Monday, November 06, 2006


Thank goodness!

This is an incredibly interesting article to my mind.

Daniel C. Dennett was recently hospitalised, near-death, and talks about his continued atheism while he thought himself very likely to die (the old saw of "no atheists in fox-holes" being refuted by this, unless of course, one decides he's lying - in which case there's no point even reading it).

He's a supporter of the term "Bright", as a kind of positive terminology for naturalistic, atheistic worldviews, in a similar way to the way that "gay" was appropriated as (originally) a positive self-description. I'm not all that comfortable with the label "Bright", because of its meaning of smart: which to me smacks of saying you're either clever - or you're a believer. Which plainly isn't true and is an arrogant attitude of which atheists often stand accused. I can do without that sort of thing. I can be arrogant in my own time, thanks. :D

I have some difficulty with his view on those who prayed for him: it seems a bit ungracious.

"What, though, do I say to those of my religious friends (and yes, I have quite a few religious friends) who have had the courage and honesty to tell me that they have been praying for me? I have gladly forgiven them, for there are few circumstances more frustrating than not being able to help a loved one in any more direct way. I confess to regretting that I could not pray (sincerely) for my friends and family in time of need, so I appreciate the urge, however clearly I recognize its futility. I translate my religious friends' remarks readily enough into one version or another of what my fellow brights have been telling me: "I've been thinking about you, and wishing with all my heart [another ineffective but irresistible self-indulgence] that you come through this OK." The fact that these dear friends have been thinking of me in this way, and have taken an effort to let me know, is in itself, without any need for a supernatural supplement, a wonderful tonic. These messages from my family and from friends around the world have been literally heart-warming in my case, and I am grateful for the boost in morale (to truly manic heights, I fear!) that it has produced in me. But I am not joking when I say that I have had to forgive my friends who said that they were praying for me. I have resisted the temptation to respond "Thanks, I appreciate it, but did you also sacrifice a goat?" I feel about this the same way I would feel if one of them said "I just paid a voodoo doctor to cast a spell for your health." What a gullible waste of money that could have been spent on more important projects! Don't expect me to be grateful, or even indifferent. I do appreciate the affection and generosity of spirit that motivated you, but wish you had found a more reasonable way of expressing it."

I understand that he is making a point, or rather quite a few points. I just feel he could have expressed them better. I don't see that friends telling him that they have been praying for him is worse than the friends who were wishing him well. (Or does he see it as worse? Must re-read). He seems to see it as misdirected energy that he would prefer spent on real projects.

Hmm. Food for thought. I shall think about this some more. This is only a half-thought think I am thinking. :D

No comments: