It begins, for many people, with an elusive experience of wonder and mystery. The best modern book on belief is “My Bright Abyss” by my Yale colleague, Christian Wiman. In it, he writes, “When I hear people say they have no religious impulse whatsoever ... I always want to respond: Really? You have never felt overwhelmed by, and in some way inadequate to, an experience in your life, have never felt something in yourself staking a claim beyond yourself, some wordless mystery straining through word to reach you? Never?”
This is obvious tripe. Of course we feel awe. If you explore the scientific nature of reality, as Brooks never does, you cannot fail to be impressed. Reality is indeed awesome. (Read "Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene if you doubt this.) Reality doesn't contain any gods because it doesn't need them. Everything proceeds smoothly without the intervention of a super-creature. God-belief is just a silly, primitive notion that came out of the forests with the earliest people -- and we've never managed to rid ourselves of it. To this day, it claws at humanity and fights every effort we make to improve ourselves.
How many people were killed today because of religion? A hundred? Two or three hundred? A thousand? Religion kills profusely and often, while atheism kills no one. And yet there's a "wordless mystery straining to reach" David Brooks. Well, reality's been straining to reach DB for some time, but it always fails. Maybe he needs to look for something real instead of wallowing in his own thoughts.
Today, the godless are excited because it's finally Xmas Eve. We've got our gifts wrapped and we can't wait to see the smiling faces of our giftees tomorrow morning (or tonight, for those of us whose traditions include Xmas Eve gift-giving).
We look forward to seeing family and friends, for whom we wish the best in the coming year. Friendship and love, that's what Xmas is about. That's why each year at this time, we gather together and rejoice in the bonds we share. That's real. Gods aren't.
Here's some more gibbering from Brooks, to send you on your merry way today:
These moments [of faith] provide an intimation of ethical perfection and merciful love. They arouse a longing within many people to integrate that glimpsed eternal goodness into their practical lives. This longing is faith.
When innocent babies die as a result of terrible, painful diseases, I wonder if Brooks things of god's "ethical perfection and merciful love." That's quite a god they've got there.
Merry Xmas everyone. Have a great time tonight and tomorrow!