Apologetical Weapons: Benison

Anyone who has spent time at one of the more established Christian or theist blogs will have experienced the angry atheist troll, who makes his first appearance in any comment thread spitting bitter bile and frothing at the mouth with rage, hurling contemptuous insults and heaping scorn on the other participants. Nothing can so quickly cause an edifying thread to devolve to a wrestling match in the gutter, with lots of hissing and scratching. It’s unseemly.

This happened a fair bit over at Throne & Altar, bonald’s site (which, if you are interested in the Orthospherical weltanschauung, you should definitely check out – he has a precious trove of writings posted over there, many of which have been formative for Christian Reaction). Not that bonald attracted a lot of trolls because he deserved it; on the contrary, it seems to me that there is a direct relation between the importance and seriousness of a theist site and the number of trolls it must suffer (which, if right, must mean either that Orthosphere is neither serious nor important enough to bother with, or that we are just too new to have been noticed yet; or probably both). A couple months ago I suggested over there that we should always respond to such folks with blessings:

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Coffee Hour without Church

I had a courteous combox disagreement at Throne & Altar the other day with commenter The Man Who Was, over whether most liberals “hunger and thirst after [the] transcendence” that their philosophy forbids to them, and were religious in spite of themselves (whether or not they realized it), as I argued, or, as he argued, had pretty much dropped the notion and moved on to completely irreligious life – a life of spiritual autism, as Proph has called it – without appreciable discomfort. If I was right, then it could make sense to try to understand liberal behavior as unconsciously religious, whereas if he was right, such analyses would not be truly informative.

Well! I don’t think for a heartbeat that what follows is dispositive on that question – more on that in a moment – but it certainly is an apposite datum. Allow me now to adduce one of the most pathetic, risible and dunderheaded newspaper items I have ever read, in the Personal section of the Wall Street Journal for Saturday, 2/18/12: Religion for Everyone, an excerpt from Alain de Botton’s new book Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion.  De Botton bemoans the loss of community and the rise of ennui, anomie, alienation and social dysfunction consequent to the spread of secularism, and wonders whether the forms of religion – rituals, spaces and times set apart from the rest of life as special, operating under different, special rules of social interaction, and so forth – can be used in purely secular institutions that will provide the social goods of religious life, while maintaining the atheist rejection of the substance of religion.

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Basic Readings on the Web

This is an incomplete list, and based largely on what I’ve personally found enlightening or interesting (I’ve even taken the liberty of including some of my own writings), so feel free to suggest additions.

On Liberalism and Modernity

On Conservatism and Tradition

On Particular Issues

On the Orthosphere