There is a wonderful thread currently on View from the Right, “Can an atheist believe in the good?” I addressed the question somewhat two Decembers ago in “Being Good for Goodness’ Sake,” but Auster approaches the question a bit differently:
So what I’m suggesting is that a truly atheist position is not possible. Because the atheist is a human being, he cannot help but experience the good and be attracted to the good, even if the good he believes in is a limited form of the good, such as “life is good.” But the fact that he believes in this good already takes him outside pure materiality, to the transcendent, the transcendent being defined as that which cannot be reduced to an immediate object of experience, yet is nevertheless real. And this non-material, transcendent good is part of a hierarchy of non-material, transcendent goods, the culmination of which is God.
The atheist may deny the existence of God. But he cannot deny his own nature as a being who loves the good, even if it’s a limited form of the good, such as simply loving his own life. And that love places him on a continuum of ever greater and larger goods which are ultimately inseparable from God, even if he personally denies that God exists.
So, to boil my argument down to the briefest, most radical form, the fact that the atheist experiences life as good proves that God exists. Even the limited good that he experiences could not exist unless it were on a continuum with, and thus a part of, a larger good, and ultimately that larger good is God.
I have long argued that self identifying atheists were not truly atheists but rather pantheists or some species of closeted pagans who deified nature or some aspect of it. To acknowledge order—to recognize truth—is to admit the transcendent. I have always thought about this in terms of our knowing the world. Auster shows that our desire for the good reveals the same point. Our intellect and our desire indicate the ordered hierarchy of being, and by knowing and by desiring (and valuing), we necessarily reject nihilism. The inconsistent may cling to a bastard theory in mere words disconnected from intelligible meaning, but they are breathing contradictions.
Auster’s frequent commentator Kristor weighs in with characteristic insight and beauty about the precious gift of being:
Every part of the world, every rock and mote of dust, is, just is, an instance of joy, and of pulseless longing. And this enjoyment, this pleasure in mere existence, is so incredibly vast, that the super-added pleasures of beer or wealth or success are like a thin veneer upon its glorious weighty depth. We experience more joy than do rocks, more complex and interesting pleasures; but only by a little. For to be at all is to have been created by God, and is also in some degree to worship and adore him, and to enjoy him (even if one is unconscious that one is doing so).
I may have noted this before, but I wish that Kristor had his own blog; it is such a joy to read his comments. It gladdens me to know that he exists. He has to be a Platonist. I do not know if he would call himself such, but his writing betrays the synoptic vision and the erotic soul of one of the disciples.
I recommend the thread; it even includes a bit of poetry. Again, I think of the best of the Greeks who used both logos and mythos in the pursuit of the truth.