June 03, 2002
Martin Amis argues for the

Martin Amis argues for the novel, with a sidetrack through religion:

The 20th century, with its scores of millions of supernumerary dead, has been called the age of ideology. And the age of ideology, clearly, was a mere hiatus in the age of religion, which shows no sign of expiry. Since it is no longer permissible to disparage any single faith or creed, let us start disparaging all of them. To be clear: an ideology is a belief system with an inadequate basis in reality; a religion is a belief system with no basis in reality whatever. Religious belief is without reason and without dignity, and its record is near-universally dreadful. It is straightforward - and never mind, for now, about plagues and famines: if God existed, and if He cared for humankind, He would never have given us religion.


Atheism, it turns out, is not quite rational either. The sketchiest acquaintance with cosmology will tell you that the universe is not, or is not yet, decipherable by human beings. It will also tell you that the universe is far more bizarre, prodigious and chillingly grand than any doctrine, and that spiritual needs can be met by its contemplation. Belief is otiose; reality is sufficiently awesome as it stands. Indeed, our isolation in its cold immensity seems to demand a humanistic counterweight - an assertion of mortal pride. A contemporary manifestation of this need can be seen in our intensified reverence for the planet (James Lovelock's Gaia and other benign animisms). A strategy with a rather longer history centres on an intensified reverence for art - or, in Matthew Arnold's formula, for "the best which has been thought and said".

Posted by Bill Stilwell at June 03, 2002 12:00 AM
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