TIA Tuesday: Wrapping upJanuary 27, 2009 — Deacon Duncan
We come at last to the section of TIA that I have been most looking forward to: the last chapter. Not because it’s deep, or significant, or even because it’s so short, but simply because it is the last. The book ends with one rather pointless sports story, and a tired rant. Speaking of the 2007 Italian victory over the English in the Champions League soccer match between AC Milan and Liverpool, Vox writes:
In addition to seeing the Italians take revenge for their previous defeat with a 2-0 victory, they witnessed Milan’s brilliant attacking midfielder, Kaká, declare his Christian faith with a t-shirt that read “I BELONG TO JESUS”…
The reason Kakà’s prayer resonated so profoundly with Christians and non-Christians alike was because it testified to a higher purpose in life. Very, very few of us will ever know such a moment of complete triumph, almost no one can hope to reach the pinnacle of his profession and know that the eyes of all the world are upon him at the very height of his youth and beauty. In a world full of paparazzi, celebrity magazines, and shallow people releasing sex tapes in a desperate bid for fifteen minutes of fame, it is astounding to see a man reject the mass public adulation he has merited in order to humbly give God the glory.
Yes, that’s right. Humility is the reason he’s flaunting his personal religion, drawing attention to himself apart from his team, and setting himself up for the mass public adulation of millions of Christians who aren’t necessarily even soccer fans, in addition to the acclaim he’s going to collect from sports fans in general.
Vox never quite gets around to explaining what this “higher purpose in life” is supposed to be. Based on the last chapter, I suppose our higher purpose is to serve as Non-Player Characters in the next round of God’s great celestial video game, assuming He can rack up a high enough score in the Material round. And assuming His mom doesn’t make him turn off the computer and go outside to play for a while.
Or perhaps this higher purpose is to demonstrate that the key ingredients for success are not determination, discipline, focus, strategy, and teamwork, because God cheats and gives unfair advantages to His favorite players. After all, if God were indeed responsible for the Italian victory in that 2007 soccer game, that means that one or more members of the Italian team owed their victory to the spiritual equivalent of banned performance-enhancing drugs. Technically, their victory should be disqualified on the grounds that they had too many people on the playing field (assuming that God is a person and was indeed on the field with them assisting in their play).
Or maybe the higher purpose is to prove that God rewards the superstitious and gullible, as long as they use rigged scorekeeping. How many here think that T-shirt would have come off at the end of the game if the English had won the match? There’s lots of Christian athletes who are not champions in their field. Do you think any of them stand up and say, “I belong to Jesus, and that’s why I’m in last place right now”?
Of course not, because the whole point of gullibility is making people want to believe whatever you say. Winners can do that better than losers, and that’s why Vox ends his book with the story of a superstitious winner, even though his victory would be fraudulent and undeserved if indeed it were true that he merely received it from God instead of earning it by teamwork and preparation. But who cares, eh? You’re not supposed to think about it, you’re just supposed to be too over-awed by the celebrity endorsement to realize that God is the one being made great by the sports star, instead of the other way around. Why would a real god even need celebrity endorsements? (And if He did, shouldn’t He just get Himself a sticker on a NASCAR racer?)
Vox follows up that example with another by the famous Christian minister and evangelist, Evander Holyfield.
Not long after I became a Christian, I watched Evander Holyfield walk fearlessly into the ring to meet Iron Mike Tyson, singing “Glory to Glory” and clearly unafraid of the terrible beating every boxing expert was sure he was about to receive. Like millions of fight fans, I watched Holyfield’s confident demeanor before the opening bell with fascination. It wasn’t his unexpected victory, but his entrance that made me want to understand the boldness exemplified by the faithful warrior that night.
Because God cares who punches whom harder, and therefore He fixed that fight just like He fixed the soccer match between England and Italy. If we all end up in heaven, and find the angels passing out boxing gloves instead of wings, that’s why. God likes watching us punch each other. It’s part of our Higher Purpose, keeping God entertained.
One senses that, having finished his book, Vox is vaguely dissatisfied with the result. In compensation, he closes his book by projecting his own feelings of fear and frustration onto the New Atheists.
The Unholy Trinity are deeply and profoundly afraid. They fear faith, they fear those who possess it, and they fear what science has created. They fear everything that cannot be forced to fit within their material reductionist model. They fear the future and they fear God even though they do not believe in Him. And most of all, they fear that which they cannot control and do not understand. The light shines in the face of their dark reason and the darkness comprehendeth it not.
Vox’s own fear, which has flowered since 9/11, is that man is irrational, and now has the power of science, threatening us all with disaster. (Not that his has made him noticeably hostile to global warming deniers, however.) But a fear projected onto others is a fear disposed of, or at least repressed.
Bertrand Russell once said that he had spent his entire life searching in vain for evidence that Man is a rational animal. What the Unholy Trinity have failed to take into account in constructing their collective case against religion is the fact that Man is not, and never will be, entirely rational. Even if it were to be conceded that Man is nothing but a talking beast evolved through Natural Selection from a common ancestor shared with fish, squirrels, and monkeys, observation tells us that human beings seldom, if ever, act on a completely rational basis. Reason is a useful tool, but it will never suffice to define Man in his entirety, nor, by will or by force, can Man convert himself into a being of pure rationality this side of the Singularity. Indeed, for conclusive proof of Man’s fundamental irrationality, one need look no further than The God Delusion, The End of Faith, and god is not Great.
Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens are living evidence that Man’s dreams will always rule his intellect; he will always possess faith, hope, and love. Reason is no substitute for religion; it can never be.
And with that final, defiant rant, plus a cited but not quoted passage from the end of Revelation, TIA sputters to a close. I’ve read worse books, but not many, and very few that I would have bothered reading through to the end. Fortunately, it’s over now, and if my insignificant contribution spares even one person the time they might otherwise have wasted on it, then it will have been worth the effort.