Soon: Chapter 2: The First

This is the first of a couple of different things…

The funeral for The Dork Too Stupid is over.  Paul wanders around Arlington Regional Cemetery (um, didn’t you have a plane to catch, Paul?). 

Yes, yes he does.  But first, Jenkins needs to make a few points.

Paul moved into a section where all the headstones were cross-shaped.

Now, it’s been a few years since I visited Arlington, but I know for a fact that there are other religious symbols besides the cross.  A quick Googling will turn up Stars of David and many others.  In fact, atheists can have an atom with an “A” at the center on their headstones.

This will become quite the pattern with Jenkins as he paints his “atheistic” world–whenever something tragic happens, the victims are Christians.  But when religion has done something bad, it is never American Christians who are the perpetrators.

A plaque read: Religious symbols were common before World War III, when it was the custom for every enlisting soldier to declare his denominational preference.

Paul spat in disgust.

As he walked on amid the tombstones, his outrage mounted.  Life had been torn from all these young men and women–so many barely out of their teens–and for what?

Wow.  So far, so…Actually Not That Bad.  I have a feeling that Paul spitting and being outraged is supposed to be a sign of his awful not-yet-savedness, but (and I can’t even believe I am typing this)…it rings true.  His feeling–of the futility of religion, his anger that people lost their lives for religion–it makes sense.  And so, it is a first.  The first time in this book that Jenkins comes anywhere close to imagining what an atheist in an atheist world might think about religion.  It’s not what all, or most atheists think now (and I really hope Jenkins is not trying to say that atheists are in the habit of spitting at Arlington, or any cemetery).  But it actually seems like he’s trying a bit here.

And I’m also a bit impressed that Jenkins mentions female soldiers.  I realize this is giving him credit for simply doing something right, but it is unexpected, so…point.

Because fanatical Muslims waged holy war on the West?  Because religious groups in Bosnia jockeyed for primacy?  On and on it went, back to the dawn of history, people persecuting each other over abstract ideas.  That their tombstones symbolized the ideas they died for seemed the cruelest of ironies.

Yep, here we go.  When people are persecuted and killed for their faith, they are American Christians.  When they persecute and kill, they are Others, other faiths and/or other nationalities.  Hell, at least LaHaye and Dinallo had the guts to bring up (even though they immediately dismissed) American abortion clinic bombers and murderers.

I hope it gave them some comfort.  And yet here they lie.

That is another first.  The very first time in the book, by my count, that Paul has spared a thought for anyone other than himself.  (Of course, he is grieving the death of The Dork, but he certainly hasn’t given a thought to anyone else who is grieving.  Not even The Dork’s hot daughter.)

Two firsts.  They’re not great, but they are also Actually Not That Bad.

I did not think I would be able to write those words for this book.

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Posted on January 20, 2011, in Actually Not That Bad, Books, Google-fu, Soon. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Actually, Jenkins should lose major points here because headstones at Arlington aren’t cross-shaped. Yes, a lot of them have crosses _on_ them, but they’re not cross-_shaped_. The standard government-provided stone is slab-shaped. Families can pay for and provide their own alternative if they prefer. This is a tremendous failure on Jenkins’ part, because it indicates he’s never _been_ to Arlington, or possibly never even paid attention to a picture of it.

  2. Goodness, Literata, it took me all of five seconds to type “Arlington tombstone” into an image search engine and get some pictures. Which in turn led me to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Department_of_Veterans_Affairs_emblems_for_headstones_and_markers .

    For maximum irony points, Paul the Almost As Stupid really ought to be musing on how the Crusades had tried to stamp out religious wars in the middle east but even that didn’t get the job done.

  3. I’m wondering if Jenkins has started believing in the nonsense circulating on teh intarwebs (sic) about how the evil, evil atheists are going to force the government to take down crosses at Arlington (that is, the urban legend/radical reinterpretation of the Mt. Soledad case and similar). Either that or he’s imagining some future where first the government starts giving everybody cross-shaped tombstones and _then_ wipes out religion.

    I agree with the maximum irony points. And I’m wondering, secretly, if the mention of women in military cemeteries is actually a nod to how evil atheists would let women (women! with the soft and squishy bits and all!) fight as part of the downfall of the previously righteous nation.

  4. In fact, atheists can have an atom with an “A” at the center on their headstones.

    That’s rather awesome. I’d almost want to declare myself an atheist to get THAT on my tombstone! =)

    Stepola actually comes off as moderately understandable here, though the focus on ‘it’s other people who are fanatics, not us ‘Murricans!’ bothers me greatly.

  5. Ugh… What I hate about this is that the first show of humanity that Captain Jackass shows is essentially alluded to as a BAD thing…

    That’s what I’m wondering. Is this author trying to say that human feelings and thought was essentially a mistake by god? Yup, god REALLY wants prayer-bots, so get that stupid rationality and emotion outta there!

    Jesus… I fear the heaven that these people imagine. I suppose it would be something like the heaven described in J.O.B. by Heinlein… without the, you know… good parts. (Oh wait we already saw a description of heaven in the “OTHER” books… and yeah, it did suck…)

    It seems to me that real protagonists who human beings can relate to are secondary to the great “Unsaved Not Quite Yet, BUT Will Be Soon” Mary-Sue.

    • I’ve just read The Salvation War and all this stuff makes a whole lot more sense if you assume that Yah-yah is in charge.

      But I think you have a very good point here: these stories are like those stories one used to get in any sort of youth group that was associated with a church, where they try to lure you in with an interesting setup but you know from the start that it’s just going to turn out to be about Jesus again.

  6. Ugh. Paul, it’s an admirable thing for you to feel disgusted by all these lives cut senselessly short, but for heaven’s sake, you graceless lout, don’t spit in a cemetary. That’s just gross.

  7. To comment on this entry, I’ve got to say I’m impressed that a Jenkins book didn’t inspire universal distaste for all of its chapters for a small section of one. 🙂

  8. Given this concept of dying for abstract ideas, I’m wondering if the idea that Stepola will be converted to is that Christianity isn’t an idea/philosophy/etc., but a relationship. That rather than the philosophy being the purpose, it’s meant to be “just” a catalyst to oneness with God.

    In other words, Stepola was (to some measure) right to be upset with the combatants being animated by fealty to abstract ideals; his sole error was to think Protestant Christianity was like that, too.

    • The whole “relationship with God” thing is kind of a basic tenant of most Christian denominations, though. Now, granted, I could understand how someone might not know about that in a world where Christianity is completely underground… unless, of course, that person was a religious studies major.

      • My point is more that at least with the RTCs’ emphasis on “personal savior” et al., philosophy seems to be rendered a pretty far second compared to the relationship. It’s the worrisome idea that God never intended humans to be righteous on their own, only through obedience (granted it’s supposed to be love-animated, but given the way they occasionally think love and obedience are the same thing…).

  9. You know, I wonder if Jenkins means the atheists’ error to be “attributing all wars to religion”–or “confusing Truth, which is to say RTCianity, with a mere religion.”

  10. I find it of interest that he says “religious groups in Bosnia”, glossing over the fact that the oppressors in that conflict were the Orthodox Serbians and the oppressed the Muslim Bosnians with the Catholic Croats allying themselves as convenient.

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