Interview Q+A of the Moment
June 9, 2003
Do you think it follows without God, without faith, life is indeed meaningless and purposeless?from a book called "Insights", where Attallah interviews many important cultural figures of England who are reaching the twilight of their lives.
No, I don't actually think that. Without God, it may be ultimately meaningless and purposeless, and I suppose intellectually, if you are an absolute atheist like Richard Dawkins, you have to believe that. But because it's true ultimately doesn't mean to say it's true penultimately; you can give meaning to it, you can believe that love is important, that truth and beauty are important. And in a strange kind of way, if there is God then that experience must be part of the experience of God as well, so I think all the fragments get gathered up. I hate the kind of moralistic preaching that tries to blackmail people into believing, on the grounds that otherwise they will live lives of extreme anguish. I know lots of wonderfully committed ethical atheists whose lives are no more anguished than mine. They've chosen, as it were, not to believe in the way I have chosen to believe, but then to suggest that they are incapable of ethical vision, or love of their children, or enjoyment of the Monet Exhibition is absurd. But I do think that the meaning of God is so extraordinary that even official atheism is somehow not safe from it.
What struck me is how much more common atheism and agnosticism is in England, and how even Christian believers (including Richard Holloway) there tend to see the story of the Virgin Birth and Resurrection as allegories, not historical fact. Of all the people interviewed, there was only one strong defense of what I think of as "traditional" Christianity. I think one thing that we forget in the USA is how much of a Fundamentalist influence there is, relative to other Western democracies. (Someone once claimed that some ethnographers view the USA as a third world country that got lucky wealth-wise; given how strong fundamentalism also is in, say, African nations, I wonder if religious influence is one of the things that ties into that view of the USA.)
Quip of the Moment
To err is human. To blame someone else for your mistakes is even more human.