In a search around the Web while I procrastinate and contemplate my relationship with a man who seems sometimes a Christian fundamentalist to me, I came across this lovely piece
by Mary Gordon wherein she describes the importance of literature to civilization's moral make-up. (Though my dear one's occasional bouts of fundamentalism worry me, his erudition and love of ideas have led me in intellectually enriching directions. For that I am grateful.)
Gordon writes at some length about John Gardner's "On Moral Fiction,"
a book of criticism I did a major paper on a thousand years ago while a senior in college.
From her essay:
In a country where pornography is ubiquitous and twelve-year-olds on school buses are performing oral sex, I can understand the longing for a return to a world in which the idea of chastity is once more in the conversation. I can understand a revulsion against unbridled individualism, a longing for community in a world where families are fragmented and loneliness can eat into the soul. I can see that strict rules—even, or perhaps especially, tied to punishment—might seem the only way to stem the chaos in which we feel we are drowning. We in the West must come to grips with the fact that we are vulnerable to people we are used to thinking of as our inferiors; that gender roles are confusing and vexed; that the economy seems to be spiraling out of control, with no one to understand it.
I'm interested in the nexus between beauty, art, meta- and astrophysics and our concepts of goodness and morality, hence my appearance here in atheist nexus-land.
The book I'm currently reading is by the Calvinistic and beautiful Marilyn Robinson
; next is The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
From an interview
with Robinson in The Paris Review
Nothing could be more miraculous than the fact that we have a consciousness that makes the world intelligible to us and are moved by what is beautiful.
Fair warning: these essays are long. I hope Atheist Nexus is the right place for this kind of conversation.