Why are so many people resistant to Richard Dawkins’s totally materialist explanation of the universe (that is, atoms and void are all that really exist, and they are eternal or came into existence out of nothing)?
And it occurred to me this morning that most are resistant to such an idea for the same intuitive reason that they are resistant to the idea that it would be good to urbanize, rationalize, and regularize the planet in toto.
In other words, there’s a link between filling the gaps in our knowledge of the universe completely and paving the planet: it would be the ultimate murder of wildness. Our cathedrals, our weird nationalistic cultures, and our nonrationalized eccentricities are humanity’s wild spaces. Of course, we like our urban and rationalized spaces, but we also understand that we must take them in homeopathic doses: that there must be some space in the psyche for God, for the Earth Mother, for patriotism, for poetic theologies, for blind Tiresias ecstatic in prophecy, for mystery. These are the wild growths of the Earth. And thus the Richard Dawkins-style atheist is to metaphysics what Rush Limbaugh, chomping on his cigar, is to the environment: an oafish boar—a barbarian—driving his Hummer roughly over the sacred.
The atheist, in other words, is an intellectual Hummer driver: (s)he doesn’t care if there are no mythic wildernesses left—no psychological places for wildness—after (s)he’s done. What the atheist wants are no gods in the gaps—no potholes of mystery in the road—unto the very end. But psychologically, a lot of people sense that a world so thoroughly rationalized and explained might well be a dead world. I don’t think that they are right, but I understand the fear of the underlying atheist project. Nietzsche understood it too, yet embraced it. But most contemporary Richard Dawkins-stye atheists, in their ironic and theatrical deconstructions of the gods, are like Rush Limbaugh: they are entertaining, but they don’t really know what they are doing (and the forces in the psyche that they might be responsible for unleashing).
In Occidental Mythology Joseph Campbell writes that, behind every heroic conquest of intellect or deed, there remains:
[T]he dark presences of the cursed yet gravid earth, which, though defeated and subdued, are with their powers never totally absorbed. A residue of mystery remains to them; and this, throughout the history of the West, has ever lurked within . . . as though speaking silently, to say, ‘But do you not hear the deeper song?'” (24-25)
Where did all this come from, again? Nothing? And to no purpose?