an object or objects used to disguise the purchase of a book on theology or religious belief.
There was a time when purchasing books on religious belief and Christian theology was quite an ordinary thing. A Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in religion tends to do that to a person. But recently I experienced a great sense of embarrassment at purchasing a book on the philosophy of religion and felt compelled to purchase something else to place on top of it to (half-)disguise my purchase. Lacking a word to describe this pointed to a lexical gap.
It began with a blog post by Keith Parsons, a professor of philosophy. In two sentences, he expressed a devastating critique of a book he once used when he taught courses in the philosophy of religion. He described C. Stephen Layman’s Letters to a Doubting Thomas: A Case for the Existence of God as follows:
I found the arguments so execrably awful and pointless that they bored and disgusted me (Layman is not a kook or an ignoramus; he is the author of a very useful logic textbook). I have to confess that I now regard “the case for theism” as a fraud and I can no longer take it seriously enough to present it to a class as a respectable philosophical position—no more than I could present intelligent design as a legitimate biological theory.
Others have said of this book that “[It] is the best book of its kind…”
Could Layman’s arguments be that bad? If Parsons assessment is to be believed, then the best book regarding “the case for theism” is “execrably awful and pointless.”
Curious as to the substance of Layman’s arguments, I decided to see for myself. However, on the walk to the checkout, I found myself embarrassed. “The cashier will think I’m religious,” I thought to myself. This thought was deeply disconcerting. I could feel the warmth of my cheeks reddening, followed by the flush of my entire face. And, thus, I needed a disguise.
In an effort to give the appearance that I was merely reading two sides to an argument (but really the cashier probably neither noticed nor cared), I chose Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great.
Sure, I already had a copy…but not in hardback.
Copyright © 2012 JP Laughlin
May 1, 2012
You are growing much too fast. Sometimes I just want a few more moments with you at a couple of days or weeks old. Not because I think things were better then, or that you are difficult now. It’s been a thrill experiencing every single one of your milestones with you. And I am eager to experience those to come. In fact, you’ve given me the gift of seeing the world anew.
Instead, it’s because time has passed so quickly since your birth that I must constantly confront my own mortality, and yours. Reflect upon it and embrace it. It’s as sobering and humbling as it is exciting and electrifying. There is not a single night that passes that the enormity of our mortality does not haunt my thoughts. I want just a few more moments of the newness of you to assuage the breath-taking weight of knowing that, someday, we will be apart.
It’s not that I fear what is to come in death. I won’t feel it, or know that it has happened. In the sense of ‘non-existence,’ I was ‘dead’ in the aeons past and suffered not at all for it. Instead, I will return to the nothingness from which we are born, without you and your mom. But if I imagine a future you after I have passed, I miss rather than fear the loss of future experiences with the two of you. I miss, in advance, the loss of sharing our lives and your mother’s embrace. As I struggle with how fast you grow up, and the speed with which you develop into this wonderful person, I miss these things to come in much the same way that I miss those that have past: you as a tiny newborn, your first steps. I miss them, but am thrilled to be a part of you now and throughout our mortal existence.
But comfort comes. At some point in the aeons to come, the substance of our bodies will return, not just to this Earth but, to the cosmos itself. Perhaps we will then participate in the creation of another star, another world, another system of life. Or, perhaps, it will be all of them together. Though we won’t know it when it happens, we can contemplate it now and share that with each other and those around us. This is nothing short of remarkable. It is awe-inspiring, glorious, and beautiful. It is beauty. And, if beauty can be said to endure beyond all consciousness and minds to perceive it, it is a beauty that endures.
You are beautiful. And if I could, I would ensure that you endured as you are now for as long as beauty itself. Though the depth of human ability is profound, this is beyond anyone’s capacity. But know, when you look to the planets and the stars, that this beauty in eternity is our all-too-human destiny.
I love you always,
Copyright © 2012 JP Laughlin