I love taxonomy — classifying objects, people, ideas and such into categories. It is the shameless habit of the empiricist brain. I realize its limitations, of course, but with those limitations in mind, taxonomies can offer much insight and progress in knowledge.
I recently enjoyed a movie, recommended on another Atheist site, called “Lady in the Water” (2006) by director/writer M. Night Shyamalan who has also done other films I have enjoyed: “The Village” (2004), “Unbreakable” (2000), “The Sixth Sense” (1999).
These are all films with lots of religious and superstitious themes. Wait, Atheists should deplore this stuff, shouldn’t they? Well, to hell with such Atheist purity and sanctity. Superstitious thinking is a huge part of the human mind and either you can deny it, supress it, ignore it or play with it. Some Atheists may argue that the presence of such films just encourage superstitious thinking to persist in culture. They may be partly correct here. But they argue further that any participation in superstitions or religion is a bad thing. What these atheists miss is that superstitious thinking will persist whether a hyper-rational atheist wants it to or not. So while we’ve got it, we might as well enjoy it. Heck, this is probably why my kids love my bed time stories so much — sure, our family is Atheist, but we know how to have fun with magic, dragons, ghosts and the whole cast make-believe land. Superstition is not our master, but our servant.
For me, superstition has proven a great touchstone to use in my taxonomy of Atheists. “Touchstone” is a fun word meaning a small dark stone (such as slate) used to assay precious metals because they have a finely grained surface on which soft metals leave a visible trace. Likewise, this film exposes atheist who are suckers for the supernatural. Oops, did I just call myself a “sucker”. Darn !
Supernatural thinking is with us from birth and persists into childhood. Bruce Hood’s new book “SuperSense” (which I do recommend), is all about this issue. My blog stats spiked this weekend after John Loftus mentioned me on his well-trafficked Atheist site, “Debunking Christianity“. Well, John actually criticized my post on Sympathetic Atheists saying he was NOT a sympathetic atheist — and I think he is right, he is non-sympathetic. But negative attentions, when it comes to blogs, is better than no attention. Smile ! Anyway, I then replied on John’s post and told him about Bruce Hood’s book, “SuperSense” to which John surprisingly replied, “No I haven’t read that book Sabino[sic], but I haven’t read most things although I’m sure it would not change my mind in the slightest.” (emphasis mine). I think John may have been having a bad day, for he later agreed to read Hood’s book after one of his readers apparently sent him a Kindle copy. Mind you, John may not change his mind. He may not admit that superstitious thinking is here to stay. He may not admit that he himself has persistent superstitious thinking. He writes fantastic book reviews, so we will have to wait and see if his thinking changes in the slightest if he reviews the book.
By the way, “The Lady in the Water” was panned by all sorts of critics as self-indulgent, vapid, arrogant and muddled mythmaking. So, I am not recommending it. I am just using the movie as an excuse to write this post. Indeed, such a film is probably also a great touchstone to test adolescent atheists — those who just like to like things that others don’t. Ooops, did I just criticize myself again?
Actually, this film may also be a touchstone for those who are indiscriminate idealists. Guilty ! I am intellectually an empiricist but my heart (which my mind must constantly tame) is very indiscriminate. But it is that heart which constantly leads me to wonderful pleasures and thus she also tames my overly cautious mind.