31 July 2009

Does God exist?

I don't like translating my own writings, so I won't subject you to a translation of my review of ¿Dios existe?, whose core is a public debate between then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the atheist Italian philosopher Paolo Flores d’Arcais (which, as far as I know, hasn't been published in English). The book in fact doesn't deal a lot with that ancient, ever-present topic, but has more to do with the mode of the affirmation of God by the believers and how it relates to the grounding of moral principles and the law.

Deep stuff, especially for one (like me) who has never studied philosophy. I'm missing most of the references that the author takes for granted... But I think I'm getting it, mostly. This guy Flores d’Arcais has some very clear ideas and he knows how to convey them. This unlike Michel Onfray, who's fascinating but excessively florid and elliptical (I just finished a book by him about the Cynics, by the way), and very, very unlike the one contemporary atheist philosopher I've read within the Anglo-Saxon materialist tradition, Daniel Dennett. Popular English-language atheistic thought is, understandably, almost completely devoted to refuting Protestant fundamentalism and creationism, on one hand, and denouncing the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism on the other — and it all seems a bit shallow and pointless after a while. I've been overexposed to that lately (I'm still trying to finish Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea, which has very engaging ideas on the origin of design). So for me Onfray and Flores d’Arcais are a door into a different world of thought.

I'll leave you with something to get an idea of what Flores d’Arcais thinks about religion in the public sphere, his Eleven Theses Against Habermas. The condition he sets for a pluralistic democracy are echoed in the arguments he presents in the book — namely, that all of us, believers of all faiths and nonbelievers alike, must renounce to claim that we have reasonable, unassailably objective grounds for our principles, because such a thing does not and cannot exist.

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