Archdeacon Narelle Jarrett: I’m Enjoying My Life!

I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.

The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

- Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan’s resounding affirmation of life, as precious and wondrous as it is brief and finite, inspires and exhilarates me almost to tears.

Today I was reminded of his profound and clear wisdom as it was thrown into sharp contrast by one of the most densely packed torrents of ignorance and stupidity I have ever read. Swinging clumsily, like a drunken boxer, Sydney ‘archdeacon’ Narelle Jarrett has unleashed a flurry of incoherent thought at nonbelievers. As hilarious as it is irrational, her beef is with the British Humanist Association’s incredibly popular and successful bus advertising campaign:

A worry free, enjoyable life?  Woody Allen has a good awareness of what life on earth without God is like. Without God there is no logic to pain, frustration, suffering, acts of mindless cruelty, nor of why death is written into our DNA and into that of the cosmos – death remains for all, a terrifying prospect. Nor is there for the atheist, any explanation for the existence of ‘good’!

In one of the few correct statements in the entire stultifying article, the arch-deluded Ms Jarrett correctly identifies the planet Woody Allen lives on, and equally correctly notes the godlessness he perceives there. Odd though her choice of philosopher is, the ensuing non sequiturs make me wonder which planet she comes from.

No logic to pain? Au contraire, madame l’archidiacre. Pain is an evolved response to potential harm, with obvious survival benefit. For someone claiming a personal relationship with an omnipotent, omnibenevolent god, the existence of suffering, mindless cruelty, death and frustration ought to present a serious challenge, as Epicurus notes:

Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?

The argument is centuries older than the alleged Christ, and still there is no good counter-argument. Oblivious, Jarrett cheerfully bumbles on, claiming that atheists have no explanation for ‘good’. Again she forgets the implication of her own faith: that her friend in the sky allegedly drowned the world, rained fire on Sodom, killed the Egyptian first-born children, explicitly promises eternal torture for non-Christians, and demands human sacrifice, genocide, slavery and genital mutilation… but is ‘good’.

For an atheist, however, evolutionary biology has many good explanations for the evolutionary origins of morality, starting with ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’, and heading into some sophisticated but mind-blowingly enlightening game theory. Though she implies she has exhaustive knowledge of atheist literature, it seems Ms Jarrett hasn’t even read The Selfish Gene, the most famous book by the most famous living atheist!

But then it seems Ms Jarrett doesn’t like reading, since her second example of a godless philosopher is (I shit you not), the guy that Eric Idle plays at the end of the Life of Brian:

You come from nothing; you are going back to nothing. What have you lost? Nothing!

Brian on the cross

What have you lost?

I don’t know how to break it to you, Archdeacon Jarrett, but that film was a parody, intended to mock the severe delusion of religious faith. The assertion you quote is a paraphrase of the ‘ashes to ashes’ line in your own funeral service, and that itself is lifted from Genesis 3:19. You are doing it wrong.

But I’m afraid it gets worse, dear reader. You see, the increasingly confused Ms Jarrett seems to think that atheists live in terror of death. This atheist doesn’t! Perhaps some do, but they certainly aren’t the optimists!

Regardless of what you believe, death is a fact. I am utterly comfortable with the idea that my time is finite, and that I must pass this fragile planet on to my descendants, as my ancestors passed it on to me. Accepting the reality of mortality makes me value every second of my life so much. I treasure it. I love it, along with the beauty and joy and wonder and love and excitement and passion and wisdom and amazement that I perceive in the universe.

I was a victim of the Anglican faith in my youth, and it is painfully obvious to me that every second of my finite life is more precious than I thought when my life was just a lobby to paradise, an obstacle course I had to complete to avoid hell. If anyone should live in terror of death, ought it not be the credulous, who believe they risk eternal torture for such ‘sins’ as sexual attraction, calling someone a fool, or eating a prawn?

Jarrett loses all coherence as she invokes the long-debunked Genesis creation myth as cause for hope (1 Peter 3:15 says she should try harder), tells us her friends ridiculed her for becoming a Christian (well, duh!),  and drops my favourite clanger of clangers: telling us her brainwashers ‘didn’t think they came by chance from nothing‘.

Archdeacon Jarrett: we didn’t come from nothing, nor did we do so by chance. We adapted to our environment over four billion years by a non-random process of natural selection. It’s called evolution, it’s a simple concept and there is no excuse for you to be literate and remain ignorant of it.

Clutching at straws, forming them into her own image and calling them an argument, Ms Jarrett finally ‘demolishes’ the claim that atheism automatically leads to a worry-free life. Such a shame that no-one claimed it does. The ad campaign has a much more inspirational message!

Atheism won’t magic away your concerns, but it mercifully disposes of the celestial surveillance, the eternal torture, the cognitive dissonance, the need to interpret ancient blood-myth, the obsession with death and other peoples’ sex lives, the irrational invention of ‘souls’ in zygotes and the ludicrous, stultifying idea that this stunning universe of countless stars is somehow created with you in mind, none of which has any rational basis whatsoever.

Packaging this wicked nonsense in a cheap wrapper labelled ‘love’ is what pays the archdeacon’s wages. As the Sydney Anglicans prepare to go on the attack with a conversion campaign called Connect 09, you can expect more of this kind of shallow, unfounded and inconsistent pleading over the coming year. If Narelle Jarrett’s present attempt is anything to go by, expect a spray of footbullets.

Freeing oneself from unreason is a marvellous thing. Now enjoy your life, because it really is the only one you have.

Further commentary:

Tynan at Sydney Atheists: I’m not worried!

Sean The Blogonaut: The Argument from Woody Allen

A Drunken Madman: Archdeacon Narelle Jarrett: Patron Saint of Facepalm (WARNING: strong language and stronger emotions. Epic win.)

15 Comments

  1. Posted January 14, 2009 at 00:09 | Permalink

    Far better than mine. Cheers. Footbullets hahahahahaha!

  2. Posted January 14, 2009 at 23:51 | Permalink

    WIN! Love it Dave, love it. Also love the little extra comments as you mouse over the links… (what’s that action called?)

  3. Posted January 15, 2009 at 00:11 | Permalink

    Tiffany: the action is normally called hovering, and the text that appears is called ‘title text’. Thanks for noticing. I try to put an extra little secret joke in when I can…

  4. Posted January 15, 2009 at 01:06 | Permalink

    Thanks Dave :)

  5. Yitzi
    Posted January 15, 2009 at 02:20 | Permalink

    Dude, that mouseover text is the best thing about your blog posts. I freaking LOVE THEM!

    Also, I’m sexier than every poster above me. True story.

  6. Posted January 15, 2009 at 10:27 | Permalink

    Loved it, great stuff, i am going to post a comment i read relating to this…”If there is a God, then i will be judged by my actions whilst on this Earth, if there is no God then i have nothing to fear”

  7. Peter
    Posted January 17, 2009 at 15:51 | Permalink

    Dave,

    Have you listened to the ABC Religion Report Podcast (abc.net.au/rn/religionreport/default.htm) of Wednesday 14 January 2009. You favorite scientist was on…

  8. Posted January 19, 2009 at 20:02 | Permalink

    DAVETHEHAPPYSINGERWITHADEMOGRAPHICOVERLAP <3

  9. Posted January 20, 2009 at 15:12 | Permalink

    Great post….

    I am quite happy with the way evolution has treated me :-)

  10. Posted January 22, 2009 at 22:35 | Permalink

    Hi Dave

    Remember me?

    I’m sure you don’t, what with being an ignorant atheist and all. I enjoyed reading your post, L.O.L. and all that. See, I know the interenet.

    Anyway, you’re wrong, there is a God, I’ve met him. And he told me things. Oh, the things he told me.

    Anyway, toodle-ooo, see you soon

    pastor mike

  11. Posted February 3, 2009 at 03:34 | Permalink

    Happy Singer =D!!!

    i commented above as El Vargisimo =P.
    i linked you in my blog which you need only click on my name to veiw =]!

    <3

  12. Cowcakes
    Posted April 5, 2010 at 21:33 | Permalink

    Narelle Jarrett’s uniformed and seemingly deliberately ignorant little rant appears to confirm my opinion that many, if not all religious people are just living in fear and denial with their strange beliefs, cowering at the back of a cave oblivious to the majesty of the cosmos and the exuberant brevity of live.

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