Eminem:Lil Wayne :: Theism:Atheism

Although I would normally not stick to pulling philosophical concepts out of Eminem, I couldn’t resist this one: a modern ‘parody’ of the atheist/theist debate. In the song ‘Talkin’ 2 Myself” Eminem gives a brief bio of his recovery, specifically in relation to his oscillation in popularity as a rapper. Of particular interest in this case is his reference to Lil Wayne, Kanye and TI, that is, competitors in the relevant business of rapping. As Eminem singles them out in the song he alludes to his hatred and jealously towards those who were ‘spittin’ and ‘buzzin’ when he wasn’t.

What I was going through growing pains / Hatred was flowing through my veins / On the verge of going insane / I almost made a song dissin’ Lil Wayne / It’s like I was jealous of him cause the attention he was getting’ / I felt horrible about myself, he was spittin’ and I wasn’t / Anyone who was buzzin’ back then coulda got it / Almost went at Kanye too

Again, in a verse latter on in the song, Eminem admits to the striking absurdity of going after other rappers simply because they were ostensibly better: “Are you stupid? You gon’ start dissin’ people for no reason? / Especially when you can’t even write a decent punchline even.” Elsewhere Eminem also refers to the unflattering presentation of himself for being an ‘egomaniac’ in this way. It simply ran contrary to the very style he affirmed. On the other side, Eminem comes to his sense and acknowledges the necessary condition of other rappers as the possibility for his own work. That is to say, he is only as good as he is insofar as he is pushed by other singers to continually improve. In this precise sense, he has more in common with other rappers than he admitted to earlier: they are more friends than enemies.

I’m back with a vengeance homie Weezy keep ya head up / TI keep ya head up, Kanye keep ya head up / Don’t let up, just keep slayin’ ‘em / Rest in Peace To DJ AM ‘cause I know what it’s like / I struggle with this shit every single day

In short, the resurgence of Eminem’s popularity was provoked by his perceived competition with other contemporary rappers. However, in the end, he admits to his own dependence on said singers who did him a favor by ‘spittin’ and ‘buzzin’ all the while Eminem was ‘recovering’. To simply ‘diss’ them after all that would be self-defeating.

On this basis, Eminem’s relation to other rappers is not far-field from the recent interaction between atheists and theists. We take our jumping off point with a quote from “God is Dead” and I Don’t Feel so Good Myself:

…the weaknesses of the arguments for the resurgent atheism are less to be taken seriously than to provoke theological self-criticism. Why have our accounts of who God is not produced a more interesting reaction? If we are to have an atheist the caliber of Nietzsche rather than Dawkins, we will have to do better with our reasons for faith (p. xv)

According to this view atheism is only as good as it is provoked by theism. Or again, to return to the previous example, the caliber of Eminem is only as good as his ‘interesting reaction’ to Kanye or Lil Wayne. In this way, it seems, theism is nothing by itself, nor is atheism anything without theism. Rather, they require each other. This is just as absurd as the ‘rigorously intellectual’ claim that God and the Devil need each other in order to produce the best of all possible worlds, implicitly assumed in the theodicy argument of ‘soul shapping’. According to this view, the trials that persons suffer under is required for discipleship, that is, so that their souls might be purified. If nothing ever went wrong in the world we would have no way of choosing the right attitude and becoming sanctified, i.e., holy. So the story goes. The point is that in the last resort God and Satan co-manage the ways of the world to give people the choice of how they want to respond. I’ll let the reader decide the persuasiveness of this argument.

No doubt, it seems entirely plausible and convincing that Eminem is only as skilled as his competition lets him be. This is more or less how all crafts and trades work; the passing down and tweaking of an established tradition. It appears less mandatory for religion on the hand. Is Nietzsche really as good as theism, in particular, moved him? It is entirely possible but this account seems overly reductionistic.

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