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Journal of No. 118

October 19th, 2009

the New Atheism - a retrospective & meditation @ 03:11 pm

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So it's been about 3 years since Wired published Gary Wolf's article that introduced the term 'New Atheists'. I didn't care for the new label (or what it represents) then, and I still don't.

But it's interesting to see it change. Originally, the article was on Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Dan Dennett. Dennett is too much like Santa Claus (in both appearance and non-meanness) for the label to stick, so he seems to be being replaced by Hitchens (with the Four Horsemen of New Atheism being a transitional form) and/or PZ Myers.

Recently, NPR did a story on the schism in atheism, which essentially divides between the New Atheists (and the old?).

PZ apparently said, "Edgy is what young people like," Myers says. "They want to cut through the nonsense right away and want to get to the point. They want to hear the story fast, they want it to be exciting, and they want it to be fun." It sounds like he's pitching Hollywood product, rather than secularism. If the New Atheism really is about ten second films of the pope getting kicked in the nards, then it has to go.

A fable

I don't like baseball. I don't play baseball. I don't go to baseball games.

People like me have often been looked down upon; for decades, it was un-American to not like baseball. The majority sees something vaguely threatening and possibly communistic about those who do not enjoy the national pastime.

I'd try to argue with them. Tell them that if they'd been born in Canada, they might have grown up with an interest in curling or hockey. That there's nothing wrong with not liking baseball. But that was too foreign a concept for them.

Anyway, things have gotten better. People who don't like baseball banded together, and with the help of the ACLU and other likeminded fellow travellers, the legal barriers facing non-baseball likers were lifted. Schoolchildren could remain silent during the singing of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," jurors were no longer sworn in on a T206 Honus Wagner, and so on.

Stirred by these successes, the groups of non-baseball likers tried to figure out what to do next. Sure, there were still a few issues to be dealt with. Many states still had "Three Strikes" laws on the books, but it looked like they were going to remain there, despite the obviously unconstitutional mingling of ball and state.

But for the most part, there was just a room full of people not-playing baseball together. Pretty boring. Not much reason to join when you can not-play baseball at home. And these groups were recognizing that the only thing they had in common was not playing baseball.

Idle bat in idle hand too often turns to crimes unplanned, or whatever the phrase is.

So perhaps inevitably some of the bands of non-baseball players used their meetings to deride baseball:

"Baseball wouldn't flourish if parents didn't play catch with their children; it's child abuse."
"Baseball is just a big rip off. Do you know it's $10 for hot chocolate at Yankee Stadium?"
"Did you hear about the baseball player arrested for drunk driving?" As if baseball had anything to do with drunk driving! Sure, there are some wonderful cases of baseball players who hypocritically tell their fans that drugs are an abomination forbidden by the rules, but who secretly get their hot androgen injections at a seedy motel from a 'personal trainer'. That's well worth criticizing. But more generally speaking, which is the more helpful message? Providing evidence that baseball likers and non-likers commit crimes at roughly equal rates, or shouting "A shortstop was arrested for tax evasion! Durr." Discussing the complicated phenomena of post-championship rioting and how it can be addressed, or just calling the rioters animals blinded by baseball, which oughtta be banned?

The answer seems obvious to me, but pretty soon some of these groups turned from non-baseball playing to active baseball-hating. Anything remotely connected with baseball was immediately anathema. Having formed a club of anti-baseball players, they need the baseball likers in order to explain the reason for their existence. If baseball vanished, then everyone would not-play baseball; but to be anti-baseball, you need a baseball to be your villain. And the way they deride baseball likers and baseball, it's certainly not likely that they are going to convince people to their side and reduce the influence of baseball.

It's a hazy line, and everyone will draw it a different place, but I can't really cheer on a lot of the antics of the new non-baseball playing. Not that I'm a milquetoast closet case non-baseball player. Most of my friends and family know I don't like baseball, and I have used this journal to present my argument that fair and foul do not exist as objective measurements, but are only purely subjective judgments. I think that kind of activity is the right way to engage the issue. I show through my life and actions that people who don't like baseball can be fine citizens. And I try to show the reasons I have for my beliefs, which might actually convince someone who's on the outfield fence of the issue, and only attends baseball games out of habit or familial devotion. Sure, nothing is going to penetrate the faith of a Cubs fan, but as much as I deplore some of the things that baseball can lead to, I don't see any reason to be a dick about it.
Like I said, the line is hazy, so no doubt I'm a dick from time to time.
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[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 19th, 2009 11:54 pm (UTC)
"To oppose something is to maintain it.

They say here "all roads lead to Mishnory." To be sure, if you turn your back on Mishnory and walk away from it, you are still on the Mishnory road. To oppose vulgarity is inevitably to be vulgar. You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk another road." —U.K. Le Guin
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 20th, 2009 12:19 am (UTC)
Well played.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 20th, 2009 12:36 am (UTC)
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 20th, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC)
What if you showed good evidence that

a) baseball players use steroids at a much higher rate than the average population, and, in fact, it is probably BECAUSE of baseball that they do so

b) baseball players have lower GPAs and SAT scores than the average population, and it is probably BECAUSE they're out playing baseball all the time

basically, I'm saying that if you could show a causal connection between baseball and things that society considers bad, would it be ok to hate baseball?
[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 20th, 2009 06:08 pm (UTC)
I dunno. When is it ever justified to hate something?

And if there are these deleterious effects, do we achieve the change we want by spitting on baseball players?

[User Picture Icon]
Date:October 20th, 2009 06:24 pm (UTC)
good points
Date:October 22nd, 2009 09:48 am (UTC)
You just don't see how baseball can improve your life and be a guide and solution to al your problems.

See, I have a personal relationship with baseball, and constantly find in it wonder and infinite variation atop intimate familiarity and semi-predictable comfort.

I think if you experienced it, tried it, you'd learn to love it.

But I can accept that you aren't a baseball fan. Do you like something else? Football? Basketball? Hockey? I will assume not Cricket, with all their bizarre rules and demanding dietary requirements and position as forefather to baseball. But there has to be something there, right? Otherwise, what would you live for?

I believe in the Church of Baseball. I've tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I've worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn't work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there's no guilt in baseball, and it's never boring... which makes it like sex. There's never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn't have the best year of his career. Making love is like hitting a baseball: you just gotta relax and concentrate. Besides, I'd never sleep with a player hitting under .250... not unless he had a lot of RBIs and was a great glove man up the middle. You see, there's a certain amount of life wisdom I give these boys. I can expand their minds. Sometimes when I've got a ballplayer alone, I'll just read Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman to him, and the guys are so sweet, they always stay and listen. 'Course, a guy'll listen to anything if he thinks it's foreplay. I make them feel confident, and they make me feel safe, and pretty. 'Course, what I give them lasts a lifetime; what they give me lasts 142 games. Sometimes it seems like a bad trade. But bad trades are part of baseball - now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God's sake? It's a long season and you gotta trust. I've tried 'em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.
--Annie Savoy

Journal of No. 118