Moyers: Faith & Reason

I didn’t see any of the Bill Moyers PBS special “Faith and Reason,” but I caught nearly all of it via Podcast. You can head to the content-rich site and listen to, watch, or read parts of Moyers’ conversations with several significant authors from around the world. A few notable quotes, beginning with Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, when asked how she experiences God:

How do I experience God? (Pause) You know that in Buddhism we say, We do not believe in God or disbelieve in God. We keep it as an open question. So I don’t use the word ‘God’ much. I’m not at all even slightly offended by the word 'God,’ and I know it means a lot of different things to different people. So if I had to have a definition it would be that open space of mind that allows for ultimate possiblities and doesn’t narrow down into a security-based or fear-based view where my way has to have precedence.

Agnostic novelist Martin Amis:

We’re about eight Einsteins away from getting any kind of handle on the universe … Why is the universe so incredibly complicated? Why is it so over our heads? That worries me and sort of makes me delay my vote on the existence of some intelligence.

Belgian writer Anne Provoost:

Every people at some point probably has said this ‚Äî they have said, 'This group of people is The Chosen.’ Whenever you have a proclamation of being chosen, it’s always a self-defining process. It’s always the people who are chosen who say they are chosen. They never say that about the other. If you’re going to do that as a group, if you’re going to say, 'I’m chosen,’ it loads you with a very heavy burden.

Novelist Margaret Atwood talked at length about stories and myths, bringing in The Life of Pi and then stating the following:

We like the story with the Tiger better. We like the story with God in it better than we like the story without God in it, because it’s more like us.

This of course brings to mind Stanley Elkin’s great comic novel The Living End, which closes with a series of statements from God answering those questions we always wanted answers to. From the closing pages:

“Goodness,” a saint shouted. “You get off on goodness.”

“On goodness? Me?” God laughed. “On goodness? Is that what you think? Were you born yesterday? You’ve been in the world. Is that how you explain trial and error, history by increment, God’s long Slap and Tickle. His Indian-gift wrath? Goodness? No. It was Art! It was always Art. It worked by the contrasts and metrics, by beats and the silences. It was all Art. Because it makes a better story is why.”

Christ held up his damaged hands. “It makes a better story?” He was furious. “Because it makes a better story? Is this true? Is it?

“Sure it’s true,” God said.