Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.
Send GK Your Question »
January 22, 2008 |
Mr. Garrison Keillor,
I would be grateful if you could set my heart at ease and let me know precisely where you stand on the subject of atheists. I am one, and yet despite that I love your show and its down-home warmth, its honesty and above all its humility. I even love the songs that include God in their lyrics, as they aren't arrogant at all and only try to provide comfort in an often cruel world. I am convinced that you are not, never were and never could be a bigot, and that your love for your God does not preclude giving a fair hearing to people who do not need a god to tell them to be a good person, eat your vegetables, don't steal, don't lie etc, in other words to be (almost) all the good things a good Minnesotan is as described in your book "Homegrown Democrat". I am not a Minnesotan: I live in Rhode Island, founded by Roger Williams, the great proponent of freedom of conscience, a champion of tolerance and a personal hero of mine.
It's good to hear from an atheist, especially one who is tolerant and humorous, as you are, Stephen. I know quite a few atheists and some of them are tolerant and others rather prickly and if you want my honest opinion of atheists, I'd say they tend to be pompous. I'm sure they feel beleaguered in the sea of piety and that makes them defensive and irritable. Very understandable. And I don't mind their lawsuits against Christmas in the schools and school prayer and all of that, though I do feel that religion is woven into our culture and that it's a foolish exercise to try to remove each strand. But one of the beautiful things about Christian faith is the pervading sense of mercy and forgiveness, which is a form of humor. The parable of the prodigal son is a comical story. I don't doubt that atheists can be good people, but of course the Christian faith is not about goodness, it's about darkness, especially our own darkness. But that's our problem, not yours. As for Rhode Island, my ancestor Elder John Crandall was Roger Williams's right-hand man and we Keillors are proud of that.
Freedom of conscience: long may it wave. As we Christians get older and wiser, we become a little gentler in our self-righteousness. Glad you enjoy the show.