Jeffrey Tayler, a corresponding editor for The Atlantic stationed in Moscow, is really on a roll, publishing one “strident” atheist article after another—and in Salon, of all places. And he’s developing quite a nice style—sort of a hybrid between Hitchens and Mencken—in which his overt scorn for religion is combined with a delicious sarcasm.
Tayler’s latest piece, published two days ago, has the lovely title of “David Brooks, religious clown: Debunking phony Godsplaining from the New York Times’s laziest columnist“. Believe me, it will do your heart good to read it. I love the “Godsplaining” neologism, which could equally apply to those Sophisticated Theologists™ who try to tell the rest of us what God is really like.
On February 3, Brooks wrote a column for the Times called “Building better secularists.” It was a smarmy, goddycoddling, and patronizing attempt to instruct nonbelievers about what lessons we need to take from religion. It’s the usual tripe: we have to work hard at building our own morality (because, you know, without God it’s really hard!), we have to form communities, we have to have Sabbath-equivalents (maybe lighting candles for Camus?), and so on. Anyway, I was too dispirited to analyze Brooks’s lame effort in detail, but did a short dissection on this site (I also reproduced some letters to the Times by Dan Dennett and others who groused about Brooks’s piece).
But Tayler has done the hard work of really taking Brooks to the woodshed. I’m not going to repeat what you can read on Salon, but I want to reproduce three paragraphs of his article, just so you can see Tayler’s emerging style, which, to me, presages the birth of a powerful new voice of atheism. Now if Tayler could get this stuff into The Atlantic, or other places besides the normal goddycoddling Salon, it would be wonderful.
One might deem it almost shameful to publish one’s musings on the New York Times’ opinion page, the same page that continues to print, and quite shamelessly, the unapologetic scribbles of Iraq War cheerleader Thomas Friedman or the earnest yet befuddled lucubrations of useful Islamist idiot Nicholas Kristof. The first of these two columnists will probably never be called to account for the bloodshed and mayhem he has sanctioned in the Middle East. The second, I believe, means well, but by denouncing “Islamophobia” he shows he has accepted as sound a nonsense term that conflates faith and race and equates (well-founded) objections to Islam with prejudice against Muslims as people. And we should never forget that he, like Friedman, supported the Iraq War.But what to make of Friedman and Kristof’s seemingly milquetoast colleague, David Brooks? No shame attaches to him, though by publishing his pro-faith columns, he validates a stupendously (if surreptitiously) baleful Weltanschauung that should long ago have disappeared from our world. Brooks, in the face of mounting evidence, has striven tirelessly to bequeath credence to the dangerous notion, ever more antiquated and morally untenable, that believing in something asserted without evidence – religion — constitutes a virtue. That valuing faith above reason makes one a better person. That those who have shrugged off – or laughed away – the comically outlandish claims advanced by the Abrahamic creeds about our world and origins as a species are the ones with the explaining to do. Should he not be called to account?
I believe so. Moreover, Brooks’ recent Op-Ed, “Building Better Secularists,” leaves me no choice, or, better said, offers me an opportunity I cannot pass up for commentary. “Building Better Secularists” is nothing less than an anti-religion writer’s dream come true, an essay remarkable for its utter and complete susceptibility to refutation and repudiation. The title hints that Brooks intends to teach us godless folks a thing or two. The result? He succeeds only in beclowning himself by authoring a sanctimoniously gaseous tract that befits not America’s august Paper of Record, but a highbrow version of Watchtower, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ End-is-Nigh rag once handed out for free by blue-haired little old ladies in tennis shoes in front of speakeasies and liquor shops (and is now available online).
One can hear echoes of Mencken in there. There are no punches pulled, and useful idiots are called useful idiots. What a pity that the New York Times has so many of these UIs (Tanya Luhrmann is another)!
This is less than 20% of Tayler’s piece. Go read it, even if you’re already in the choir, for it’s lovely to see the sanctimonious Brooks taken down several pegs by one of his journalist colleagues.