Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rod Dreher explains the right way to believe in God...sort of

I found this teaching by the One both strangely ambitious and remarkably empty at the same time.

In a post entitled Postmodernism & Secular Fundamentalism, an atheist commenter said

My creator endowed me with a brain that does not allow me to believe in, say, the story of Shadrach.

And I also agree with Flannery O’Conner’s observation to Mary McCarthy concerning the taking of Communion: “If it’s a metaphor, then to hell with.”

Unlike many of the new atheists, I see that there is much that is good and beautiful about organized religion.

And like many Freethinkers, I realize that many people like Rod Dreher would be miserable without a personal deity.

Their belief neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

That seemed pretty tame to me for an atheist. But not to Dreher. He snarled,

[NFR: Like many so-called "freethinkers," you mistake your own worldview for a neutral one. How do you know I would be "miserable" if God did not exist? That's a self-serving perspective that seeks to explain away religious belief as a compensatory emotional or psychological phenomenon. Could I not say that people like you cannot accept the possibility that God exists because if He does, then you aren't free to do whatever you like? Yes, I could. And it may be true, because it was true for me when I was a young man. But it also might not be true, in your case. Point is, you don't know why I believe in God. -- RD]

In order not to disrupt the narrative flow, I'll let others examine any non sequiturs involved in Rod's reply. Ultimately, they don't really seem all that important, because the actual whammy conclusion ends up being no more than that "You don't know me, man, so you can't say anything about me!", which is always a good all-purpose remedy to anything anyone says. I wouldn't use it if a cop stops you for speeding, though, but otherwise. To continue.

Suitably chastened, the atheist later whined

I’m sorry Rod,

I thought you said that you WERE miserable during a period of your life when you were experiencing doubts about the existence of God.

Rod lets him kiss the Harry Potter frames in penance and explains

[NFR: I was miserable, but I didn't start believing in God as a way to get rid of misery (though it helped). Believing in God because you might get something out of it doesn't work. And in fact, some of the most miserable people I know are Christians ... but then, if they were atheists or Hindus, they would be miserable, I'm convinced. -- RD]

Doesn't work? I'd count getting saved as getting something out of it, but okay. Strangely, having pulled this "self-serving perspective" out of the bunny, Dreher never does say what does work. So we'll just have to guess.

So what else doesn't work? And what does?

Believing in God because Chartres Cathedral seems to have been on the approved list, although believing in God because of some smoking hot chick God made Himself probably doesn't, so if you don't believe already, you need to be saving for that ticket to France, not to Cancun. I think it's safe to say oysters are in, the vast wonder of the great outdoors itself, probably not so much.

While you're making your lists and checking them against the Book of Rod, I have to tell you I get the sense there's some kind of fix in on this, like one of those job descriptions that only happens to fit the CEO's nephew. It might or might not involve things like chairs and benches, or long natural beards, or even Dante. But whatever it is, I'll bet a six-pack that Dreher's got the qualifications and I don't. Dang.


23 comments:

  1. Keith: " I get the sense there's some kind of fix in on this, like one of those job descriptions that only happens to fit the CEO's nephew."

    Could you clarify that? What kind of "fix" are you talking about?

    Anyhow, going by what he writes, I have always maintained that RD cannot be described as actually "believing" in anything. The religious meanderings are just part of the overall shtick. And I haven't seen anything yet to change my mind.

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    1. Uh...that was kind of a joke. Like I'm pretty sure Rod's way is the right way, and maybe the only right way.

      Keith

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  2. Hey, Rod: Archbishop Storheim...convicted of sex abuse...ring a bell? Yeah, I know you're not OCA anymore, but you're not Catholic anymore, either, and when has that ever stopped you? This is a big huge HONKIN' news story, not some obscure little tidbit. Aren't you one of those Journalist People who are supposed to have a nose for news, go where the story leads, and all that other good stuff? So...why crickets?

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  3. Believing in God doesn't work, but reading Dante totally works.

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  4. Diane:
    When did he stop being OCA?
    Jonathan Carpenter

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  5. I am chiming in late...How did he all of a sudden get cured by reading Dante? I seriously feel for his wife, he would drive me insane.

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  6. Jonathan. not exactly sure...sometime last year. He has a ROCOR church in his backyard. Seriously!

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  7. Dreher and his family were Catholic when the Scandal hit. He left because Catholicism stopped working for him (see post, above), either because of the Scandal or because of some other aspect peculiar to Catholicism that stopped working for his family at that point in his life, or both. As spiritual head of his family (his words), he led them all to become OCA instead.

    Dreher's family, its numbers now stable, was OCA when both Muhzik and the OCA pedophile scandals hit the spotlight and coincidental with his departure from the Templeton Foundation. They left their short-lived home in that communion all 5 had converted to, as far as I can tell because nothing quite cries out the need to embrace ROCOR instead like moving to Cajun French-Italian south Louisiana, or the OCA pedophile scandals, or the rise and fall of Muhzik, or maybe buffalo wings, but not with so much heat that you can't enjoy the flavor.

    These perambulations remind me of 2 important lessons. The first is Moses wandering in the wilderness with the Israelites.

    The second is that time-honored saying that separates the spiritually muscular among us from the human chaff they must suffer daily:

    "When the going gets tough, the tough - Meep!Meep! - get going".

    Keith

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  9. Here's one of the most disturbing insights into the way Rod Dreher approaches God.

    In another long post leeching off of recent gossip about the admittedly creepy Woody Allen, Dreher claims that without belief in God the only thing that would keep anybody from molesting children is the fear of getting caught.

    [NFR: Rod is not "convinced" of that by any means. What Rod points out is that if God doesn't exist -- and by "God" I mean a guarantor of cosmic justice and moral meaning -- there is no compelling reason not to be a sociopath if it benefits you and you can get away with it. -- RD]

    There are two things even creepier than Woody Allen with Dreher's view of life here. First, the nature of his view of God as Cosmic Cop is just the flip side of his "getting something out of it" that he initially says just doesn't work. The second is more serious, even though here it's just a case of Dreher projecting himself and his innate self-control defects on humanity at large: he's suggesting that without his belief in God the lid is effectively off, and whatever urges lie beneath are then apt to leap out and run amok like so many crazed bats and serpents.

    Given Dreher's lifetime public canon of sexual squeamishness, I think children are probably safe, sexually at least, from a Godless Dreher. But given the way he also has lurched publicly from one religious mooring to another to another, like a hurrican-tossed boat only opportunistically tethered between storms, a reasonable betting person just wouldn't bet on the rope holding forever. If and when it does, according to Rod all bets are off, and all sociopathic Hell is likely to break loose. I'm just glad me and my loved ones are nowhere near his orbit.

    Keith

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    1. "If and when it does" snap for good,

      Keith

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    2. Gosh. By that twisted logic, all atheists should be sociopaths. But most aren't. I'm not saying that atheists have a consistent, coherent rationale for adhering to the basic moral morder. But the fact remains that most of them do. As my agnostic bro-in-law puts it, thay embrace the morality without the metaphysics. You may think that's inconsistent -- and yes, it is -- but it's also empirically verifiable that most atheists are NOT child molesters or serial killers or similar monsters.

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    3. Meant to add: Obviously, there must be something holding atheists back from utter moral depredation, seeing that most of them are, well, just regular people, not murderers or molesters.

      So, IOW, when you reject explicit belief in God, you don't necessarily slide down the slippery slope to anything-goes amorality. No doubt you justify to yourself some actions you really shouldn't engage in, but that;s a far cry from saying that you inevitably turn into a child molester. Grace and Nature (habit, breeding, cultural assumptions, concern for self-preservation) usually work to hold you back from complete moral collapse, even if you don't acknowledge the existence of the former.

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    4. My comments above are in response to Dreher's twisted logic, NOT to your astute commentary thereon, Keith. I totally agree with you: It sounds as if Dreher's saying that he could indeed snap and go completely sociopathic if he were ever to lose his faith in God. I assume this is empty rhetorical blather, but, like you, I still wouldn't want myself, my kids, or my dog to be anywhere near him if he ever did snap.

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    5. Diane: "I assume this is empty rhetorical blather…"

      Diane, you don't even have to assume.

      By now it's pretty clear that when it comes to RD, everything he writes is "empty rhetorical blather."

      Or as I sometimes put it, it's "all shtick." And Keith, using different words, describes it as "gonzo" religion.

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    6. Diane, I tend to think of what Dreher likes to do here as the "Piss Christ" gambit, as in

      "Watch now as I piss on you in the Name of Christ. Ready? Here goes:

      Gee, Diane, I can't imagine why someone like you wouldn't murder your children and bake them up into pot pies if you didn't have the fear of God to stop you. Because that's really what the basic Diane model is underneath, right?"

      But of course that sort of curse applied to others not afflicted with the curser's own self-loathed native moral defects is transparently a matter of projection and role-reversal:

      "See what I've done just now, Diane, by baptizing you in my urine in the Name of Christ? I've transformed you into me and by doing so made me now the normal one you used to be. So it's all good."

      Keith

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  10. Keith: "crazed bats and serpents."

    I think you are making a mistake here of supposing that anything RD writes, especially in the realm of theology, reflects some kind of sincerely held "belief" on his part. Absolutely none of it should be taken seriously.

    I haven't seen anything yet that convinces me that he even "believes" in anything.

    Dreher is one very confused little puppy who has managed to project for himself a public persona. But we have to keep in mind that this persona of his has no bearing on or connection to reality. We need to remember this if now and then he writes something that sounds to us "really stupid."

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  11. He believes in making as much money as possible Keith. By any means necessary. The evidence is the 1 million dollar book deal he has.
    Jonathan Carpenter

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  12. J. Carpenter: "He believes in making as much money as possible Keith. By any means necessary."

    Arguably, yes. If we could peel away the fa├žade of the public persona, probably all we would find beneath it is money and oysters.

    RD: "…need to finish today the proposal for my planned book on how Dante can save your life. The chief problem I’m struggling with in the proposal is how Christian to make the book. …This is not a study in Dante, or if it is, it’s a very specific kind of study, one that is meant not only to be contemplated, but used."

    Like I said, RD is one confused little puppy.

    Assuming his agent is stupid enough to buy into such a project, there is no way I would bother reading such a book. Dreher has absolutely nothing to offer that I can "use" let alone contemplate. Such a book would be little more than a big fat photo album full of selfies.

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  13. Is he on his third or fourth religion now?

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    1. I think the best way to understand Dreher is as Gonzo Religious, as if Hunter F. Thompson had decided to ride with the Catholics, then the Orthodox instead of with the Hell's Angels.

      With a shout out to Oengus' comment just above, I was telling some others earlier that our How-To Buckaroo may have finally found his galloping steed of a genre pony.

      Did you follow our hero previously when he explored How To Discover the Secret of the Good Life By Cashing In On Your Dead Sister While Airing Her Dirty Laundry (aka TLWORL)?

      Well, if you loved him in that adventure, you'll love him even more when he excitedly reveals How You, Too, Can Be Saved By Dante!

      Never mind that a number of the Orthodox Christians responding to the How Do I Sell This? post Oengus references explained to Orthodox Rod that the Orthodox don't really see God and the world the way he's carrying on about, this is show biz.

      And there are so many more How-To Be Saved Adventures In Culture out there just begging to be explored by the right gonzo hero and his appropriately co-dependent readership.

      Can you come up with his next one after Dante?

      What Dark Wood of Distress will our How-To Buckaroo find himself stranded in next, and what, oh what, will finally save him?

      Tune in tomorrow, same gonzo time, same gonzo station.

      Keith

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    2. Keith: "Tune in tomorrow, same gonzo time, same gonzo station.

      I think you have pretty much nailed it.

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