A Cruel Man Delighting in Flowers

...the mildness to which men ... had yielded was only half of the intoxication of beauty, while the other half ... was of such surpassing and terrible cruelty—the most cruel of men delights himself with a flower—that beauty ... failed quickly of its effect... 

Hermann BrochThe Death of Virgil

 

Jeremy Davies is made of ink, but don’t dip a feather in him. It tickles. He once painted a fingernail black and no one really noticed. He was disappointed. He’s also an editor, a religious atheist, a liker of strong coffees, a Shakespeare-lover, a political anarchist and someone who rarely has a pen when he needs one. He has been a PhD candidate, a personal trainer, a life model, a bouncer, an infantry soldier and someone who rarely had a pen when he needed one. He has had words published in a variety of places, in a variety of publications, in a variety of forms, in a variety of moments: Canada, Wet Ink, SMS and twelve minutes past three in the afternoon being some of these. His first novel, 'Missing Presumed Undead', will be re-published by Satalyte Publishing in February 2014. A second is on its way.

Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion - Alain de Botton I am a person who has described themselves as a 'Religious Atheist' for almost ten years or so (perhaps in a deliberately incendiary manner on occasion, but I still feel with some accuracy...), so I was interested in reading this book. As a person who also describes themselves as a writer, I was worried he might have written the book I should have; one of the greatest fears of all who describe themselves as such. I am also a person who is in touch with the discourse of Philosophy, so I approached the reading of this book with some trepidation after reading about Alain de Botton and his rather 'self help' populist approach in his oeuvre.

So, let's start with negatives: this is a pretty superficial book. I has pictures. It glosses over many very complex issues for rhetorical affect, and in an effort to simplify. Every chapter, even the ones I tacitly agreed with, had holes you could drive the truck that struck Roland Barthes through. Some statements are too glib for my eleven year old daughter. Just for example, Protestants were not ignorant of how the physical realm impacted upon Christian worship, it was a recognition of the influence that was the core of their problem...

But ... on the positive side: I think Alain de Botton's project here is to engage the blithely intellectually lazy atheists into actually thinking about their lack-of-faith/belief systems. To pick the holes in his thesis is to actually make some very interesting connections and considerations. His introduction of Auguste Comte right at the end is wonderfully provocative. I applaud his attack on so many aspects of modern western secularism (if not his lightly reactionary politics), and would love to take on board many of his practical ideas.

If you identify as an atheist and want to read something against Richard Dawkins & co., this is potentially an interesting springboard.

Currently reading

Lyrical and Critical Essays
Albert Camus
The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages
Harold Bloom
The Rebel (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)
Albert Camus