"God in the Quad"

Being neither a "new atheist" nor a believer, I sometimes feel at a loss for intellectual allies. But no more. After giving the new atheists a drubbing, and then giving anti-new-atheists like Terry Eagleton even more of a drubbing, James Wood writes this in the current issue of The New Yorker (Aug. 31):
What is needed is neither the overweening rationalist atheism of a Dawkins nor the rarefied religious belief of an Eagleton but a theologically engaged atheism that resembles disappointed belief. Such atheism, only a semitone from faith, would be, like musical dissonance, the more acute for its proximity. It could give a brother's account of belief, rather than treat it as some unwanted impoverished relative. it would be unafraid to credit the immense allure of religious tradition, but at the same time it would be ready to argue that the abstract God of the philosophers and the theologians is no more probable than the idolatrous God of the fundamentalists, makes no better sense of the fallen world, and is certainly no more likable or worthy of our worshipful respect--alas.
That character of "disappointed belief" and proximity exactly describes my attitude (some of the time!), and why I can't quite join the raucous band of non-believers. I verbalized that as best I could in a review of the book Philosophers without Gods (Louise Antony, ed.) in Free Inquiry, but Wood says it much better.

There are lots of other goodies in the article, including a very apt discussion of Mark Johnston's book Saving God, discussed here in several installments.


amos wallerstein said...

The article is not available online. If you have the magazine, could you make more of it available? I forewarn you that the New Yorker has a mechanism which makes it impossible to copy and paste articles which are just available for subscribers. Thanks.

Jean Kazez said...

I'm afraid I got it on my Kindle, which makes it non-shareable. Maybe they'll take that block off of it once the issue is no longer current.

Fuast said...

Transcribe the whole thing!

Just Kidding. Maybe I'll go grab it. The occasional issue of New Yorker never hurt anyone.

ben nelson said...

Jean, I like that review. Perfect first sentence. "It used to be so easy not believing in God..."

But about Wood.

Hum, proper feelings eh?

I don't know if I can be a team player on this one. I don't feel disappointment in God(s), whatever it is that I feel. If anything, we're at a mutually cheerful detente at the moment. So it wouldn't be quite right to put on airs by pretending that I'm presently wagging my finger in His direction, though I'll keep folks abreast of updates as they arise. (Though I don't guarantee that these updates won't be lies. I am a secular quietist, after all; I have low standards to maintain.)

I do, however, feel a sense of reckoning with the Abrahamic religions, especially (but not limited to) the post-Protestant evangelicals of America and the tyrannical serfdoms of select Islamic republics. It goes a bit farther than disappointment, I must confess. I want justice to be brought onto those zealots for their literal and nasty-allegorical re-enactments of the millenia-old collection of horror novellas. I think there's a vital sense in which we, spiritually, need this.

Indeed, I want to endorse billboard campaigns that say "God hates your shitty religion".

And this is consistent with Wood's advice, I think. After all, one doesn't have to be an atheist to point out that an empire is godless. God just shines his light elsewhere, like on Sweden.

Faust said...

"we're at a mutually cheerful detente at the moment."

I like it. I looke forward to ongoing negotiations!