Michael Novak recently penned a curious piece for National Review Online, “The Atheist-Civil Liberty Union,” in which he speaks out
against what he claims is an atheist agenda to ban religion from all of public
life. The most charitable way to read his article, as I saw it, was as a
parody of establishmentarian rhetoric.
Dear Mr. Novak,
At first I was a little put off by your article in National Review. I didn’t
get it. It couldn’t be yet another banal exercise in atheist-baiting, I
reasoned, since this was National Review, and, well, you’re Michael Novak.
But, thankfully, now I do get it. And let me be the first to say: I find your ironic touch so refreshing!
For example, the way you playfully ridicule the vapid charge that atheists
somehow all believe “public life in the United States must be made
religion-free.” I mean, what a delightful send-up of the establishmentarian’s utter inability to cognize the elementary distinction between a restriction on
government-imposed religiosity, on the one hand, and a mandate for
government-imposed atheism, on the other. How droll!
And how you lampooned the hackneyed line that atheists have no ground for
believing that the “events, phenomena, and laws of the world we live in
cohere, belong together, have a unity.” Very subtle, there, the way your sly
omission generates such mirthful effect. (But are you entirely sure your
readers at the Review will properly savor the deliciously-hidden
presupposition that the relevant “ground” must somehow be provided by an
invisible man living in the sky? Just wondering.)
In sum, then, your piece is just the most delightful badinage of those tedious
types who opine on pressing moral, political and metaphysical issues, yet
resist dealing with them in an honest, respectful or otherwise honorable
manner. I for one say, “Bravo!”