On account of a broken rib—all’s very in that department now, thank you very much—my before bedtime reading was on hold for a couple of weeks. So I did most of my reading in the train to and from work. And sometimes, well, it’s hard to stay focused. Anyway, I finished my first book of the year.
Against Religion: The Atheist Writings of H.P. Lovecraft delivers, to use a cliche, just what it says on the cover. It is a collection of essays and extracts from letters on religion, materialism and spirituality. And while some of Lovecraft’s views and arguments appear quite antiquated and outdated, at times it seems as if he would have fitted quite well in today’s ‘New Atheism‘.
Well, not entirely. While Lovecraft is fairly unapologetic about his disbelief in gods, he does
not advocate the forcible extirpation of religion, but he does
think it is wise to transfer energies to something which has a foundation in reality. And this seems to me to be the point he comes back to over and over again: while religion might have some beneficiary effects, it just isn’t true. Religion has no real answers to give on the question of the is-or-isn’tness of things. Because
If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? While Richard Dawkins may insists that religion is a form of mental child abuse, Lovecraft came to a similar conclusion some decades earlier.
(Later, Lovecraft would write that he believes that
there should be a law prohibiting religious instruction of any sort for persons under 21.)
As you might have induced, Against Religion is very quotable. While I could go on, I’ll round up with a quote that made me giggle. In just a few words Lovecraft manages to expose a lot of spirituality for what it is—nothing but childish wordplay:
- Book read
- H.P. Lovecraft — Against Religion: The Atheist Writings of H.P. Lovecraft (Edited with an introduction by S.T. Joshi, with a foreword by Christopher Hitchens.)
- First line
- As a participant in The Liberal‘s Experience Meeting, wherein amateurs are invited to state their theories of the universe, I must preface all remarks by the qualifying admission that they do not necessarily constitute a permanent view. (from A Confession of Unfaith)