to whom it may concern

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Sep 05, 2005

Patrick Sweeney links to the NoGod Blog so we can see what the heathen are doing in the wake of Katrina. American Atheists recommend donating to the Red Cross, United Way, the Humane Society of the United States ("Our winged and four-legged friends need help, too!"), and Network for Good -- not exactly a voluminous roll-call, but a pretty good index of where they stand in the altruism stakes.

What caught my eye though was the valediction to a letter from Blair Scott, Alabama State Director of American Atheists and author of an account of what he's seen on television about Mobile. He signs his letter, feebly,

In reason,
The Scott family: Blair, Yvonne, Rose, and Rachael

"In reason," obviously, is an atheist's parody of "in Christ," or "in our Lord," "in the Sacred Heart," etc. But what does it mean?

For believers, to be "in Christ" or to do something "in Christ" is to acknowledge Him as lifespring of their spiritual existence, the ultimate reference point against which all their thoughts and actions are measured. The wish to acknowledge spiritual kinship with a Christian correspondent prompts many of the pious faithful to end their letters by reference to their shared life in Christ. By writing "in reason," Is Scott making Reason into a rival kind of Goddess, like the ancient personifications of Prudence, Justice, etc.? I doubt it, if only because kissing one's epistolary fingertips to a personified deity carries a tang of religiosity a card-carrying atheist would find repellent.

My hunch is that Scott is using "reason" -- in the style of the 18th century -- to mean "that which is opposed to faith, religion, God." Signing oneself "in reason" doesn't point to place or state or relationship one is in -- in fact, it boils down to meaning "outside of our Lord," etc. Scott is defining himself, and attempting to signal good will, in terms of a negation: the denial of God. We don't have to view atheists' desire to come to the help of storm victims as insincere to see a paradox in the notion of brotherhood that underlies it.

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