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Nica Lalli is an atheist, but she doesn’t want to be lumped in with all atheists. Welcome to the club. Not all Christians want to be lumped in with all who call themselves Christians or with those who are religious in some way. The militant atheists—Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and to a lesser degree these days, Sam Harris—condemn all religious people for being religious. Nica objects to such sweeping generalizations. She’s willing to carry on a dialogue with religionists.
While this is a noble gesture, she should be reminded that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. You’ve heard the adage, “If it bleeds it leads.” The media aren’t that interested in “nice” atheists like Nica. They are looking for a war between atheists and religionists. I suspect that Nica will not be invited to speak at the next meeting of the Atheist Alliance International because she wants “dialogue.” Of course, I would be willing to dialogue with Nica. Hopefully what follows serves as my willingness to sit down with and discuss our differences and to show her how much she has been “infected” by the worldview she claims to reject.
Nica writes: “I am an atheist, a humanist, a secularist, a person of no religion. I am nothing.” Of course, this is an obvious contradiction. To be the things in her list means she is something. She has picked and fashioned a worldview. Being nothing is impossible even for someone who claims to be nothing, because the nothing she claim to be is actually being something. Being something is an inescapable concept. Pressed on this, Nica would have to admit that she really is not “nothing.” She has a belief system that she must account for given atheistic, materialistic, and secular assumptions.
When I read Nica’s article, the first thing that popped into my mind was the television comedy “Seinfeld” that ran from 1989 to 1998, a show that was said to be about nothing. Of course, anyone who has seen a single episode of “Seinfeld” knows that as nihilistic as the show seems to be on the surface, it was about a whole lot of things. In fact, it was about everything, and everything was interpreted in a secular and humanistic way. The characters were have been described as “isolated, narcissistic, urban, ‘thirty-something singles’ . . . with no roots, vague identities, and conscious indifference to morals outside their self-determined ones.” Elaine claims to be either an agnostic or an atheist. She agreed with Jerry in one episode that what she wanted out of life was “a barren, sterile existence that ends when you die.” She was shocked when she learned that her boyfriend was a devout Christian. He would let Elaine steal for him because she was already going to hell. Jerry says of volunteer work, “See, that’s what I love about the holiday season. That’s the true spirit of Christmas. People being helped by people other than me. That makes me feel good inside.” I could go on like this for pages.
In the final episode of “Seinfeld,” the “gang of four” are in Latham, Massachusetts, waiting for the plane they were traveling in to be repaired. While waiting, they see an overweight man getting carjacked at gunpoint. Instead of helping him, they crack jokes about the man’s girth while Kramer captures the episode on his camcorder. The microphone is picking up every word of their ridicule. Still laughing, they walk away. The victim notices their indifference and reports the episode to a police officer. Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine are taken into custody for violating the Good Samaritan law that requires bystanders to help out in such a situation.
There is a trial, and nearly every character the four have wronged in all the shows—and there are lots of them—are called as witnesses. The testimony is relentless. One man comes all the way back from Pakistan to tell his tale of woe. People shudder when they hear how thoughtless the four have been. The flashbacks tell the story in stark and depressing detail. After being found guilty, the foursome is sent off to spend time in prison. There is no remorse. Why should there be?
In the final scene before the credits, the four main characters sit in a jail cell—strangely unfazed by what has just happened to them, still concerned mostly with the minutiae that preoccupied them beforehand. Jerry begins a conversation about George’s shirt buttons, using lines from the very first episode of the series (“The second button is the key button. It literally makes or breaks the shirt…”). George then wonders if they have had that conversation before. Also, Kramer is ecstatic about finally getting the water out of both his ears, which was the real cause of the near plane crash accident in the first place. Elaine still cannot believe they are in prison, but Jerry tells her they can get out on parole in six to seven months, which is the amount they will have to pay on the apartment, and he will attempt to have Jerry picked up again.
It’s all actually quite funny, but only when you know the show is fiction. Given the “nothing” worldview of Nica and her atheist assumptions, what did Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine do wrong? The Latham police officer arrested them for violating the “Good Samaritan law.” But that law has a religious origin. There is no such law in evolution. It’s the survival of the fittest, the law of the jungle, “nature, red in tooth and claw.” Ridiculing a fat man is the least they could have done. Killing, cooking, and eating him was always a consideration, something that pesky Newman considered doing when his friend Kramer spent too much time “cooking” under the Sun.
Nica wants her “live and let live” worldview, but she has nothing on which to build it. There’s no way to account for Good Samaritans or anything else that is good (or evil) given her atheistic assumptions. Even so, I’m willing to dialogue.