Tag Archives: atheism

Why I Envy Atheists

Brideshead mansion

Brideshead mansion

 

 

 

 

Note: I originally published this post several years ago on this blog. But when I recently re-watched Brideshead Revisited with my son, I realized that my feelings hadn’t changed so I am sharing it with you again:

Every so often you read a book or watch a film that you need to put down or look away from because it cuts too close to the bone.

So it was for me the other night when my husband and I finally finished watching the 1981 British television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Brideshead Revisited, an 11 episode meditation on privilege, family, religion and sexuality, all set in England between the Wars.

Most people – even those who haven’t read the book or seen the series – use “Brideshead” as shorthand for the flamboyant excesses of the British aristocracy on its last legs. And make no mistake, there’s no shortage of champagne flutes, dinner jackets and preposterously polite banter. In short, it’s the kind of thing that Americans tend to lap up. (See: Upstairs, DownstairsGosford Park and most recently, Downton Abbey.)

Read the rest of this post over at Thrive

 

Image: Castle Howard, Yorkshire by Nick Garrod via Flickr

Do Atheists Need ‘A Cathedral Of Their Own?’

This just in, from the Department of “Can you imagine this happening in the United States?” Two prominent atheists – popular philosopher Alain de Botton and popular science author Richard Dawkins – are sparring over the wisdom of erecting a “temple for atheists” in London.

No, but seriously folks.

In his latest book, Religion For Atheists, De Botton argues that even atheists have a soft-spot for the sort of grandiose architecture commonly associated with churches, mosques and temples. He has thus raised some 500,000 British pounds (approximately $786,000) to construct what he refers to as a “secular space for contemplation” in the heart of the city’s financial district. Although many in the West have little time for organized religion, they still have feel nostalgic for its “consoling, subtle or just charming rituals,” as he put it in an interview with a columnist at The Daily Telegraph.

In part, de Botton is motivated by a desire to counter what he sees as the “destructive beliefs” about atheism put forward by scholars like Richard Dawkins and the late journalist Christopher Hitchens, whom he sees as criticizing religion without offering anything more inspirational in its place. De Botton wants, instead, to borrow the idea of awe-inspiring buildings that give people a better sense of perspective on life.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog

 

Image: Atheists by yoshinari via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Why I Envy Atheists

Every so often you read a book or watch a film that you need to put down or look away from because it cuts too close to the bone.

So it was for me the other night when my husband and I finally finished watching the 1981 British television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Brideshead Revisited, an 11 episode meditation on privilege, family, religion and sexuality, all set in England between the Wars.

Most people – even those who haven’t read the book or seen the series – use  “Brideshead” as shorthand for the flamboyant excesses of the British aristocracy on its last legs. And make no mistake, there’s no shortage of champagne flutes, dinner jackets and preposterously polite banter. In short, it’s the kind of thing that Americans tend to lap up. (See: Upstairs, Downstairs, Gosford Park and most recently, Downton Abbey.)

The actors are to die for. The series launched Jeremy Irons’ career and also features outstanding performances by Diana Quick, Anthony Andrews, Lawrence Olivier and more. Plus, any film that dwells on extensive bouts of family conflict, alcoholism and unspoken homo-eroticism? I’m there.

So that was all well and good. But as the series wore on, it became increasingly clear that this wasn’t just another voyeuristic journey into the heart of Oxbridge-bred England. Rather, it was essentially a protracted tale of one family’s inexorable, inter-generational and self-destructive struggle with Catholicism.

I’ve written before about my own personal struggles with my family’s faith. How my husband and I have tried, through the years, to reconcile my religious Catholic upbringing with his cultural Jewish identity. And how that has led me to become, begrudgingly, over time, a sort of reluctant secularist.

What Brideshead Revisited added to that equation was the pain and guilt that goes along with that decision. I wanted desperately, as I watched, to identify with Charles Ryder, the protagonist of the story. He is the stoic, eternally rational hero who can’t quite fathom why this otherwise well-educated and cultured family in which he has become enmeshed – The Flytes – is so hopelessly caught up in their Roman Catholic faith.

Instead, I ended up identifying with Julia, his beloved, who tries her very best to leave her religion (and thus, to some extent, her family) by embracing Charles (and divorce and modernity) and the skepticism it implies. In the end, however, it’s too much for her and she can’t quite bring herself to do it. It breaks her heart, but she chooses the Church over her true love. It is her destiny.

I won’t do that. I left the church long ago and save a few masses here and there and the occasional compunction to pray on airplanes, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to Catholicism. Or any other religion, for that matter.  Even Judaism.

But I experience that as a loss. And it’s a painful one.

And that’s why I envy all the atheists I know, who make up about 90% of the people around me, including my husband. They don’t share this anguish. It doesn’t keep them awake at night.

I would love to have that peace of mind.

But I don’t.

And that, my friends, is one price of adulthood. At least mine.

 

Image: IMG_2994 by Franie Frou Frou via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

 

Rejecting Religion in Adulthood: Atheism's Newfound Popularity

I’ve written before on this blog about changing your religion in adulthood. A recent poll found that half of all Americans change religion during adulthood. But what about abandoning your religion entirely?

Today, I’m over on PoliticsDaily.com talking about the rise of atheism in the U.S. and the U.K., and some of its more humorous offshoots. (Spoiler Alert: Prove the Unicorn Doesn’t Exist game…)

Come on over and have a look, and leave a comment if you dare. I’m sure I’ll be thoroughly pilloried by readers. (FYI: for those of you who are put off by the need to register with AOL before leaving a comment on the site, don’t worry. They just want to know that you have a valid email address and once you register, you can visit as much as you like.)

Enjoy!

Image: Unicorn Cosplay by Sam Howzit via Flickr under a Creative Commons License

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