Soon: Chapter 17: Paul and Poor People

So Paul heads off to the financial district from the frakkin’ Pierre Hotel…and bumps into a homeless dude.  It’s a brief encounter, yet says so very, very much about how much Atheistopia rocks:

It had been years since [Paul] had encountered [a homeless person], what with modern anti-delusional medications, strict no-loitering laws, and aid programs more profitable than panhandling.

So in addition to curing cancer, Atheistopia has (almost) cured homelessness.

Tell me again why we’re supposed to dislike this place.

Oh, and you gotta love the “aid programs more profitable than panhandling.”  That just smacks of the whole far-right notion that poor people are poor because they’re lazy and don’t want to work, doesn’t it?  Because it’s a much easier life to just sit back and rake in the gigantic wads of cash that are sitting there, just waiting for those wise enough to join the lucrative ranks of the panhandlers.

Flushed with a compassion he had never known before, Paul shoved a bill into the open hand and headed into the cool glass lobby.

Good job, Paul.  It only takes one second and one dollar to assuage your guilt before you can duck back into your rich man’s world and never have to think about that Other Person again. 

I can only imagine that Jenkins wanted this scene to show that Faith Makes People Nice, but in an Atheistopia that has almost completely eliminated cancer and poverty, all it really shows is that Paul used to be an insensitive jerk, and is now an insensitive jerk with a guilt complex.  It hardly demonstrates that it takes religion Christianity The Truth to give you compassion.  Jenkins was the guy, remember, who said that even though the Salvation Army had been disbanded, generous  holiday-time donations went to “international humanitarian relief.”  The atheists in this “ultramodern” world aren’t lacking in compassion.  Just the opposite, in fact.

You rock, Atheistopia.  Stay sweet.




Posted on August 18, 2011, in Books, Soon. Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. Tell me again why we’re supposed to dislike this place.

    Well, they do arrest and shoot religious people. However awesome the society is in every other way, this persecution still happens and that is Not Cool.

    But here’s the thing. There’s really nothing I’ve seen to indicate that the religious persecution in Atheistopia is somehow integral to the way this society works. It’s something that happens, alongside the curing of cancer and the end of homelessness, but it’s not like the child in Omelas — as if all these great things are possible BECAUSE Christians and other people of faith are being suppressed. (At least, if Jenkins is in fact trying to make that claim, he’s not doing a great job of proving it.)

    So, as a result, I look at Atheistopia, and it doesn’t seem like a malignant dystopia begging for civil war/wrath of God/meteor strike. It seems more like a generally fine society of compassionate people, which happens to have this particular and extremely problematic hostility toward religious people. But that hostility could be done away with, without losing all the other stuff that makes this society awesome.

    Despite that, I have a bad feeling that Jenkins intends much more for Atheistopia than to simply have them learn a valuable lesson about the virtue of tolerance. He’s going to give this whole civilization — and millions of its citizens — the death sentence, isn’t he?

    • I dunno; I think the religious loonies are a significant part of what’s turning America into “East Kentucky with rockets”. But certainly not the only thing…

    • “He’s going to give this whole civilization — and millions of its citizens — the death sentence, isn’t he?”

      God basically becomes Paul’s thug-for-hire.

      It ain’t pretty.

    • I was also thinking of this book in terms of that Omelas story (though I only know it from the slacktivist). When you read the intro to this book (the quotes from all of 2 people mailing there newspaper about abolishing religion, and the introduction of Atheistopia), and if you don’t know Jenkins, you’d think this book might be something similar.

      “Okay, New Atheists, you want to abolish religion? Think it’s holding humanity back? Fine, let me show you that world. I’ll even give you your scientific advancements. Now let me show you that some people won’t give up, and what kind of horrible oppressive and paranoid system you need to put in place to keep your little paradise. Still think it’s worth it?”

      But this is Jenkins, who is unable to relate to anyone outside his own circle. It is painfully obvious from the writing that all readers are already supposed and expected to agree with Jenkins. No attempt is even made to show the toxic effects such an atheist theocracy may have on society as a whole. Instead, Society is perfectly fine with it, and thus far every single person accused of being a Christian was one. Only a handfull of people were actually frightened of religious people, and none so far have been falsely persecuting their neighbours (Paul’s father comes closest, but even he doesn’t go all the way. And techincally, he’s been proven right about Paul if he really had any suspicions.) One can only recognize this fictional world as horrible if you only judge a world by how convenient it is for the RTCs, otherwise it doesn’t get below ‘flawed’.

      Pretty much every single dictature ever had people rebelling against it, and whatever merrits the system may have, the rebellions always have fair points, even if they don’t plan to replace the government with anything better. Jenkins has tried to write a fictional worst dictature ever (well, second, his Anti-Christ dicature is supposed to be the ultimate evil I think), and all I can say is that the dicature is right. Almost everyone agrees with this system and has become fantastically prosperous and healthy because of it. The RTCs and their murderous God are really the only problem this world still has left. The world as it is governed right now throws more people under the bus with unjust economic policies than this world does through persecutions. When you make me think I might join with the New Atheist movement if I could get a guarantee it would work out as well as it does in your anti-Atheist propaganda novel, you’re doing it wrong.

  2. Tell me again why we’re supposed to dislike this place.

    B-b-bu-bu-but… SOSHULIZM!!!!

    That’s why.

  3. Let’s see if italics work how I think they do on this site.
    Tell me again why we’re supposed to dislike this place.

    Because they have strict laws against loitering and religion, which strike me as victimless crimes.

    • Yeah, tell that to the victims of the Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials, etc., etc.

      Damn loiterers.

      • The people in Salem speaking up against the trials (and getting whacked for it) were Christian, too. Oh, and I think the murder and theft and rape were bigger problems with the Crusades than the religion thing.

  4. I think that this may be the first time, in any L&J-related book, that a soi-disant Christian performs a genuine and disinterested act of charity. I’ll get the champagne.

    • I want to be more optimistic, but Atlas Shrugged opened with a similar scene of charity to a panhandler, and we know how that book ended up.

      • Because giving $1 to a beggar without even looking at them isn’t really charity. It’s a way of getting the beggar out of your face. I’m not saying that the beggar can’t use the money, but shoving money at someone without even looking at them isn’t help, it’s buying relief from their presence.

        • Or assuaging momentary guilt at your own respective wealth. Plenty of people throw a dollar bill at a beggar. If they’d wanted to show that Paul had suddenly become charitable they’d have him do something that actually involved him going out of his way–say, being late for a meeting because he bought the man some lunch and said a few words about how maybe there was a creator of the universe who died on the cross and loves us very much. There’s no self-sacrifice in putting a pill in a homeless man’s cup when your job regularly gets you put up at fancy hotels.

          Atheistopia provides aid programs and free mental health care. A newly minted Christian throws a dollar and walks away without looking the man in the face. I think I know who seems more Christ-like.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy

            At least he didn’t give the panhandler one of those Christian Tracts that looks like a folded $100 on the outside. (That is THE bane of waitresses at restaurants on Sundays.)

        • Yep, the first thing that came to my mind was Tom Waits’ turn in The Fisher King, where he said almost exactly that.

    • “I’ll get the champagne.”

      You mean the non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice, right? After all, these are RTCs. 😛

  5. Its nice of Jenkins to admit that many of today’s homeless are there for psychiatric reasons. So Paul feels compassion for the first time ever towards another human being? I can see where he might awkward at handling his newfound lack of utter indifference.

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy

    So in addition to curing cancer, Atheistopia has (almost) cured homelessness.

    Tell me again why we’re supposed to dislike this place.

    Because Jerry “Buck” Jenkins, Greatest Christian Author of All Time, has no clue whatsoever about Dystopia.


    And so far, the only thing Dystopic we’ve seen is They’re Not All Born-Again Bible-Believing Evangelical Christians (TM). And to someone on the outside of Evangelical Christian Bizarro World, that’s NOT much of a bad side.

    • Indeed. I’m not trying to downplay persecution, and obviously it’s wrong to outlaw religion. But as Vermic points out, this is not something integral to the society. In fact, most of the actual persecution is being carried out by idiots (Paul) or lone wolf sadists (Bia).

      And the way this all happened is very telling: the atheists didn’t “militantly” take over the world one day and start smacking down the believers–the entire planet got behind this plan to outlaw religion, due entirely to a devastating and entirely religious world war, in which millions of innocent civilians perished.

      It would be worth it for Jenkins to ask himself: why does a world without religion cure cancer and all but eliminate homelessness? Why is the planet not one giant Pit of Despair? Why have they gone almost forty years without one warm, anywhere?

    • It’s not as if he had a particularly hard task ahead of him, either. He doesn’t have to make anyone nonChristian sympathetic, he doesn’t have to give any villain decent justification, the lack of moral ambiguity is an outright selling point, and we’ve already got historical precedence for anti-religious dystopias…and yet he still fucked it up.

  7. You know, those “solutions” sound a lot like rich right wing morons think are a cure for social ills – make them illegal! And although the “anti-delusion medicine” sounds good it still implies they think it’s only people’s mental illness that puts them out to the street, and not the society’s hardness towards people with mental illness. All it goes on to show is that Jenkins thinks criminalizing vagrancy and not giving tax money to people down on their luck is the right way to handle the problem of a civilized nation having a growing number of people without a home.

    • It’s the “aid programs” that I find most interesting. Because they can’t just be aid programs, but “aid programs more profitable than panhandling.”

      Feeds nicely into the idea that the poor just want to leech off the rest of society, that they choose to be poor because of the vast profits to be had on welfare.

      Just like in the first chapter, when we are sadly informed that charity money goes to humanitarian relief, instead of a Real, True Christian cause like the Salvation Army.

      • What would really be an utopia would be eliminating the need for aid programs altogether…

        • Choir of Shades

          This makes me think, I know how the population centers have grown rather than shrunk despite the wars. Large scale urbanization and migration to urban centers. Suppose we posit that there was massive infrastructure damage to much of the rural areas. There would be a huge impetus for movement to the cities. Furthermore, either way they’ll need to rebuild a LOT of infrastructure, if for nothing else than to take advantage of new technologies (i.e. refitting airports for use with orbital jumpers).

          Which brings me to my main point, they’ve had less than fifty years. They’ve: cured diseases people thought uncurable (I STRONGLY suspect AIDS has been cured by this point); developed nanite mechanization (pen umbrella); created a huge slew of sustainability technologies (as evidenced by the success of the salt mine city); and the war on poverty was obviously a resounding victory–not a perfect one, obviously, but assuming Paul actually meant “saw” and not “noticed” wrt the homeless person, if it’s been years since a man who spends all his time in metropolises saw a homeless man, esp. cities like New York and Chicago, we’re probably talking more than 90% reduction in the AMERICAN poverty rate…even if we only halve that number for third world countries, that still means that poverty has been cut in half around the world. IN FORTY YEARS! Even if we immediately optimized our system as best we could, it’d probably be at least a century before we could accomplish all of the things listed. Give em another couple of decades to wipe out poverty virtually completely out.

  8. I love how this little bit is an apt microcosm of modern American politics.

    The evil socialist secular humanist liberals want to effect societal change so that nobody will suffer homelessness or if they do there’s easy ways to climb back into the middle class.

    The righteous christian conservative manly man figures that it’s far more moral to shove a bit of money at one random dude and call it a day.

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