In the latest issue of Maclean’s, author Julian Barnes is interviewed about his book Nothing to Be Frightened Of — a memoir about atheism and death.
Milena has transcribed excerpts of the interview (it’s not online yet) and you get to hear from an atheist who is not nearly as strident or anti-theist as people like Christopher Hitchens. In addition to his talk about the book, he makes a sad but true remark about the upcoming presidential elections:
Q: Your first line is, “I don’t believe in God, but I miss him.”
A: That’s right, yes. I just found myself saying that when I was on some public stage and someone said, “Do you believe in God?” and that was my instant response, and it was one that on reflection I thought was true. I grew up in a family where, probably from the point when my grandmother lost her Methodist faith and became a Communist — or socialist — nearly, oh, 90 years ago, there hasn’t been anything that you would call faith in the family, let alone church attendance. But, you know, when a great story ends I think we all miss it, and it was a great story. There were aspects of it that leave a sense of want. One is that if life is a mere prelude or preparation for something else, then life becomes both more trivial and more important, and if not then we can grow to our full height but that height is comparatively dwarfish. If this is all there is and this is all we are then it’s a bit disappointing.
Q: There seems to be most certainty about atheism in the U.K., when in a lot of the rest of the world we’re seeing something of a revival in religious fervour.
A: Yes. The Brits, after all, gave Darwin to the world. I think in Europe the retreat of the traditional religions is strong. The collapse of religion in Ireland, for example, and France, and to a lesser extent Italy has been quite spectacular.
Q: America being one grand exception.
A: America is one grand exception indeed. America manages to combine extreme materialism with extreme religiosity, and it is a bizarre thought that in this presidential cycle, we could have had a woman in the White House, we might have a black man in the White House, but if either of them had said they were atheists neither of them would have had a hope in hell, all too literally.
On a brighter note, this is another book about atheism that isn’t all about trying to show how incorrect religious beliefs are. It’s about how to live life as an atheist — in this case, the end of life. I haven’t read the book yet, but it sounds like a welcome addition to the collection of atheist literature out there.
(via The Bitch Report)