The Thought Criminal began the month noting how one is supposed to genuflect when John Lennon's dyspeptic atheist dirge "Imagine" is intoned by the talentless and idealess, pointing that out to apparently great umbrage by the hiply cynical and atheist. Which is funny in itself. I've been noting that kind of thing for as long as I've been online when I first noticed the ironic truth of that kind of thing. Noting the fact that John Lennon was a heck of a lot less talented on his own than he was when he was writing songs with Paul and others and that none of the frequently Drab Four were all that talented, will elicit a febrile outrage which is usually the preserve of the insanely nationalistic and fundamentalist.
Last summer I noted the same about the consequences of being honest about the professional asshole, hate-talking thief of talented magician's material in order to destroy its intended value, and entirely unimportant self-promoting non-intellectual , definitely non-scientist, Penn Jillette. One is not to point out that Jillette is an asshole's asshole and that Teller is probably saved from exposing himself as the same only because his shtick is to keep his mouth shut.
The list of atheist idols one is not to diss on pain of being declared to have cooties includes the oneest of one-trick ponies Douglass Adams, the citation of whom is about as sure a sign of lazy slackerdom with pretensions of being intellectual as is currently available Really, aren't we all just waiting for the next incarnation of "Hitchhikers Guide" about as much as we are the inevitable "Oxygentank" tour of The Rolling Stones if Mick and at least one of his elderly Stones can breathe and hobble long enough? Adam's estate has been milking that property for many millions of times what it was ever worth.
The same is true in a smaller way for the estates of two other idols of atheist culture, Carl Sagan and the absolutely putrid neo-con and intellectual hooker, Christopher Hitchens. But they'll never reach the same stature as Lennon, Jillette and Adams. I suspect that another professional asshole of limited talent, Ricky Gervaise, will join the panthon of the Prometheus set. The formula is that you have to be an intellectually unchallenging, anti-religious hate talker who makes the unintellectual, hate talking atheist feel that they're superior to the vast majority of the population. Having a Brit accent is a big plus because the Brits produce an enormous number of the type and so many of the American atheists are rather shameless Anglophiles but it's not strictly required. At least not on this side of the Atlantic.
For the past few weeks I've been experimenting on blog atheists using another of the tediously over-cited gods of the godless, George Carlin. I remember his early stuff on TV, which was kind of funny. But he was never going to be a great comic on the strength of that. His beatnik themed act was pretty limited and he lacked the original genius and power of a Richard Pryor or Lilly Tomlin. As he got older and, I'd guess, increasingly desperate at the limits of his talent he started developing his anti-religious routine. He had enough experience and just enough intelligence to see the possibilities of getting hold of the same market share that Bill Maher has harvested after Carlin's death.
I heard Carlin doing it before I realized that he was getting more and more boring as he became preachier and nastier and appealed to a bunch of snobs based on their self-aggrandizing sterotypes of the vast majority of humanity. Cynicism doesn't have any power to change things - the original conceit of the Carlin style of humor - because it, frankly, despises most people. It can get the conceited to laugh at other people, which is far easier than even taking a pie in the pants but it is entirely useless to change anything.
Really, that is the supposed reason for that kind of alleged humor, that it is useful to defeat the fascists. And that reason is a demonstrable fraud. Looking back at the far, far more talented cabaret acts of the pre-Nazi period, really some of the most brilliant of performers and writers in the genre, it was less than useless in preventing the catastrophe that was so obviously coming. That's not an original idea, I've read other people who also noticed how that didn't work in the inter-war period. Nor will it ever because cynicism is an expression of the negation of values, which underlies fascism. You can't fight cynicism with cynicism. Trying that can only enhance cynicism, not anything else. The increasing cynicism of alleged comedy in the 1970s led to the past thirty years of conservative resurgence here. It undermined Jimmy Carter and did nothing to prevent Reagan or keep the Bush Crime Family from stealing the election in 2000.
The REAL REASON for that kind of stuff is to get the market share of conceited people who believe themselves to be enlightened while being, at the same time, insufficiently educated to keep themselves entertained by something other than themselves and their self regard. A relatively talentless performer like Bill Maher, George Carlin and Penn Jillette can rope in those suckers by feeding them on that. A truly smart and cynical performer will realize that's what they're doing but most of them aren't in on the biggest joke of their career. They're true believers as well.
Note: I've got no problem experimenting on those who are always asserting that science is the exclusive property of their ideology.
Also note, I've had a number of complaints that I've written so much about atheism. No one seems to be upset with the enormous presence atheist hate-talk has on the blogs and in the media. If PZ Myers, Greta Christina, Jerry Coyne, Penn Jillette, etc. can become famous by talking hate about more than 90% of the population that makes talking about the atheists entirely legitimate. I will make no apology in exploring the phenomenon and its adherents any more than I have in looking closely at Republican-fascists. I find that the two groups have a lot more in common than they'd like pointed out.