Tuesday, December 18, 2012

NY Times on Tebow: An Atheist's Amazing Analysis

In an article published at American Thinker last year, I argue that there was a certain magic in Tim Tebow's 2011 NFL performance.  From a broad political perspective, I argue, "He is a personification of the traditional American belief that if people work hard, believe in themselves, and have the humility to believe in something greater than they are, they can exceed what the collective believes them to be capable of.  That the impossible can become possible, even if only for a short while."

In short, a miracle.  But not the kind of miracle that only Christians can relate to -- not the kind that specifically require that you imagine it is the result of God's touch.  It is something innate in human nature, an indescribable component of humanity that we desire such outcomes, and revel in watching events unfold.  I believe that people want to see miracles, as a world where such things can happen is a beautiful world. An interesting world.

But then, I am Christian, albeit of the less devout persuasion.  Stephen Marchie of the New York Times, an atheist, approaches miracles from a different angle.  Though he admits that he was captivated by Tebow's incredible 7-4 record last year and the unexpected success, he describes that he was relieved to see Tebow fail against the Patriots in the playoffs.  "My stomach began to relax," he writes.  The material world made sense. The Patriots won. The problem of joy was momentarily solved."

This is amazing perspective. Where Christians generally want to see miracles, and find them to be an affirmation of their worldview, some atheists, like Marchie, find miracles to be a repudiation of their worldview, and their natural inclination is to be more comfortable in the thought that miracles just don't happen. Nonetheless, he admits that he, too, relishes these unexplained miracles, these gut-wrenching moments of joy -- like the one he relates in the article, in which his friend's 3 year old daughter tumbled down a stairwell in inexplicable, perhaps even miraculous, safety.

He explains that when he discovered she was unhurt, he "kept randomly repeating, “That was a miracle.” It was the only phrase I could come up with. I didn’t know how to deal with inexplicable good fortune. Even after my friends returned to New York, the strange constriction in my chest persisted.

He goes on: 
Christians famously have the problem of pain: how can a benevolent and omnipotent god permit evil to exist? But atheists like myself have our own paradox to contend with: the problem of joy. Why do randomly good things happen? In Graham Greene’s “The Power and the Glory,” a priest gives the explicit defense of their reality to his Red Shirt captor: “Can’t you see the doctors round the dead man? He isn’t breathing anymore, his pulse has stopped, his heart’s not beating: he’s dead. Then somebody gives him back his life, and they all — what’s the expression? — reserve their opinion. They won’t say it’s a miracle, because that’s a word they don’t like.” C. S. Lewis described his conversion to Christianity as a process of being “surprised by joy.”
Emmy was my confounding miracle, my joyful surprise. How had she survived without a single scrape? It didn’t make sense, and I couldn’t make it make sense.
The article (found here) is simply fantastic, and I urge all readers to give a moment to check it out.  Personally, my more recent experience with atheists has been that there is an implied arrogance in their opinion, and an immediate rejection of anything religious, often in the form of anger and ridicule.  (For example, Richard Dawkins linked my article, a critique of fundamentalist Islam, to his website, where the mere possibility that I might be a Christian was enough for many readers and commenters to write off my opinion that they might otherwise agree with -- if I were an atheist and anti-religion)  

This seems to me a respectful analysis, written with a certain humility, deep introspection, and impressive craft.

And furthermore, I agree with his conclusion.  The Jets should let Tebow play.

William Sullivan

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