Sophisticated thinkers have long since dispensed with God. They believe that God is a crutch for the feeble-minded. Those with a superior intelligence do not require an explanation beyond what science can offer.
By now everyone should know that science cannot offer ethical precepts or principles. Science does not tell us how to live our lives or what to do when faced with a difficult dilemma.
About this point, today’s atheists have nothing to say. Those who do venture into the realm of ethics fall back on the notion that human sentiment bends us toward doing the right thing.
Unfortunately, moral sentiment does not tell us what to do. At times, it has been known to mislead us, to tempt us into error.
About that, science has nothing to say.
Atheists presumably do not worship. Or better, they worship nothing. But then, is there nothing left to worship?
Or better, why do we worship anything or anyone anyway? Why do we appeal to superior beings?
Is it a sign of low self-esteem that we see look up to certain figures and call them deities? Or is it a sign of arrogance that we fail to recognize any power greater than ourselves?
And then, there is the old moral conundrum: on what authority should you follow any rules, precepts or customs?
I think it fair to say that Judeo-Christianity supplanted pagan idolatry because the gods and goddesses were not very good role models. Cultures where everyone worshipped Olympian or Roman deities became venal and decadent, their people more interested in pursuing pleasure than in working, more worried about parties than about civic responsibility.
You might well say that the God of the Bible is not all sweetness and light, but the cultures built on His authority have outlasted and outperformed those that were based on cults to idols.
Now Spencer Klavan explains that, for all intents and purposes, we do live, at least in part within a culture that indulges pagan idolatry. We aren’t quite as atheistic as we imagine. We might not worship gods, but we bow down to celebrity. We read stories about celebrities; we absorb gobs of information about their lives and especially their antics. These stories have much in common with the mythology surrounding pagan gods.
In Klavan’s words:
A lot of ancient Greeks treated their gods like a paparazzo treats this week’s it girl. They wanted to know every dirty detail about the glamorous lives of the rich, famous and divine. So they dug for dirt. They wrote myth after myth about the Olympian family’s sex lives, their embarrassing cover-ups, their petty feuds. Just like gossip columnists, Greek mythographers were more than happy to invent a new story if there wasn’t a juicy enough one out there already. Aphrodite and Ares’ secret affair, exposed! Artemis caught topless on woodland vacation – lashes out at voyeur! Apollo ends career of promising young indie artist – jealousy from pop music’s king?
Celebrities seem to be able to do what they want, when they want, with whom they want. They represent the dream of some; the nightmare of others.
After all, that is the point. While we would naturally be induced to emulate the antics of gods and goddesses—by definition, they are our betters—celebrities are often lesser versions of ourselves.
How many people would trade their lives for Lindsay Lohan’s or Miley Cyrus’s? Even with the fame and the adulation and the gobs of cash, we do not very often emulate the example that celebrities are setting.
Of course, we like watching them. In one sense it gives us a feeling of superiority. In another it tells us: “there, but for the grace of God go I.”