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“Beer-loving Atheist”… or “Beer, Loving-Atheist”

August 5, 2012

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Hello world! This is my first blog and less than ten words in and I already feel compelled to make my first, of what will hopefully be many, apologies. (After all, how interesting can I be if I’m not occasionally offending a few people?) I realize that the above title requires a slight bit of mental gymnastics, but hey, it’s Olympics time, so it’s in the spirit of the season. Besides, deep thought, skepticism and big, challenging ideas, along with of course beer and atheism, is what I really want this blog to be about. So, if the title is too head-scratching, this may not be the blog for you, dear reader. In fact, I’m not really sure if this will be the blog for anyone, but I wanted to write it and so here we are.

So what’s with the title? Said another way, what I’m really trying figure out is what the primary focus of this blog should be. There’s no getting around the topics of beer and atheism (as you probably inferred from the title and URL), but should one topic be the focus over the other?

It’s true that I’m lover of good things beery, including being an avid home brewer. It’s also true that I feel somewhat defined by my atheism, especially given the atrocities, sheer stupidity and lack of critical, skeptical thought that I see every day, much of which is a direct result or symptom of religion. For me, it’s hard to separate the two concepts, especially since I tend to ask big questions even after just a beer or two. But I also realize the two topics may seem like an interesting juxtaposition to many of you. On one hand, you’ve got a nice, seemingly simple thing in beer, and on the other hand you’ve got big questions about why the world exists, whether or not there is some greater meaning, and whether or not there is a god or gods behind it all. So, basically, one pretty light and fluffy thing, and one big and heavy one! But apart from many of us tending to ask big questions when we’re drinking, I’d argue that these topics are not quite as different as some of you might think. For one, I don’t drink “light and fluffy” beer. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Putting aside my taste in beer for a second (and saving it as a topic for a future blog), after thinking all of this through, it seems as if we’ve just come to the conclusion (thanks for your help!) that this blog will be pretty evenly split between its coverage of both topics. Since I tend to go for the low-hanging fruit first, I may focus a bit more on the beer topic right away. But let me be clear: I love debate and enjoy discussion, so we’ll be tackling big issues like religion too. For now, though, let me say a little about the beer in the photo above. I’ll leave the placement of the Bible and the Richard Dawkins book to your own interpretation.

Beer geeks will know this one very well. It’s from a fantastic craft brewery in Munster, IN just about 25 miles south of Chicago called Three Floyds. This particular beer, a Russian Imperial Stout called “Dark Lord,” is perhaps its most well-known beer and is consistently ranked as one of the top beers in the world. This 2010 release of the beer (identifiable by the green wax coating) was made available to the public, as it is each year, through a special release party held each spring on “Dark Lord Day” (www.darklordday.com). Despite being a fantastic beer, the name and story behind me obtaining the bottle is absolutely perfect for launching this blog. The reason I picked a beer off of my shelf named “Dark Lord” probably needs no further discussion given my now well-established atheism, other than the following disclaimer that I have to put forward on behalf of my atheist comrades: Atheists do not believe in ANY gods or supernatural claims, including the bad ones. So we’re not Satan-worshippers! This may seem like a silly statement, but you’d be surprised how many people hold this misconception.

As for the story of how I acquired this bottle of hard-to-find, limited-release midwestern beer when I live in Washington, DC, here it goes: I bought it off a guy (a beer geek, obviously) for $100 in the parking lot of a liquor store early one Sunday morning. Trust me, this was a much more fruitful endeavor than any Sunday church service I’ve ever attended, and I’ve been to my fair share (which is another topic for a future blog). Unlike 99.9%* of beers that non-geeks may be familiar with (*note that 68% of all statistics are made up on the spot), some of these rarer limited-release beers can only be purchased at the brewery, obtained through trades, or purchased on the “gray-market.” But the real reason I think this beer choice is perfect for my first blog, beyond the name and Sunday morning purchase, is because I, dear reader, was guilty of the very same lack of critical thinking and skepticism that I hate. Allow me to explain.

Did I respect and properly care for the beer, meticulously aging it at cellar temperature for years before I drank it, and did I absolutely love drinking it and rank it among my favorite beers of all-time? To quote Fmr. Gov. Palin from up north, near Russia, “you betcha!” But at $100, is it worth a dozen or so bottles of really good $8 – $10 beer? Probably not. I, like many of my beer geek friends, bought into the hype. Now, before I fall completely on the sword here, let me remind you that a wine of the same prestige as the Dark Lord would likely have fetched thousands of dollars, so my $100 indulgence is but a mere fraction of that cost. But is the sentiment and thought process behind my Sunday morning parking lot purchase really that different? I’d argue that it’s not. Study after study on wine drinkers show that most are fooled by high prices, fancy names and other factors like the appearance of the bottle that have absolutely nothing to do with how the contents inside actually taste. To think that beer is not subject to some of these same prejudices would be naive. Now, generally speaking, I find beer drinkers to be much more easy going and well-grounded than wine drinkers. The good ones understand that this beer obsession is all about having fun and they don’t take themselves too seriously. But many of us fall victim to the same pitfalls as our adult-beverage counterparts.

Let me be very clear here: Much love and respect to Three Floyds! You can’t really fault them for taking advantage of the hype. And they do put out truly awesome stuff. But now I’ve said enough…

What do you think about all of this, dear reader? Are these special release beers worth the hype? And if you’re feeling especially aspirational, does atheism and beer have a place as complimentary topics?

Well look at that, I’ve reached the end of my first blog and time has flown by. I can’t believe it took me so long to get some of these thoughts down, but, hey, nobody out in cyberspace was waiting for this anyway, so no real sweat of my back. Going forward, I’ll commit to a few key things with respect to future blog posts:

(1) I’ll try and post a new blog at least every week, but hopefully even more frequently than that.
(2) If some of you decide to comment, I’ll try to participate in the discussions and reply to as many comments as possible.
(3) I’ll be sure to drink at least one strong, and no more than 3 strong beers before and/or during each new post. Doing it completely dry will guarantee it will be boring, but more than 3 beers and I’ll ramble more than I have already.

Until next time, cheers and happy doubting.
~Adam, the “Beer Loving Atheist” (no hyphens!)

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