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.
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
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.