No, I’m not going to write a bunch of mock-prayers. No surreptitious glory to the Devil, if I can help it. Neither can I judge an atheist, who faces an awful temptation. I can only point out that some claims aren’t worth making.
This post criticizes bad mantras recycled by atheists. Each mantra eschews intellectual honesty and undermines human culture. As a preface to remedial action, I contrast the mantras with the Liturgy of the Hours.
The Liturgy of the Hours (LOH) proceeds like this:
- Song ♫
- Psalms and Antiphons
- Prayer of Zechariah or Mary
- Closing prayer
The faithful are “to pray always” (Lk 18:1) and “continually” (Heb 13:15), in expectation that the LOH “brings joy” to the Church (Abridged General Instruction 18), and puts believers “in touch with all mankind” (17). The LOH impels a four-weekly cycle of “conversation between God and man” (18), that “contributes in no small degree to the salvation of the whole world” (17).
Atheists also maintain a four-weekly conversation, but their mantras do not bring joy. They isolate the individual from mankind and require an act of groundless faith to replace the Divine with the Giant Promissory Note in the Sky. Observe what appears on the internet, month after month.
Week 1: The Monkey with Pants has an infinite past, but no future.
This teaching combines multiple genres of human expression: melancholy, bravado, esoterica, and dogma. In formulating a response, it is difficult to know where to begin, but not to begin. Does the Week 1 devotee argue for a material vs. immaterial intellect, or merely assume it? Does she defend her presuppositions about time, and disagree with Aristotle and Aquinas without resorting to some detail from ancient chemistry? Week 1 forces an especially disheartening skew on human epistemology. We are to adore our monkey-past, which is gone, but we are to reject any interest in a future (equally gone) that admits the supernatural as possible or the metaphysical as explanatory. The prophets of Week 1 announce our origin in the Monkey and our cessation in the earth, but before lodging an objection, the most honest Christian prophets will simply request a broader symmetry. The materialism of Week 1 would be more tenable, in other words, if it weren’t so lopsided. It would also be more scientific.
Week 2: Religion is based on Lightning and Hunting.
This non-sequitur offends not by its datedness, but by its lethargy. Beat Freud at his own game, and recognize that not even the worst reasons for joining a religion render its prophets’ claims true or false. That is, however, beside the point. The point of Week 2 is that even greedy hunters fear lightning. Thankfully, researchers have revealed this to us, because we cannot trust the 2nd graders who already know it.
Week 3: You can practice Neuroscience without the Bible.
Lightning and hunting affect different regions of the brain, therefore morality is an electron. Before critiquing this claim, notice the inconsistency. Week 3 reverses the skew of Week 1: now the past belongs to discredited superstition, and man’s only future is the scientist who will discover the cluster of cells that give the universe concepts, consciousness, personhood, and the Prime Mover. Focus on the future! You graduated Week 1 and need only revisit that place to bludgeon the believers.
Week 4: We lack any Shred of Evidence . . .
. . . that we agree on what a “shred” is. The shred of evidence mantra appears everywhere, and rolls off the tongue. It’s actually really fun to say, like “indubitable.” The problem is that if “shred” is supposed to impart universal meaning, and thus universal truth, science won’t find it. Science observes particulars and lets rational agents induce universals. So the absurdity, of demanding a “shred” of material to prove a claim about the immaterial, leaps from our reflecting pool like a capricious orca. Demanding evidence out of turn commits the fallacy of generalization, but by Week 4, the mantra is too catchy for the atheist to think of anything else.
In conclusion, we ought to rescue the alleged antagonism between faith and science by filtering out bad claims. Those wishing to supplant a tenet they have rejected from contemporary atheists may pray in tandem with Pope Francis and the entire Church, right here.
 Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1976).
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