A novelty item

We’re in luck – we have a whole new barrage of clichés to set us straight.

David Adams Richards is angry. The acclaimed novelist and essayist is raging at atheists, the self-righteous ones. The writer with the tough New Brunswick background believes anti-religious people are as bad as fundamentalists in their fashionable absolutism.

Does he! How exciting! How novel, how original, how refreshing, how ground-breaking.

Not that I can talk – I don’t break new ground. I think there’s a place for saying things that have been said before, because the mere fact that something has been said before doesn’t mean that everyone knows that, so there is always room for popularizers to help circulate that which has been said before – but there is a limit. Helping to circulate is one thing but people saying the exact same thing nine thousand times in one week is another.

Richards is adamant about what he considers the intellectual laziness behind so much religion bashing today. People who like to attack religion think they’re being risqué, Richards said, but most of their arguments are just “conformist” and “insipid.”

No, people who like to attack religion don’t think they’re being risqué, we just think we’re saying things that have been marginalized for no very good reason and need to be brought back into the public realm. Most of the arguments may well be conformist (see above) but they still (in our view) need to be re-circulated. I don’t think any of the “New” militant lazy atheists think they’re/we’re saying anything new, much less risqué – but it’s a little foolish to pretend what we’re saying is completely bland and conventional given all the outraged shouting and name-calling it’s received.Surely Richards himself wouldn’t be ‘angry’ about mere insipid milk-and-water.

Richards has always been blunt and cranky. So he starts off the book by throwing Josef Stalin in the face of proud atheists. Stalin, the world’s most famously egregious atheist, was a nihilist of the highest order, Richards says. To the Soviet dictator, murdering people was a thrill.

Blunt and cranky perhaps, but not what you’d call imaginative. Apparently it would come as a surprise to him to learn that every atheist-hater brings up Stalin – in order to refute the claim that all atheists are perfect. If only we had never made that claim, we would have total world domination by now!

…when Richards habitually refers to his rhetorical foes and friends only as an “intellectual,” or the “physicist,” the “academic,” a “feminist” or the “CBC host,” I want to know who he’s actually talking about.

Ah yes – the Chris Hedges problem – the wild accusation accompanied by a total lack of citation or quotation. Yeah that is a bit of a drawback.

…as Richards cheerfully testifies, the so-called secular world has nothing to be smug about when it comes to human frailty. Academic and literary circles, he says, are also full of annoying, “pious” people.

Therefore God exists. Or something.

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