From Baby Killers to Barnyard Mayhem: My Turn to Atheism, Part One


Mary Eberstadt

Editor’s note: Following a hot hot July 4 holiday wherever she is, numero uno atheist convert A.F. Christian returns with number eight of THE LOSER LETTERS, a Screwtape for our screwed-up time.

In the latest round over God, Mary Eberstadt takes on a gynophobe craptocracy, Steven Pinker, flocks of nervous chickens, Peter Singer and more as A. F. begins the real story behind her conversion to atheism for National Review Online . . .

Hey there again, all my awesome leading Atheist idols!

Welcome back from Our break, Everybody! I hope You all had a great Fourth of July holiday. I know this number one convert to godlessness sure did! Those were some fireworks I could see from my new room in this weird rehab. And those fake screams coming from wherever were a lot more real than I was expecting. I haven’t been so scared since I went to YouTube and watched Dinesh D’Souza debate some of You Guys about the Loser!

I’m not criticizing Anybody for falling down on the job, mind You. It’s not Our fault that the Jesuits taught D’Souza all those underhanded tricks — You know, like how to spot formal fallacies and informal fallacies, or what the law of excluded middle means, or how Deduction and Induction really work. I’m just saying so You know I’ve got Your backs, that staying out of takedowns like those would do Us atheists more good than harm. Ouch! Talk about getting owned.

Anyway! Back to the good news! This is one Letter I know Everyone’s been waiting for — Part One of the sincerious tale of my personal Evolutionary Leap into atheism. I’m soooooo excited to be getting to this part of the story, Everybody! Isn’t it sweet? It’s like that moment on Project Runway where the one designer guy who made a dress has been dissed by the judges and goes off to cry, and then the other designer guy also gets his dress dissed by the judges too and he goes off to cry too, and then there’s no one left standing but the winner who’s a Female for ONCE — and then all the judges come out on the runway to hug her and tell her how fabulous her dress design is and how much better than anyone else’s. And she cries too, because she’s soooooo happy that they’re happy with her! Just like We’re all going to do when I get through with these Letters! I can hardly wait till we’re all there like that, can You?

So enough with all this depressing (if helpful!) talk in my first seven Letters about what today’s atheism has done wrong. Now let’s look instead at what it’s done right — so right that it turned this former Christian Dull into Godless Bright convert numero uno. And to get there, I’ll need take You just a little ways back in time to my final days as a believer, and explain what happened next.

As I mentioned earlier, my personal religious belief took the usual battering by atheists and their fellow-travelers when I went off to college. What was left of it then got further blown away by my idiotosaurus boyfriend Lobo (about whom You’ll hear more in my next Letter than You ever wanted to, but it can’t be helped). So what with one thing and another, by the age of twenty-one I’d abandoned most of the religion I’d grown up with, and become what You might call a classic “cafeteria” Dull.

Actually, I would have been more accurately described as an anorexic cafeteria Dull, considering how little was left on my religious plate by then. Like any other believer in name only, I thought that I could somehow have it all, theologically speaking — You know, jettisoning whatever I didn’t like about the Loser (especially those laws about You-know-what!) and keeping whatever doctrines I “personally” approved of (i.e., the ones that sounded good and didn’t really get in my face).

But of those few things remaining things about Christianity that I did approve, I really felt more strongly than most atheists might imagine. What finally made me proud to be a Dull, what really lay beneath my unwillingness to relinquish all that nonsense, was that I thought the Loser and his followers had stood — and stood uniquely — against some of the grosser practices of Human history.

Abortion, infanticide, pedophilia, bestiality, Human sacrifice — these were things that I then thought of as somehow beneath the dignity of our Species. The fact that Judaism and Christianity had set their faces against these things was powerfully appealing to me — and not only to me, of course, but to millions of other people across the ages, too. As that Ueber-papist Elizabeth Anscombe said somewhere, it was a “known fact that Christianity drew people out of the pagan world, always saying no to these things.”

And though I’m embarrassed to admit it now, there were probably also personal reasons for my vulnerability. Perhaps because I am a Female, for example, it wasn’t hard to peer back through time to the hills of Rome and feel creeped out by the thought of the Patria Potestas law which granted fathers a right to off any unwanted baby girls. What kind of gynophobe craptocracy does that, I used to wonder? It seemed obvi to me then, as it does to so many Dulls now, that a society in which the weakest were getting hosed so ruthlessly could use a little moral fine-tuning — and that Christianity with all its sins at least had a fork for that kind of thing.

Ditto, I was freaked about the female infanticide underway in our own time. It seemed crazy to me — then, anyway — that all this preemptive baby-killing was going on with no shout-out whatsoever from Western feminists or other progressive types. Weren’t any of them Female, too? Why weren’t they bug-eyed like me about those weird statistics from China and India and a few other places, showing that ratios of XY Chromosomes to Xx ones were getting seriously out of whack?

Euthanasia to me was another no-brainer, also for personal reasons. I’d been a patient one too many times myself! So I didn’t think it was the most brilliant idea to ask someone who’s flat on their back with enough drugs packed inside to open a pharmacy to pay attention and decide whether they want to live or die. Plus which, the whole idea of a life not worth living (Lebensunwertes Lebens, auf Deutsch!) seemed sketchy to me. When You got right down to it, I thought, having well people wipe out sick people just didn’t seem fair — not unless we were going to let both parties flip coins each time so the patient had at least a shot at telling the attendant that it was his turn to be offed instead. But nobody I knew of seemed to be advocating that.