Letters to the Editor

Robin Williams is no poster child for meaninglessness

Editor:

After years of reading missives such as that of Branko Popazivanov, it’s exhausting to continue to see how determinedly theists, and even some deists, continue to misunderstand secular humanism.

When rationalists such as Carl Sagan make statements such as “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,” they are including gods, or demons, or leprechauns, or Higgs bosons, or dark matter, or multiple universes, or anything else that is put forward as a theory. If there is a God, fine; scientific inquiry has no problem with that. Next step: test the theory with observations and experiments and publish your results so that others may critically review your findings and methodology. As there is zero evidence for God or unicorns or planet Nemesis, sane scientists simply let those theories rattle around in odd corners of the Internet and move on to more productive lines of inquiry and interest that can be observed and for which there is testable evidence, like evolution, butterfly migration patterns, cosmological inflation, etc.

Now, the attempt to make “meaningless” a central feature of secularism is just a red herring. We are social creatures embedded in complex webs of interaction with family, neighbours, institutions, artists, governments, etc., and we all quite naturally find meaning in them, or in mastering a Beethoven piano sonata, or campaigning for gender equality, or ....; all without the aid of C.S. Lewis’s Christianity thank you very much.

One can despair at how small and alone our planet is, or one can realize how precious we are, rejoice, and work tirelessly to make our world the best that it can be (humanism). If one chooses to see our situation as meaningless, knock yourself out; but don’t try to recruit Robin Williams as a poster child for meaninglessness. Mental illness is a treatable, manageable medical condition for which there are ever-increasing resources and support, and to tell people suffering from it that they lack Christianity is superficial and nonsensical.

This speaks somewhat to morals, a topic that gives me the giggles when I see theists take it on. As a point of pride, theists claim to be utterly at sea on questions of right and wrong, and thus require a magic sky daddy to inform them on such questions. This is quite fallacious; we as members of a civil society have the dignity, self-confidence, and intelligence to continuously and thoughtfully improve our understandings of how we ought to live with one another. The result is an ever-expanding community of inclusiveness, but one which is resisted by odd collections of screeching religionists who insist on bronze-age moralities of intolerance.

ISIS thugs and Tea Party wingnuts do have moral codes that they are advancing, but they are born of complex cultural histories, and we don’t need to worry if either group has a lock on a theistic truth that perhaps we should all be following. They don’t.

Murray Hill

Richmond

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