A systematic articulation of the atheistic world view, the one Marilynne Robinson may have been waiting for, is provided by an important new book,’s “This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom” (Pantheon). Hägglund doesn’t mention any of the writers I quoted, because he is working philosophically, from general principles. But his book can be seen as a long footnote to Pliny, and shares the Roman historian’s humane emphasis: we need death, as a blessing; eternity is at best incoherent or meaningless, and at worst terrifying; and we should trust in ourselves rather than put our faith in some kind of transcendent rescue from the joy and pain of life. Hägglund’s book involves deep and demanding readings of St. Augustine, Kierkegaard, Marx, and Martin Luther King, Jr. (with some Theodor Adorno, Charles Taylor, Thomas Piketty, and Naomi Klein thrown in), but it is always lucid, and is at its heart remarkably simple. You could extract its essence and offer it to thirsty young atheists.
His argument is that religious traditions subordinate the finite (the knowledge that life will end) to the eternal (the “sure and certain hope,” to borrow a phrase from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, that we will be released from pain and suffering and mortality into the peace of everlasting life). A characteristic formulation, from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, goes as follows: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” You die into Christ and thus into eternity, and life is just the antechamber to an everlasting realm that is far more wondrous than anything on earth. Hägglund, by contrast, wants us to fix our ideals and attention on this life, and more of it—Camus’s “longing, yes, to live, to live still more.” Hägglund calls this “living on,” as opposed to living forever. James Wood, “If God Is Dead, Your Time Is Everything” at New Yorker
Perhaps this is why the raging Woke would prefer to smash things rather than study them.
If time is a line that runs in one direction, eternity is the dense reality that lies outside the line. If a person thinks that nothing lies outside the line, they are not only wrong but diminished as a result.
Whether life beyond this life is a blessing or a curse has traditionally been held to depend largely on what we do with this life. It is a magnification either way.
Wood tells us that Hägglund hopes that more socialism will result from adopting his view.
See also: Disproofs of God’s existence are falling on hard times these days Omnipotent means the power to do any possible thing. Christians, for example, say that God “became man and suffered for us under Pontius Pilate.” So the answer to McGinn’s questions (“does he have the power to sneeze or digest food or pick his nose”) is yes, though it requires incarnation in a human body.
Religious Nones: The bigger picture shows increasing polarization The rise of the Nones means something important: Those who care about the Big Questions are more VISIBLY polarized. In politics, the Religious Nones are the largest group in the Democratic Party (30%) and 70% of declared Republicans believe in the “God of the Bible.” The “religious left” seems to be largely an artifact of thinkmags today, although it was an important force decades ago.
The Confused World of Modern Atheism (Mosaica Press, 2016)
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