For the next installment in my summer reading series, I’ve been working on my response to two books dealing with the so-called “God debate”—on the side of the “new atheism,” Christopher Hitchens’ God is not Great, and on the other Terry Eagleton’s Reason, Faith, and Revolution. Both are powerfully argued and deeply intelligent books, and extremely thought-provoking. In spite of my own status as a lapsed Catholic and occasional atheist, I find my sympathies lying more with Eagleton’s arguments than Hitchens’, for reasons I’ll expound when and if I ever get the post written.
What prompts this post is not those texts per se, but rather the fact that in responding to them and formulating my critique, I found myself offering a fairly lengthy religious autobiography—in part largely because it is a subject that tends to make one want to lay one’s cards on the table and share one’s experiences and beliefs past and present. Why this is the case with religious discussion I am not certain—perhaps because matters of faith tend to be intensely personal and that inflects any broader discussion of religion in culture. It’s hard to say.
The long and short of it is, after writing out an account of my own engagements and struggles with matters of religion, I read it over and wondered if this was something I really wanted to post to my blog. On the one hand, I don’t mind sharing, and it feels somewhat cathartic to write it all through. Should it spark an animated discussion, so much the better. On the other hand, part of me is slightly appalled that I am so blasé about putting what is really a deeply personal narrative out into the public sphere. Is it narcissistic to do so? Leaving aside for the moment the fact that I don’t exactly have a wide readership for this blog, and that most people who would actually read through what I have to say (or who have read this far in this post) already know me pretty well, I do wonder at my compulsion at times to post elements of my life into a forum anyone can read.
With these thoughts in mind, I’ve gone back and read old posts and realized that while tempted during periods of blogging inactivity to discontinue this blog, I have never done so because I have grown very attached to this. It has become something of an autobiography or memoir, erratic and fractured in nature—the posts don’t unfold a narrative of my life so much as a grab-bag of thoughts, meditations, screeds, and updates—but ultimately something I am glad to have started, and something that has proved a more reliable site and source for my personal history than any private journal I’ve ever started (indeed, my journal more often than not these days contains notes toward blog posts).
And yes, I suppose it is a bit narcissistic to publish on oneself in a public manner. But then, I became reconciled to my narcissism some time ago, and in so doing hope to regulate it somewhat. It is, to be fair, a bit of an occupational hazard.
Posts on the “god debate” to come. Account of personal religious odyssey possibly included.