Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Airhead Atheism

Let's agree to try to believe Tracy Quan typed this where others could see it by way of criticizing Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens:

For it is not only Einstein's "music of the spheres" but music in general that must be tossed out when you refuse to appreciate religion. If you champion the splendors and benefits of Western culture, while claiming to oppose religion entirely, you are, metaphorically speaking, tone deaf.

Whether your preference is Bach, Britten, Palestrina, Kanye West or Earth, Wind and Fire, you'll find some aspect of Christianity in the details. But reggae - such as The Melodians doing Rivers of Babylon, based on a psalm of the exiled Jews - can't easily be separated from religion, either. Run from religion, if you must, but you can't hide from song, sculpture, poetry, architecture, painting, tourism or food.
How does this criticism, such as it is, relate to views actually held by Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens? Or anyone else?

In chapter three of The God Delusion, Dawkins addresses the so-called "Argument from Beauty," and his counterargument assumes the greatness of the artists he mentions by name, which include Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Raphael, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Emily Brontë. As for Bach, whom Tracy Quan was careless enough to invoke by name, Dawkins opens the discussion by numbering a piece from Bach's Matthäuspassion as one of his favorite pieces of music.

As for Hitchens, since reading God Is Not Great or checking on his years of work as a literary critic for The Atlantic Monthly appears to be beyond the reach of Quan's attention span, she might have checked this transcript (regrettably of Hugh Hewitt's radio program) featuring a discussion between Hitchens and David Allen White on Christianity's impact on western civilization. Suffice to say Hitchens does nothing in the way of "tossing out" all the thinkers and artists who don't fit his anti-god mold.

Quan's scattered musings eventually take her to this:
Some of my fellow atheists are to non-belief what being nouveau riche is to the traditionally rich. It's as though they've just discovered God doesn't exist, and they can't wait to tell you all about it. I cringe each time one of these noisy non-believers gets on their soap box.
Reading Tracy Quan reaquaints me with the sort of non-believer that makes me cringe.

It hardly seems necessary to point out that appreciating a work of art has no necessary relationship with agreeing with the artist's religious commitments. But apparently it counts as an insight charged with frisson in some circles.

(via normblog)

Here's an earlier post of mine related to similar criticisms of Dawkins et. al.


Tommy said...

I think Tracy Quan needs to go back to working as an escort!

Gary Baumgarten said...

Tracy Quan will be my guest on News Talk Online on at 5 PM Monday October 13.

Please go to and click on the link to the room to talk to her.