Thursday, May 14, 2009

Theo-phobia, attack, illness or bad manners

Witness the words of philosopher Thomas Nagel, who confessed to a “fear of religion itself.”

"I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. 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. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind. Darwin enabled modern secular culture to heave a great collective sigh of relief, by apparently providing a way to eliminate purpose, meaning and design as fundamental features of the world."

That’s about as clear of an expression of Theo-phobia as one could want. The “cosmic authority problem.” Perhaps that is the source of atheist Richard Dawkins' zeal in his defense of Darwinism? One only wishes that he—and Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett—were as candid about the emotional source of atheism as Thomas Nagel.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if Al has read the book that contains this passage. It's called The Last Word, published in 1997, and you can read the first few pages of the introduction on Or you can read a favorable online review of it by Gilbert Meilaender in First Things magazine (June/July 1999).

    I have not read the book, but it appears to be a defense of reason as an objective and universal activity, and it criticizes a particular form of contemporary subjectivism and relativism.

    That would seem to be right up Al's alley.

    As to the passage Al cites, it's not clear to me why Nagel hopes there is no God. But I'll give you my reason.

    I observe this world, with all it's cruelty and misery, and find that God is unlovable. Furthermore, God's attempt to fix the problem He created doesn't cut it (Matthew 22:14 "Many are invited, but few are chosen."). Clearly, most of us would be better off without such a God.