A reader writes:
If I am ever grasping for a concrete, unimpeachable criticism of you, I will always have this: "He wore briefs in Equus."
I am delighted by your dialogue regarding atheism and religious belief. I think my greatest problem with most religions - Christianity in particular (because it's closest to me) - is the belief that God somehow is capable of/is interested in/exists on a level of decision-making and action-taking. It robs so much beauty from MY idea of God, which is a simpler, vaster, and more immediate energy binding the world. We cannot understand it, and making the attempt is immediately reductive. I believe our only imperative is to keep this energy moving, to help our fellows, our planet, everything living - even by (gasp!) raising taxes from time to time, if need be.
I hate this notion of God as "the Decider" because it lets so many people off the hook, setting them on a smug Slip-n-Slide into corruption. Why should we preserve our beautiful planet when Dad's going to come down and Hoover us up to Heaven some day soon? Why should we be good to one another when all we have to do is follow God's "laws" as we conveniently choose to interpret them?
I have no idea what religious category I fall into. I petulantly label myself "atheist" because such a roundly despised group must be good company. In practice, though, I'm not. Nor am I agnostic, because I do have a strong sense of spirituality that is my own. As certainly as you've never lived without belief in God, I have never lived without this idea of a gorgeous force binding us together. I believe we are nothing but energy and matter, but what energy we are! What matter!
God is not soothing because he boxes us in with laws, freeing us from decision-making and moral grappling. God is soothing in his warm, basic tremendousness, and our imperative is to work together and keep God as vibrant as possible. To allow suffering - to allow the movement of this energy to slow and cease - is to deny God. By following this imperative, a humane morality asserts itself.
To reduce God to our mean level of consciousness strikes me an insult - and that, to me, is the mark of most religious practice. When anyone thinks they know God, they're lost.