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The Claw

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

A really lovely story that just posted in that nascent cloud of non-news called social media got me thinking. It’s a story about a little 3 year-old Australian kid named Noah who somehow finds his way into one of those claw vending machines. You know the ones…. built for the sole purpose of frustrating any effort at nabbing the little plush toys that stare back hopelessly from their little plastic purgatory? Not to be deterred, little Noah found a clever work-around (Noahs are good at that sort of thing). He climbed up through the down-chute and, once inside, started handing out the plush little toys to all passers-by (mostly of the 10-and-under variety). It was a wonderful, non-Euclidean moment of cosmic divine pay-back.

So what’s the point of telling you all this? Well, it reminded me of atheism, naturally (clearly I need a new hobby). You see, it was much easier for Noah to get into the vending machine than to get back out. He had to be coaxed, prodded, pulled, cajoled, and begged back through the chute to his waiting, anxious mum. Atheism, too, is much easier to get into than out of (philosophically speaking, that is) since it requires nothing but a set of eyes, half a brain, and a working pulse. And once you’re in, the temptation and pressure to stick around rivals that of any religious institution or cult (except maybe the Mormons and a few other sects mainly ensconced in Oregon). And not unlike little Noah’s experience in the plastic box of plush toys, once the “toys” run out, atheism turns out to be nothing more than a really hot, oxygen deprived, see-through plastic box. With atheism, once the obvious arguments against religious belief have exhausted themselves by dint of their existential flimsiness, you’re left to stand on nothing but a false sense of courage and bravado for being able (supposedly) to stare into the abyss without blinking.

Atheism fetters itself by making life mean nothing and everything all at the same time. It makes complete sense and yet no sense at all; it is, as G.K. Chesterton once famously quipped, “a mean infinity, a base and slavish eternity” (from “The Maniac” in Orthodoxy).

The Eagles once sang about my lovely part of the world, “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” Well, you can leave atheism, of course, but like love and war and, well…. claw vending machines, it’s much easier to get into than to get out of, for the simple reason that getting out requires a healthy dose of common sense and not a small measure of humility, not exactly things in full supply over at Atheism Headquarters. True, the same could be said of many believers of the more conservative variety, but at least they’re right about God’s existence. They’re just wrong about almost everything else.

Needless to say, little Noah was the beau of the bowling alley, and his charming story can be found here:

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