The Trouble with Good Works


Mary Eberstadt

Now leaving that nasty little bit of Empiricism aside, there’s an even bigger problem for Us in this talk of good works. It’s that the Dulls don’t only do this charitable stuff because their stupid backward books tell them to; they also think that helping the weak is good thing to do just in and of itself. And as long as they persist in believing such an Unnatural thing, it will be hard for us atheists to bring them in by promising that the unbelievers do better at this game. They’re stupid: yes. But not that stupid.

As a Dull child, for example, I personally knew a Catholic priest who left a comfortable suburban parish to start up a mission — in a part of the country of Togo so crappy that it makes Calcutta look like something out of How to Marry a Millionaire. Just the pictures of his well-digging, barefooted, pretty needy-looking African clients probably kept me in the believers’ ranks longer than anything else. I don’t know even know why, mind You! After all, I was not Genetically Related to these people closely at all, so the continuance of their DNA was neither here nor there for me. But something about that priest’s risky involvement with them got under my skin, and it also seemed somehow to reflect well on the religion in whose name he did these things.

That’s the psychological effect of this kind of selfless behavior by others on your average believer. It’s like an addiction with them. I appreciate that Mr. Hitchens at least tried to address this problem with his har-dee-har-har attempted takedown of Mother Teresa. But it failed totally. Even most of Our allies in the secular media (and they are legion as You know!) were embarrassed by it. What’s the point of arguing that You shouldn’t do good things with bad money which seems to be Mr. Hitchens’s only coherent point? What are You supposed to do with bad money – bad things only? Do You know how lame this kind of Pick me! Pick MEEEEEE!’ Variation of atheist journalism looks to everyone else?

For another example, consider how things look if we compare, say, Western Europe (which thankfully is largely post-Christian now) with the U.S. (still occupied outside the major cities by Dulls). Do you remember what happened in secular France in summer 2003? How about some 14,800 “excess deaths” (I love that word “excess”!), mostly among the old, mostly in that citadel of civilization, gay Paree? That’s just an official French estimate by the way; others were higher. Some of those old bodies were never even claimed, just laid out in those plain thin wood rectangular boxes outside Paris like Pottery Barn Teen was having the biggest outdoor mattress and box spring sale ever or something.

Now, everyone official says they know the reasons “why” this happened — because of heat topping 100 degrees during a month when most of the city, including much of the nursing home staff, went on vacation. Well, there’s secular Europe for you: Granmamma’s in a “home” getting heatstroke, and her family, or what remains of it, is too busy with Eurail and Ryanair and vacation ooh-la-la to care. And so Nature got to dispose of a whole lot of Unfit people at one swoop. Now, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, any more than any other real Darwinist would. But my point is, does anyone really believe this would have happened if France were still a Christian country?

Not that plenty of atrocities didn’t happen when France was Christian! But the point is, would this particular atrocity, i.e. the totally freaky abandonment of the old and sick and weak in one of the most modern cities on earth in the name of leisure, have happened if Christianity still colored the way people behave in Europe? Was it thinkable in a world where what the religious call “the family” still had force behind it? For that matter, does anyone think it would have happened if all those geezers had been Muslims rather than post-Christian Europeans?

No, no, and no, and all for the same reason: because organized religion would have intervened. The American Christian response after Hurricane Katrina, to take one counterexample right in our Face, was as fast as the American government’s was lame.

But then again, why should the believers’ edge in caring for the Unfit surprise us atheists? After all, it’s not as if hospitals and soup kitchens abound in our inner cities in Darwin’s name. There’s not exactly a Bright network within the prisons bringing aid and comfort to the people inside. And it’s not like the sociologically Unfit show up at Los Alamos or the Natural History Museum, say, when it’s 30 below outside and they want a blanket and a bowl of free slop. Oh, and how about the many atheist families who have adopted six or eight or ten children, including those with handicaps? Right! I don’t know any either.

And that’s just my point: not only should our Side refuse to compete on fronts like these when there’s no evidence to our credit anyways; we should also be clear among Ourselves that we atheists don’t want the kind of world in which Nature’s rejects, the sick and the old and the frail of any sort, flourish anyway.

That’s what upsets me so about Your collective insistence that atheism can pick up the moral slack of religion in the matter of good works. It’s so hypocritical! Do we really want a society, say, abounding in family-minded people who take in other people’s Unfit offspring? Next thing you know after that, people might get the idea of protecting, say, crippled infants, or people in comas, or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s patients or other unfortunate parasites on our Species. And how Natural is any of that? Answer: not!

No, competing against the believers on grounds of good behavior will do our Side no good at all. I urge you with all my DNA to stay away from that game. The reason why we’ll lose it every time is simple: because their highest authority, the Loser, tells them to care for the sick and weak, whereas Ours, Nature, tells us the opposite.

The trick to end-running it is clear enough: Just keep focused at all times on the evils committed in religion’s name. Never mind how long ago they were! Try not to let the Dulls point out that you are comparing religious apples (i.e. what institutionalized religion did in Europe 600 years ago) with atheist oranges (i.e. what institutionalized atheism did in Europe 60 years ago). Mercifully, as it were, many of them are just ignorant enough of history not to call our bluffs on rhetorical saves like that.

But never, never, never, pretend that we have a code that would in any way render us as attentive to Nature’s Castoffs as the Dulls are, because we don’t — and not only don’t we have one, but in principle we don’t want one. And next, before introducing you to my barfogenic former boyfriend Lobo (!), which is where my own conversion story really begins, I want to get going on a couple other kinds of Bright chatter that need to be dialed down in the future for our Movement’s sake. Remember, I’m only here to help!

Yours Empirically 4-Ever,
A. F. Christian