How to be an agnostic
Trakakis, Nick. (2021). How to be an agnostic. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion. 13(2), pp. 179-194. https://doi.org/10.24204/ejpr.2021.3689
[Excerpt]In a famous trial in Dublin in 1937, Samuel Beckett took the stand in a libel case, not directed at him but rather at a local author, Oliver St. John Gogarty, for an antisemitic caricature he had recently made of Beckett’s Jewish relations. Gogarty’s barrister put the following question to Beckett: “Do you call yourself a Christian, Jew, or Atheist?” From the dock, Beckett replied: “None of the three.” To this extent, Beckett may be grouped with the ever-increasing number of today’s ‘nones’, those who regard themselves as ‘non-religious’, who are not affiliated with any religious tradition or community. It is primarily these nones to whom Schellenberg addresses his book. But what he seems to overlook is the distinctive, albeit unusual, way in which Beckett and many like him identify as religious ‘nones’.
Beckett’s perspective on religion is notoriously difficult to categorise. And he is not unique in this respect: the world’s great writers tend to resist pigeonholes, especially with regard to religious belief. To ask, for example, whether Kafka was a theist is almost as illogical as many of the scenes depicted in his novels and short stories. Consider also Camus’ reaction to the frequent attempts made to label him an atheist: “I hear people speak of my atheism. Yet the words say nothing to me: for me they have no meaning. I do not believe in God and I am not an atheist.” Even those who profess a fixed religious identity are often betrayed by their own writings. A good, albeit contested, example of this is Dostoevsky, whose affiliation with a quite conservative form of Christianity is well known, but who, at the same time, arguably undermined this very affiliation by putting forward some of the most powerful criticisms ever made against belief in God (for example, in the rebellious character of Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov).
|European Journal for Philosophy of Religion
|13 (2), pp. 179-194
|Birmingham Centre for Philosophy of Religion
|Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
|Research or scholarly
All rights reserved
File Access Level
|24 Aug 2021
|Publication process dates
|19 Oct 2021
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