Editor’s note: This is the tenth and final edition of “The Loser Letters” on National Review Online. Click here and start from the beginning.
Dearest Leading Atheist Saviors (as it were),
Major big day here in this funky psychobuggin’ rehab place, Guys! Today I’ll finally meet with the Director, and find out where they’re sending me next!
Now on the one hand, I’m totally psyched about all that. There’s nothing like that first day out of rehab to make You feel alive, know what I mean?! At the same time, I’m shaking just a little in my flip-flops. Do you think they’re really going to let me go home (wherever that is now)? I’m not sure how. I haven’t seen the outside of this place since I got here. I don’t even know if they have one of those uh-oh buses for getting back and forth, like any normal rehab would have.
But never mind about what happens next, Guys — we’ll stress out about that later! The important Fact for now is that since I am leaving one way or the other, this has to be my last Letter to You about Our new atheism. And it’s one You really, truly need to read, even if it’s a little long and You might want to print it out for Your friends so Nobody writes in complaining again because they missed certain plot details(!). It’s about an absolutely critical subject — in fact, what for many of the believers is the most critical subject standing between us Brights and them.
Let me start by saying that I hope Nobody got too bummed about my last Letter. I realize it was not exactly the most happy-bo-bappy story ever posted on the web. But the thing is, I really had to go into all those details — You know, about how Mom died, and my honking dork ex-BF Lobo walked out on me, and how I had a You-know-what instead of having Hypothetical Daughter (H.D.), all within a just few months of each other. And I also had to fill You in on what happened next, i.e. my substance-laced “party of one” that last night in Portland, which is what landed me in this weird detox slammer or whatever it is that I am.
Now, I wouldn’t ordinarily go into all those personal details with some random bunch of Guys on the Internet. But the reason I had to do it with You particular Guys — i.e., You most popular atheists on the whole Planet — is because exactly that story brings me to the point of this last Letter. The problem for atheism that my story illustrates ridiculously well goes like this: Why did I feel the way I felt in Portland about letting down Mom before she died? Why did I feel so totally hideous about what I did to H.D.? What’s the meaning — or even just any plausible Natural purpose — of the Human enigma called personal guilt?
I know what Your first thought is, of course! You want to explain that feeling of guilt away. You want to say it’s just some vestigial Adaptation that we Humans needed once and don’t need anymore, like an appendix or a tailbone or a novel by Ayn Rand. But that kind of response just begs the question. The point here — as my own case goes to show, and plenty more starting with A for Augustine can too — is that this feeling of personal guilt can be highly destructive of a Human Organism. It’s Disadvantageous to Human survival in the extreme. It’s just not the sort of Trait You’d expect to find in any creature who is truly ruled by selfish Genes at all.
Okay, maybe You want to take some other tack — like saying I felt “guilt” because my mind had been poisoned by useless Dull superstitious toxic crap about how certain things are quote sins, when in Fact as Science has shown they’re all perfectly fine. If only I had been as unflinching secularist as You, Everybody might be thinking, I would have understood that a blob of cells has been firmly established to be no big deal — it’s just a blob of cells and nothing more.
You could say all that — and if I had still been a practicing Dull, some of it might even have made sense. But again, the Facts are otherwise. As I told Everybody already, by the time I exercised my quote freedom of choice there in Portland that day two months ago, it had actually been years since I’d been a Christian in anything but name only. Remember, I went all the way through a typical American college! Following which I spent two years shacked up with scumolicious Lobo! Who was not exactly a poster person for the Loser and his laws under any circumstances, let alone once we both got back into the sauce and the drugs.
I mean to say, by the time I went to Planned Parenthood that day, I was as empty of religious superstitions as any former believer can be. So why, again, did I feel as ripped up about what happened as I did? I mean, shouldn’t Nature have designed me to be happy about getting rid of something that was going to interrupt my life? Wouldn’t You think, given all Our theories about Survival, that a gene for putting nasty things behind You, and fast, would have been Selected by now?