- Chairman Mao
- Ayn Rand
- Friedrich Nietzsche
- Peter Singer
- Michel Foucault, and
- Alfred Kinsey
The book will be “about my quest to live the ultimate” atheistic “life. To follow every single rule in” the writings and lives of various atheists – “as literally as possible” (to quote badly from A.J. Jacobs’ website). “Pursuing a different” atheist practice “each month,” you can expect that I will learn “the hard way that” my “quest for” authentic atheism “requires more than” a lack of belief in God (to quote badly from Rachel Evans’ website). My book will have “just the right mixture of humor and insight, compassion and incredulity.” I hope to look into some of atheism’s “startlingly relevant rules, … an investigation of the rules that baffle the 21st century brain, … [and] a look at various fascinating” atheist individuals. (If you can’t tell yet, this is a satire – see the end for more).
Rather than do any actual research, I will simply use Wikipedia to get a pretty good idea about how to imitate these people’s lives. After picking the strangest ideas, I will put them into practice as literally as possible.
Here’s a look ahead at my plans for 2013:
January: Chairman Mao – Founding Father of the People’s Republic of China
On January 1st, I will move to China and join the Chinese Communist Party. I will advocate for land reform, using both intimidation tactics and actual violence in order to get my way. As I gain power, I will push for policies that lead to mass starvation, execution of any enemies of the state, and prison camps. Those under my power will be required to kill a certain number of people or face severe consequences. To show my dedication to Mao’s example, I will sleep outside and eat a frugal diet. Every day will involve extensive reading of Karl Marx’s writings.
February: Ayn Rand – Novelist, philosopher, and playwright
I will move to New York City and join an anti-communist group. I will reject all forms of religion and only use reason. I will write a play, a novel, and a philosophy book. I will carry on an affair with a much younger woman, after receiving the consent of both her husband and my wife. I will have business cards printed that describe me as “the most creative thinker alive.” I will support abortion, but call homosexuality “disgusting,” take up smoking, support Republican candidates, and find ways to support individual rights. I will read Aristotle every day.
March: Friedrich Nietzsche – German philosopher and cultural critic
I will move to Basel, Switzerland and then renounce my U.S. citizenship. I will take opium and various sedatives. A high priority will be regular visits to art museums. Each morning I will light a lantern, run from my home to the marketplace, and shout incessantly, “God is dead! God is dead! And we have killed him!” Then I will throw the lantern on the ground to break it.
April: Peter Singer – The Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University
I will move to Princeton, NJ (hopefully my U.S. citizenship is still valid!). I will campaign for abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. I will give away 25% of my salary to the poor and become a flexible vegan. I will participate in athletic competitions and actively dope in order to create a fairer playing field (my own genes, in comparison to others, clearly indicate that I have a genetic disadvantage in sports). I will practice bestiality.
May: Michel Foucault - French social theorist and historian of ideas
I will move to Berkley, California, and decorate my apartment with images of torture and war from the Napoleonic wars. I will mutilate myself and rehearse a suicide attempt (though not go through with it). I will read Nietzsche every day. My goal will be to motivate college students to occupy administration buildings and fight with police. Other activities will include heavy drug use, sado-masochistic sexual activity, having a relationship with a transvestite, and listening to classical music. I will support leftist political causes.
June: Alfred Kinsey – American biologist, professor of entomology and zoology, and sexologist
Continuing my practice of living where these famous atheists lived, I will move to Bloomington, Indiana and attempt to volunteer at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. Each weekend will involve a camping trip and the late afternoons will involve gardening. I will attempt to film co-workers having sex in my house.
July-December: Suggestions Welcome!
Here’s the problem: there are so many famous atheists to choose from! I plan to set up an online poll to get some ideas for who else I should imitate in the remaining six months of the year. Maybe Joseph Stalin? Hard to know! But I am excited about all the possibilities.
What’s the point?
Obviously, the main point is to make a lot of money by writing a sensationalist and hopefully popular book. Second, I hope to gain a reputation as a public intellectual through garnering favorable media reviews. Third, this is clearly the best method for educating people about atheism, which seems to be a poorly understood belief system.
Future projects will include A Year of Living Like A Famous Journalist; A Year of Living Like A Liberal Christian; and A Year of Living Like A Very Important Person (VIP).
Actually, the real reason is that, “I’d always assumed” atheism “would just wither away and we’d live in a” fully Christian “world. I was, of course, spectacularly wrong.” So why not “dive in headfirst” and really get to know atheism from the inside-out?
No really, what’s the point?
To be as clear as possible: this post is satire. According to Wikipedia (after all, why do any further research?), satire is
a genre of literature… in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be funny, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon…
This “militant” irony or sarcasm often professes to approve of (or at least accept as natural) the very things the satirist wishes to attack.
So the truth is that I have no plans to do anything as ridiculous and absurd as the above proposed book project. Why is that?
Simple: Because it would be both intellectually dishonest and incredibly disrespectful to atheists (and people in general).
Unfortunately, it seems that these qualities are not necessary for many authors who want to write about evangelical Christians (or about people who cherish the Bible in general). Rather than respectful understanding, the predominant tone of the “A Year of Living…” genre seems to be a poorly researched and rather unsophisticated ridicule.
But this ridicule is harmful to our society in many ways. To mention just two:
First, these books create and perpetuate false and negative stereotypes about the lives of millions of religious people.
Second, by normalizing a prejudicial view of religion, they encourage actual prejudice against religious people. So rather than fostering love, acceptance, and a better world, these books further divide and polarize us.
So my hope – perhaps a naive one – is that we will stop buying these toxic books, stop reviewing them favorably, and stop encouraging their authors.
Instead, we could choose to do the hard work of building trustful, respectful relationships with others, especially those with whom we disagree.
It is inevitable that both religious people and a-religious people will continue to coexist together in American society (and in the world at large). So if we want to foster a peaceful, better society – for whatever reasons – we need to choose the path of empathetic understanding and self-sacrificial love for others. And this means we need to reject the cheap stereotypes and the cheaper jokes at “their” expense, whoever the “other” happens to be. To that end: may there be no more of these absurd “A Year of Living” books!
(And if you’d like to read a serious book on the difference between atheism and Christianity, why not try True Reason?)
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