Thursday, May 01, 2008

atheism, sharing, and god

ok, i live and breath editing, so you'll have to pardon another ancillary mention of my work at the other journal (TOJ).

in my editing class, we've been getting the inside scoop on the publishing biz; this means chatting with acquisition editors and writing book proposals.

now several months ago, i thought it might be interesting to approach my boss's boss, the director of mental health at the seattle VA, about a book on his amazing discovery of prazosin, the nightmare-relieving pill for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). murray's a funny guy, a great storyteller, and an important figure in the research community, so i figured that a book that walked a tightrope between biography, history, and timely political commentary could be entertaining from his perspective.

but then the miracle of calvin college happened. at the festival of faith and writing, an editor for one of the big christian publishers approached TOJ about the prospect of transforming our atheism issue into a book. the editor encouraged us to submit a book proposal and then he bounded back to his world of signed books.

as it happened, my assignment for a book proposal was due the next week, so i jettisoned the poor iraqi PTSD veterans--in fact, were i to properly edit this post, they'd have been wiped from the annals of the 17 point scale because i have nothing more to say about the dormant book idea; i suppose that it's relevant to the chronology but not to the story--and attempted to pull together a coherent thesis for the a TOJ atheism book.

here's what i determined: recent publications that write on atheism from a christian perspective tend to lapse into polemics. they exist solely as a response to richard dawkins, christopher hitchens, and company. in contrast, the content in the current issue of TOJ uses atheism as a starting point for more important discussions about what it means to be christians. how should a life of faith differ from a life without faith? what atheistic ideas challenge christians to live life better and more like christ? i was a bit surprised to find such a foundation, but i think it might work.

still, just now as i was relaxing on my couch and listening to my highest rated playlist, i couldn't help but get a little apologetical. and when i say "a little apologetical," i'm referring to the branch of apologetics that relies chiefly on easily disproved observations.

i was listening to "a friend i had" by aaron sprinkle, and i thought, gosh, this seems like such a perfect song. it was more a gut reaction than the result of a close analysis of the melodic complexity or the lyrical juxtapositions, but i was overpowered by a strong sense that everything was just right. so right, in fact, that i needed to tell someone. i needed to get the message out to as many people as possible. i needed to share.

i think that this silent urge to share beauty is everywhere in the world. it's in the thousand blogs that celebrate a quote or lyric in every post. it's in my atheism book proposal.

and what's not in my atheism book proposal is this simple proof: perhaps that beauty is truth and perhaps that truth--perhaps all truth--somehow leads to god and perhaps our innate need to share that truth is in some way reflected in the international movement known as the church.

after exchanging book proposals with an editing partner in my class, she remarked, andrew, you need to use more confident language. enough with the "may," "could", and "perhaps"--write with some authority.

ok, then.

you can poke holes in my theory or decry organized religion or dismiss church or laugh at ritual but isn't it true that there's something distinctly human about sharing beauty, and isn't that to some degree the purpose of church?

yes, it is so.

photograph: andrew david. "the shining." central park, nyc, ny.


Beth said...

I thought this was a beautiful post. I also wonder whether you might call your emotion "evangelical" more than "apologetical."