Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Honorable Atheist

In a recent post, I praised the book of Thomas Nagel, The Last Word (1997); and do here reiterate that praise.  Yet towards the end of that volume (pp. 129-131) he delivers himself of some most interesting musings.  In an observation recalling one we quoted previously from Michael Dummett, he embraces Rationalism, but sees that as leading inexorably on to Theism, and shrinks back.  Then, becoming suddenly quite strikingly autobiographical in what is otherwise a mostly patrician book:

I want atheism to be true. … It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief.  It’s that I hope there is no God!  I don’t want there to be a God;  I don’t want the universe to be like that.

Ecce homo.  Ich kann nicht anders.  Eppur’ si muove.
These are deep words, of honorable men; and poles apart from the snarky sneers of a Hitchens.   The silence of those infinite spaces terrifies him, as it did Pascal.
What God himself may think of such a plea, we cannot know.  But we know what Chesterton would think, because he stated it himself, in his novel The Ball and the Cross And we know what C. S. Lewis would think, because he told us, in his autobiography Surprised by Joy.

Anyhow, despite his understandable qualms, I do hope that Professor Nagel finds Paradise to his liking, because I’m pretty sure that that is where he is headed.

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