In his article Without God which appeared in The New York Review of Books, Physicist Stephen Weinberg paints a bleak and depressing picture of a life without God, but seeks to redeem that portrait by urging us to enjoy a drop or two of honey before we dissolve into the void of nothingness. Weinberg urges us to be brave, but his prescription is really a form of denial. He tells us that human life is pointless and absurd so we should embrace...poetry. He adds that poetry doesn't need God for its inspiration:
We see already that little English-language poetry written in the past few decades owes anything to belief in God, and in some cases where religion does enter, as with poets like Stevie Smith or Philip Larkin, it is the rejection of religion that provides their inspiration.
Perhaps, but whether the poet loves God or hates him he is still fascinated by him and this fascination is what inspires his art. If it weren't for God what would these poets write about? Weinberg seems to think that a culture can produce great art without God and perhaps it can produce some, but if the art and literature which has been inspired by God, either positively or negatively, directly or indirectly, were removed from our museums and libraries, there would be precious little of value left.
Moreover, we are justified in wondering, where are the great artists from those countries which are officially atheistic? Who are the men and women of genius in those countries whose work is completely indifferent to God and yet rises to the level of greatness? Most of the great writers who emerged behind the iron curtain, for example, were religious dissidents. The record of official state atheism does little to inspire optimism that Weinberg's assessment of atheist art is correct. If history is a guide, it seems more likely that atheism stifles and impedes creativity and artistic genius.
I'll have a little more to say about Weinberg's essay tomorrow.RLC