Don’t be fooled by my talk of Vegas into thinking that I am some libertine. Although I’ve been criticizing religion on epistemological grounds this month, I don’t much object to the ethos of self-discipline and sexual restraint it helps spread. (My position is thus the opposite of a lot of modern American critics of religion: I don’t so much mind organized religion, it’s spirituality and belief in God I can’t abide.)
Religion, like military school, can be beneficial to those in need of moral guidance and structure. I think, though, we should strive to understand the benefits of self-discipline and moral guidance in utilitarian terms — in which case these things would likely be regarded with even greater respect, due to their self-evident practicality — instead of mandating them via mystical mumbo-jumbo that the wily will see through and the apathetic will ignore, more and more rapidly, I suspect, as modernity, diversity, and individualism advance.
It should be no surprise, though, that I have enough conservative respect for some of religion’s practical social effects to plan a laudatory review for Easter — on March 23, one month from today — of a book by John O’Sullivan partly about Pope John Paul II’s undeniably large role in ending European Communism (The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister). I’ll contrast it with a book about the left ([Read My T-Shirt] for President by Judy Seigel) and a libertarian book (Freedomnomics by the controversial John Lott), but the Pope’s role in history will loom large no matter how few paragraphs I can afford to devote to him. (And don’t forget that one of my four Book Selections for this “Month Without God,” The Irrational Atheist, was by a believer, as was January’s Made in America, written by born-again Christian fighting champ Matt Hughes, albeit with Michael Malice.)
I am an atheist and, I hope, a well-rounded one.