Religion is a sin


Saving God and Surviving Death: Mark Johnston has gone for the double, and I’m tempted to think he has succeeded, on his own terms, many of which seem about as good as terms get in this strange part of the park. I don’t, however, agree with his reasons or share his motive for attempting to explain how we can survive death, and I doubt the necessity of some of the matériel in his admittedly fabulous argumentative armamentarium. I’ll be jiggered if I survive death on Johnston’s terms; I don’t know whether he holds out much hope for himself. And his success won’t please anyone who believes in anything supernatural. Any conception of God as essentially a supernatural being is idolatry in Johnston’s book. All regular adherents of the Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – are therefore idolaters. And they go further: they want a ‘personal’ God, a ‘Cosmic Intervener who might confer special worldly advantages on his favourites’. They should be ashamed of themselves, at least if they’ve had any education; they’re moral babies. Here Johnston seems close to Iris Murdoch, who asserted that there is no ‘responsive superthou’. It’s this kind of conception of God that moves Thomas Nagel to say: ‘It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God … 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.’ In Murdoch and Nagel I think we find the genuine spiritual impulse or religious temperament, which never invests in supernatural entities.

more from Galen Strawson at the LRB here.