Ms. Paglia is an atheist, but of the thoughtful and respectful variety. She has no trouble identifying the positive contributions that religion has made to society. As she says:
"I respect every religion deeply. All the great world religions contain a complex system of beliefs regarding the nature of the universe and human life that is far more profound than anything that liberalism has produced. We have a whole generation of young people who are clinging to politics and to politicized visions of sexuality for their belief system. They see nothing but politics, but politics is tiny. Politics applies only to society. There is a huge metaphysical realm out there that involves the eternal principles of life and death."
She also has scant respect for atheists who never really did their homework. She was asked "what do you make of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and the religion critics who seem not to have respect for religions for faith?"
"I regard them as adolescents. I say in the introduction to my last book, “Glittering Images”, that “Sneering at religion is juvenile, symptomatic of a stunted imagination.” It exposes a state of perpetual adolescence that has something to do with their parents– they’re still sneering at dad in some way. Richard Dawkins was the only high-profile atheist out there when I began publicly saying “I am an atheist,” on my book tours in the early 1990s. I started the fad for it in the U.S, because all of a sudden people, including leftist journalists, started coming out of the closet to publicly claim their atheist identities, which they weren’t bold enough to do before. But the point is that I felt it was perfectly legitimate for me to do that because of my great respect for religion in general–from the iconography to the sacred architecture and so forth. I was arguing that religion should be put at the center of any kind of multicultural curriculum."
Fair enough. But it seems to me that there are questions that atheists should struggle with - ones that I would think would challenge much of the fascinating world-view that Ms. Paglia has developed. If I could, I would ask her:
- As an atheist, you most likely don't believe in free will. Do you believe that people should be held accountable for their "wrong-doings?" If so, why? Clearly, they have no choice to act in any other manner.
- Do you believe in concepts like justice and morality which have no scientific or material basis? What do you view as the source of these concepts?
- What is the origin of matter, life and consciousness? Would our lack of explanatory ability in these matters cause you to suspend your judgement as to weather or not a creative intelligence could have brought them about? If not, are you accepting your atheism on the basis of faith?
- If you believe that life (and as an extension, thought) are the results of blind and impersonal forces, how do you know that your mental faculties are reliable? Do you have confidence that what your brain tells you (whoever "you" actually is) is coherent? How do you know?
- Are any ideas superior to any others? Given that, materially speaking, ideas are nothing more than haphazard firing of neurons, and that neurons have no actual worth or meaning, how could an idea be said to have any actual value? As such, should we refrain from all critique of ideas that we subjectively find displeasing?
That should do for now. Camille, if you happen to come across this, let's talk! I would truly be interested to hear what you have to say.