There’s an interesting piece in today’s Globe by Sam Allis on his conversation with Peter Gomes, reputed to be Harvard’s official chaplain or preacher or whatever for some thirty years. Allis is one of the good guys. Gomes is not, though Allis claims he possesses great charm and humor.
Allis brought a small book called The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality to the meeting.
Upon learning the title of the atheist tract, [Gomes] said, without missing a beat, “Of course it’s a little book.” He held it in his hands and added, “It is very light, isn’t it?”
Apparently Allis failed to take advantage of the opening, since he did not say, “Well, of course. That’s because it’s not weighed down by two millennia of dogma, dishonesty, and ignorance.”
Gomes on the possibility of nothingness:
“My whole system of justice is that, ultimately, there is an accounting. Eventually the wicked will be punished and the virtuous rewarded. I don’t choose to believe it. I have to. I can’t believe the universe is sheer chance and sheer chaos. I don’t trust chaos. I don’t trust chance, and I can’t trust human effort because I’ve seen what it does.
Pete, you don’t trust chaos and chance? But why, Pete, why? The Lion would be remiss if he failed to point out that nobody among the atheists trusts chaos and chance either, but for more valid reasons.
There’s nothing there to trust. And trust to do what, anyway? The universe is chaotic in a Laws of Physics sort of way. So what? Is Pete suggesting that he doesn’t trust the giant blue star Snarkzon to deliver retribution to Bush and Cheney and goodies to Gomes? Chaos and chance are what they are. They exist. They’re real. They don’t give a damn. They’re process, without soul, without breath, without conscience.
As for human effort, apparently Pete means the human effort to deliver justice. Perhaps he has in mind the hundreds of years of brutality the godly have delivered to each other and to anyone who disagreed with them. Yeah, The Lion doesn’t trust the bloody minded religious bozos to either deliver or understand justice either.
Pete’s message would seem to be that this world sucks. Of course that hasn’t stopped him from hanging around for sixty-five years to torture logic and twist reason and pervert common sense.
Pete on atheists, against whom he is an ‘implacable foe':
“I don’t know what a good atheist is,” he says. “There may be something that’s helping you along the way. You have no idea whether you’re doing it by yourself.” Either way, he said affably, “You’re good for business.”
Apparently Pete fails the first test of being an implacable foe, the test being to know your enemy. He could explore any number of websites and books that explain atheism, including the American Atheist site, which The Lion mentions here because he has long lusted after the mind and beauty of the AA president, Ellen Johnson. (Does that make The Lion a bad atheist?)
And yes, Pete, there is something helping us along the way. It’s called evidence-based reasoning, critical thinking, a view of the world unsullied by human dogma about unproveable supernaturalisms. Apparently Pete and friends need the weight of twisted reason and weird dogma to help them along, because they have no clue about whether they’re doing it by themselves (and anyway isn’t that a sin, Pete?) and it’s certain that they don’t feel they can trust themselves. To wit:
[At the Henley Royal Regatta this year] He watched with delight as the Harvard varsity eight won its race decisively. “When we got to the dock,” he recalled, “I told them, ‘I hope you boys don’t think you did this on your own.’ “
Excellent work, Pete, excellent work. Get right down there in their faces and demean their victory, degrade their joy, and negate all the hours of hard work and practice those guys put in. Typically Christian of you, Pete.
But after all, you are a priest.