they never do, for the left is as unhappy as ever. They even (even?) invent reasons to feel miserable, such as the "war on women," or hatred of homosexuals, or insufficient spending on education, or a "broken" healthcare system which they proceed to break in every possible way. In order to peddle their hopium, they must first hook you on hopelessness.
Memo to the left: there is always a reason to feel miserable. The trick is how to feel joyous, given the existential constraints we are all operating under, e.g., death, loss, toil, frustrated ambitions, and the impossibility of ever actualizing our full potential. There is no political solution to any of these. Nor any scientific or economic solutions -- at least nothing that can be managed by the statist one percent.
Being miserable or envious or bored or selfish or resentful is the easiest and most natural thing in the world, which is why the left is always a "downhill" attractor or basin. Anyone who hasn't nailed themselves to a higher reality ends up with the clueless rabble down there, not realizing their dependence upon higher energies in order to be "happy" in this vale of tears. Absent a living exchange with that world, one can only manage an "animal happiness" which doesn't actually exist anyway. To the extent that an animal is happy, it is only because it doesn't know what all humans -- all grown-up humans -- know.
And it's partly, or even largely, our fault. Yes, I blame religion for making itself look stupid, and therefore easy to dismiss. That's a nasty little secret the Catechism lets out of the bag, that "Believers can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism."
So, be careful what you say and how you tie your shoes in the presence of infidels. Like children, they will see through your pretenses but not beyond them.