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    2000 miles

    Greg Beato (that rare Reason writer these days who’s nearly as funny as he thinks he is) has a column on that now-traditional holiday topic: killjoy secularization. He approaches it from the opposite direction:

    While anti-bias truffle pigs like Brent Bozell, William Donohue, and Michael Medved insist the entertainment industry is out to crucify faith and traditional values, it somehow manages to produce a new crop of straight-to-Hallmark-Channel holiday weepies each year, and not one of them has ever featured Dolly Parton as an unlikely evolutionary biologist who reunites an estranged family by infusing them with that old-fashioned Darwinist spirit. Such powers, it seems, are reserved solely for angels.

    Similarly, if you go looking for a Madalyn Murray O’Hair action figure at Wal-Mart, you’ll have to settle for a 13-inch Samson doll from the faith-based toymaker One2believe. Christian entrepreneurs are better at providing earthly rewards than the folks who believe earthly rewards are our only salvation. In fact, the Lord has called so many believers to spread the Good News via faith-based salt scrubs and godly poker chips during the last few decades that the annual U.S. market for Christian-themed products, often dismissed as “Jesus junk,” is now $4.6 billion.

    Well, one of the reasons for that is that No-God is not the center of an atheist’s belief system in a way that corresponds to God for Christians (and the faithful of other religions). The only reason I call myself an atheist is that daily interaction with other people is predicated on the assumption that we all have a god to talk about, so the word is useful for answering a question that frequently comes up. But I don’t orient my life around some conspicuous void where God would be for other people, any more than I consider myself, in some defining way, an afairyist, achupacabraist, aboogeymanist, or a-Nessie-ist. (To me, it’s similar, if not perfectly analogous, to the belief that government shouldn’t be responsible for doing everything that needs to be done in society. People who’ve never conceived of things any other way will ask, “Well, then, who’s going to do all that?” It’s as if you simply had to designate a single entity your Keeper of Society, rather than being able to believe that responsibility for different social goods could be attended to in dispersed ways that no Big Brother is orchestrating.)

    Of course, there are people who make a fetish out of their atheism, but there aren’t very many of them, which kind of helps to explain the paucity of (non-existent Lord help us) Madalyn Murray O’Hair action figures.

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