Magazine | February 10, 2014, Issue


Racist Roll Call

Reading Kevin D. Williamson’s article “Racism! Squirrel!” (December 31 issue) brought back fond memories of roll call when we had a substitute teacher. As the teacher got to the “B”s, she would invariably pause, take a breath, and vainly attempt to pronounce “Brajkovich.” Her butchered version of my name would give much amusement to my classmates, as well as to myself. Little did I realize that I was the victim of subtle anti-Croatian racism. Thank you for enlightening me.

Joseph Brajkovich

Campbell, Calif.

Theism as Wonder

In his article on atheists, Nicholas Frankovich (“Do Atheists Exist?” December 31) seems guilty of doing something akin to what Kevin D. Williamson notes (“Racism! Squirrel!” December 31) among Democrats (who see racism as ubiquitous among Republicans) when he accuses atheists in general of resorting to straw-man arguments against the cartoonish childhood images of the Hebrew/Christian God. Frankovich suggests that “atheism is usually an assertion of disbelief in . . . the shadowy masculine presence at the center of the Hebrew Bible.” In fact, for many atheists, the whole God thing doesn’t stir such invective. Rather, it hardly warrants much more than a shrug of the shoulders. The existence or non-existence of entities that completely transcend the laws of our universe is simply unknowable. Frankovich says that atheists sidestep the question of how the universe came to be, but the reality is that atheists simply decline to kick that can down the road by postulating a creator, whose creation would be left, in turn, unexplained. As for his claim that the atheist seeking to answer the question “Why is there not nothing?” will, inescapably, affirm the most fundamental of theological precepts, which by definition must be “There exists God, creator of the universe,” I, for one, hereby decline to kick that can.

T. Rex Bodoia

Lakewood, Wash.

Nicholas Frankovich responds: This letter illustrates my observation that dramatic declarations of atheism (not “atheists in general”) tend to start from the God of faith — an “entity” or “creator,” as T. Rex Bodoia writes. But you can’t refute theism unless you understand it first, and to understand it, you have to start at the logical beginning, with the so-called God of the philosophers. Clear your mind of preconceptions. No, the most fundamental theological precept is not that “there exists God, creator of the universe.” It’s that the mystery of being is irreducible, absolutely immune to attempts at demystification. Now stop right there. Dwell on that thought for a moment. Think slowly. The closest thing that the question “Why is there not nothing?” has to an answer is the wonder that it elicits in you when you ponder it. Then stop again. This is what theists mean by theism. Many avowed atheists accept it too, except when it comes with the label “God” attached to it. That’s all. Granted, if you’re anhedonic in these matters, you won’t experience that wonder. You’ll shrug where others marvel. That does not, however, prevent you from grasping classical theism at least intellectually. Unless it does.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

In This Issue


Politics & Policy

A Dangerous Deal

For nearly three decades, Iran’s ayatollahs have outfoxed and outmaneuvered Western counter-proliferation efforts. Tehran has repeatedly bested our diplomats, our spies, and, most especially, our gullible political leaders. In the ...


Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

The Twain, Meeting

About ten, fifteen years ago, a phrase occurred to me: “the Sinification of music.” This refers to the ever-growing influence of Chinese musicians on Western classical music. Has this influence ...


Politics & Policy


Racist Roll Call Reading Kevin D. Williamson’s article “Racism! Squirrel!” (December 31 issue) brought back fond memories of roll call when we had a substitute teacher. As the teacher got to ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Little-known fact: François Hollande’s security is provided by Arkansas state troopers. ‐ “What difference, at this point, does it make?” asked the presumed front-runner in the 2016 presidential race when ...

Arise Ye Media

Over at Salon there’s an excerpt from the book Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA. The title, you suspect, comes from John Lennon’s limp hymn to a happy hippie hand-holding ...
The Long View

Document Extracts

Politics & Policy


WORLD An edgeless bird Made of words Passes above the yard. Dense as a hoof, Skids from the roof A block of numbers, falling, striking hard. In the water tank Stirs, with a clank, A serpent, gorged on images, ...

Most Popular

Film & TV

Netflix Debuts Its Obama Manifesto

This week’s widespread media blitz heralding Netflix’s broadcast of its first Obama-endorsed presentation, American Factory, was more than synchronicity. It felt as though U.S. publicists and journalists collectively exhaled their relief at finally regaining the bully pulpit. Reviews of American Factory, a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Capital versus Tucker Carlson

Advertisers do not advertise on Tucker Carlson’s show to endorse the views of Tucker Carlson. They advertise on his show for the same reason they advertise elsewhere: a captive audience — in Tucker’s case, the second-largest one in cable news — might spare thirty seconds of attention that will, they hope, ... Read More

Is AOC Politically Powerful?

I recently watched two voices I respect disagree vehemently about whether Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is politically powerful or not. The first observer pointed out that she’s one of 435 House members and 235 House Democrats. She can introduce big pieces of legislation like the Green New Deal, but they’re not ... Read More

Jussie Smollett Jokes Declared Off-Limits

The Jussie Smollett story has been declared not fit for jokes. "It's a straight-up tragedy," declares the co-creator of a Comedy Central show, South Side, set in Chicago. Bashir Salahuddin, a former Jimmy Fallon writer, says “The whole situation is unfortunate. Particularly for the city, there’s bigger ... Read More