Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Gospel according to St. Paul

A parable of St. Darwin

It was already clear by the overreaction from certain quarters that atheists have recently been making a little noise. The really insightful types, like Paul Greenberg, know what's going on: Nonbelievers are looking to wipe out or suppress all believers and their forms of worship. It's a war, baby! Haven't you noticed that Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens are agitating for a full-throated embrace of a scorched-earth policy? Greenberg has.

Fortunately for believers everywhere, Greenberg is stylishly accoutered in the armor of righteousness. Since his weapon is the pen (neatly engraved along the side with “former Pulitzer Prize winner”), he wields it with oracular zest. The result is a portrait in ink of a post-apocalyptic paradise of nonbelief, where everyone can rejoice in a rigorously enforced culture of Darwin-worship. Here are the words of St. Paul Greenberg, prophet of faith despoiled and religion routed, as he portrays the ruminations of Brother Erasmus, devout evolutionist and nonbeliever:
Erasmus had assumed that all the Old Believers had been hunted down by the survivors of the Last World War. The massacres had begun during the Great Secularization, when people had realized how the old, divisive ideas had caused the final cataclysm. Most of the religious had been burned at the stake, along with the books that had spread their dangerous ideas. That should have been the end of their baneful influence. But here was one more false prophet.

The Darwinian order to which Brother Erasmus belonged taught only pure science at abbeys like his own, and no one was allowed to question it, lest the Dark Ages return. Those certified to teach the young were not allowed to question Darwin's revelation, and certainly not present alternate theories. That way lay division and dissent and, inevitably, fiery chaos.
Greenberg has obviously laid hands on a bootleg copy of the Atheist Agenda (which is like the old Gay Agenda, but less religious). Otherwise, how could he forecast so accurately exactly what atheists are planning for the new order of the world? We're all champing at the bit to start the great pogroms on our to-do list. Greenberg knows that if you scratch an evolutionist, you get a Grand Inquisitor. Who ratted us out?

St. Paul Greenberg, however, wants religionists to know that Truth is hardy and will not simply pass from this earth. No, it will rise anew! In fact, it will rise from the suppressed words of the divine Darwin himself. Yea, verily I say unto you:
Then he noticed the little book he would eventually come to think of as the Lost Gospel. It was entitled “Recapitulation and Conclusion,” and it was the strangest thing he'd ever read, at least in Old English. It was written as if it were the last chapter of “The Origin of Species” itself, mocking the style of Darwin Our Deliverer, blessed be his name.

Brother Erasmus knew he should have burned the forgery then and there, but even the best of us are sore beset by temptation. He began to read: “I see no good reason why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of any one.”

Well, Brother Erasmus was shocked. No one had ever showed him such a passage before in holy writ. He could not resist reading the whole thing—to the very last sentence:

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

Amen, Erasmus heard himself murmur before thinking. That was when he realized how subversive was the document he held in his hands.
If you haven't checked your copy of the Atheist Agenda lately, you may have forgotten the plan to extirpate the last chapter of Darwin's Origin of Species. As quoted in Greenberg's cutesy parable, it contains a deeply religious invocation of the power of God. Or, depending on your point of view, Darwin's use of a literary trope, in which “Creator” is employed as an anthropomorphic invocation of the power of Nature. Since Darwin was not a believer (and, no, did not embrace God on his deathbed), which do you think is more likely?

Greenberg, of course, posits that evolutionists would out-Darwin Darwin. Indeed, evolutionists would prefer that the last chapter be forgotten, lest the simple-minded fall into the error of belief in God. It may be that St. Paul has his tongue tucked at least partway into his cheek, preening himself over his cleverness, but a touch of verisimilitude is necessary to made a satire work. Would he like to explain why Stephen Jay Gould—famed atheist and evolutionist—quoted Darwin's last paragraph or alluded to it in his essays? Why did Sean B. Carroll borrow the phrase “endless forms most beautiful” for the title of his book on evolutionary developmental biology?

We keep celebrating something that we're supposed to be suppressing—at least in Greenberg's astigmatic world view.

But let's face it. Greenberg has peered into the depths of our shriveled souls and perceived that our conception of an evolutionist's utopia is a mirror image of Inquisition-era Spain. Clever man! With Paul Greenberg standing in the gap, how shall we ever achieve our vision of a Darwinian paradise on earth? I know! In keeping with our doctrinaire embrace of the law of natural selection, let us prey.


Anonymous said...

That's utterly revolting. Nice going, to heap all of the cliches of religious ( religious , as in performed by the religious on behalf of religion) perseuction on atheists. Almost punched the screen.
NB congratulations on the Molly; admire your writing very much.

mark hoback said...

A fine revealing.

Anonymous said...

Revealing. See the fun thing about Atheism and Agnosticism is that people are free to think what they want. A world where people believe only what others tell them to believe is a common desire of those with a religious affiliation. Projection much? Science is not a religion, religion is not a science. If Darwin's theories are disproved, people of science will accept it and look to new theories, religion leaves no such addendum to allow their beliefs to shift with the ever changing world.

Anonymous said...

So sad, he cannot even comprehend the ability for others to live without faith, so he psychologically projects and posits a world where evolution has become . . . a religion . . . like his.

Anonymous said...

Greenberg's one of the wingnuts' more florid crackpots, notable for the astonishing breadth of his dishonesty. He lies even when his writing betrays that he knows he's lying.

Batocchio said...

Nice breakdown.

By the way, my latest edition of the Atheist Agenda seems to have gotten lost in the mail. Maybe I can pick up a spare at the next meeting? ;-)

Anonymous said...

...Greenberg's cutesy parable...

It might aspire to cutesy, without that reference to "St. Lysenko". Real subtle and classy, Greenberg. What next, a satire about Catholics with a "St. Hitler"?

Plus, I smell some unintended irony. Interpreting this story in terms of the original Canticle, it seems that in Greenberg's version, the religious were responsible for a nuclear holocaust and are therefore persecuted, and the Darwinists are the ones attempting to salvage some learning. And this is bad how? The message of the original story is not "monks are silly and dogmatic".

Anonymous said...

The "Creator" part of the quote wasn't part of the first edition of the Origin, but was added later - presumably to mollify upset christians.