For anyone who has a hard time remembering the difference between the Manhattan Institute and the Manhattan Project (I didn’t name either and run only the latter), tomorrow will be especially challenging — on Wednesday, Sept. 17 at 6:30:
•not only will I be hosting the usual third-Wednesday-of-the-month libertarian/conservative creative-people Manhattan Project social gathering at Merchants NY bar/restaurant on 62nd and First,
•but the unrelated Manhattan Institute’s always-interesting and combative Heather Mac Donald will be arguing against belief in God — a wonderful change of pace, coming from a conservative! — in a debate with her fellow conservative Michael Novak, author of No One Sees God, a book intended as a retort to the so-called “New Atheists” like Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris (at the Harvard Club, which requests jackets and ties, at 35 West 44th; RSVP to bookforum[at]templeton.org or 610-941-4050).
I like Mac Donald and wish I could be there myself — but if you go to the one-hour Mac Donald slaughtering of Novak, you can always come straight to Merchants NY afterward and tell me how it went.
Lest it appear I have strayed from the Month of Sex theme again, let me also note that my own pet theory about why belief in God seems so intuitively plausible to many people and is so strangely bound up with notions of sexual ethics (for many believers and unbelievers alike) is that conscience always, inevitably feels a bit like “someone watching you.” It is one part of your brain evaluating other parts, after all — and people who have a powerful sense of being watched even in their most private moments (or when engaged in their most depraved thoughts) are liable to think they keep experiencing the belief-reinforcing presence of some unseen intelligence.
I hate to sound like a complete reductionist, but someday when they’ve got our entire neural machinery mapped to the last detail (no Mysterian am I), I suspect that mundane looking-over-my-shoulder feeling will end up being a big part of the explanation for the endurance of the God delusion (I think cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter would like this theory on two levels — he once said “recursion is my god,” and he’s friends with one of those aforementioned New Atheists, Daniel Dennett; my friend Caryn Solly has been thinking along somewhat similar lines since surviving a fall off a cliff in Bali a few months ago, apparently).
Three other faith-based notes while I’m on the topic:
1. Tracy Quan, the subject of my entry yesterday, sends word of the interesting organization Faith House, which engages in constant ecumenical activities, spanning philosophies as well as diverse religions, like the next step beyond Unitarianism — and on Oct. 11 they’re even honoring atheism. Of course, I take no special pleasure in seeing people of multiple faiths come together, intermingling their diverse forms of idiocy when they could simply be united by the absence of any faith and the presence of maybe a scintilla of common sense or skepticism for the first time in their useless, superstition-haunted lives, but, you know, if it helps prevent war and bigotry and all that, that’s great.
2. Don’t forget that Sept. 28 (8pm) brings our semi-religious Debate at Lolita Bar about sex between Stephanie Sellars and Anna Broadway.
3. And I see from DarkHorizons.com that the next project from the Pi-man Darren Aronofsky — after his (unnecessary) RoboCop remake — is apparently likely to be…Noah’s Ark.
I could imagine that being really, really awful — and I say that despite having nothing aesthetically against, say, crucifixion movies or Moses movies. But the Ark story is ridiculous even by religion standards, and that’s saying something. Aronofsky being quoted as saying that eco-apocalypse themes make it extra timely doesn’t help — though that suggests 2012 as a good release date, alongside the apocalyptic Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle, perhaps.
Maybe they should try to “rationalize” the whole thing by revealing that the Ark can cram in so many animals because it’s a tesseract, a “wrinkle in time” that allows more space to exist on the inside of it than on the outside. Then they can cast David Tennant from Doctor Who as Noah and get a really interesting crossover-audience thing going on. I also think it would be cool if they cast Jack Black, Jack Nicholson, or possibly Al Pacino as Ham. No — Shatner!