"As centuries turned into millennia, and millennia into eons, Their job was at last done. The creatures whose bodies They now inhabited were newly sentient."Upon first reading Moore's Atheist Tale, I found I was at a loss for what the story was trying to get across - which makes it an instant masterpiece, in my books. In a way, it was a peculiar choice to start off the anthology with, because it isn't what one would expect from a collection of short stories about Atheism. When you pick up this antho, no doubt you'll be looking for stories condemning religion, arguing against the existence of God, and pointing out the absurdities propagated by the Bible. Moore's story, at least at surface level, does none of these things. Instead, Moore creates a piece that really gets you thinking about our preconceptions about the world, whether we are atheistic or religious. It's difficult to tell at first glance what this story is really about, and I'v decided that it's a great opener for that reason - it challenges the reader's expectations right from the get go.
Now I would love to leave it up to each of you to figure out how Moore's story promotes freethinking atheism, but I can't resist telling you what I think, myself.
Here's the official synopsis of Moore's story:
In this brief science-fiction tale, Bill Moore postulates what might have happened if an advanced race of beings, perhaps of pure thought or energy—dare we say “souls”?—arrived on Earth and implanted their consciousnesses into lower life forms. What if such a race could exist for eons like this, always conscious, constantly directing their evolution, little by little?The reason I'm giving you this instead of making a synopsis of my own is that I don't want to "spoil" any more of the story by summing it up differently. Instead I want to focus on telling you what makes Moore's alternative world view a true Atheist Tale.
'A New Beginning' shows an alternative possibility to the "And God said let there be light" creation story, and it's very thought-provoking for an atheist reader. Although it is a more scientific metaphysical conclusion, it does not in any way claim to be the truth of the matter. Moore isn't arguing The Big Bang Theory here, or even Evolution for that matter (although Evolution is assumed to be true, as most rational people would agree). What he's essentially saying is that it's entirely possible (in a magical, mysterious, not-scientific way) that there is some sort of Higher Being that creates, controls, watches, whatever, the human species, and that we could never know if we are right or wrong. It's just as likely that these beings Moore made up actually exist as it is that God exists, as is suggested by a book centuries old written by fallible men.
This is one of the more subtle Atheist Tales, and in just five pages, Moore accomplishes a lot. I chose to re-read it several times to search for all of his messages, and found something new on each read.
By the way: I don't think I need to explain the 2001: A Space Odyssey images. It just felt oh so fitting. In case you haven't read my other Atheist Tales reviews, I've been using famous movie stills to promote our antho.