Saturday, May 7, 2011

Reflections: Why Religion?

I have often been asked by smug atheists how I—a soi-disant intellectual—can give even token credence to religion. My answers have included such explanations as, “Because a universe populated by spirits is more interesting and entertaining than a universe constructed of dead matter connected by insentient forces” and “Because atheism is boring.” I realize that this isn’t actually much of a range. The short answer is that I choose to take an active interest in religion for aesthetic reasons. Most atheists will not have enough imagination to plumb the depths of that statement; but I have no intention of making their problem my problem.

Today, while reading a book review by Charles Simic, published in the year 2000 in the New York Review of Books, I came across the following excerpt which seems to give some support to my aesthetic rationale:

“Most reckless things are beautiful in some way, and recklessness is what makes experimental art beautiful, just as religions are beautiful because of the strong possibility that they are founded on nothing.” ~ John Ashbery, Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles.

I guess that in the final analysis it takes a poet like Ashbery to see such possibilities.