The philosopher Thomas Nagel is an atheist, but in his book The Last Word he admits that he can’t come to the question of God in anything like a detached way. He confesses that he has “fear of religion,” and he doubts that anyone can address this issue without very powerful motives for seeing the arguments go one way or the other.
I am talking of…the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true…. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. 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….
I am curious whether there is anyone who is genuinely indifferent as to whether there is a God—anyone who, whatever his actual belief about the matter, doesn’t particularly want either one of the answers to be correct.7 Imagine a judge who comes to a case in which one of the parties is a company in which she has a heavy financial investment. Because she has a deep desire to see the case go in a particular way, she will recuse herself from sitting in judgment on the case. Nagel is saying that when it comes to God, we are all like the judge. Depending on our experiences with religion, on our other beliefs and commitments, and on how we are living our lives—we all are deeply interested in seeing the case for God go one way or the other. The trouble is, we can’t recuse ourselves. Because he rejects strong rationalism, Nagel has, despite his skepticism, wonderful respect toward belief and religion. He differs markedly from the tone and stance of writers like Dawkins and Harris. –The Reason for God (Timothy Keller)
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