Harold Bloom on Belief in God

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“And beyond loving one another, do you believe in God?”

“My wife, Jeanne, is an admirable and honest atheist. I’m not an atheist. My attitude toward Yahweh is that I don’t like him and I don’t trust him and I wish he would go away. But I know he won’t, because he’s built into the language, as Nietzsche said. He’s part of the way we think. As soon as you use a verb involving being, you’re in trouble. When he identifies himself to Moses, he says, “ehyeh asher ehyeh,” punning on his own name of Yahweh. It means something close to “I will be what I will be.” Which in effect means “I will be present whenever and wherever I choose to be present,” which has the horrible corollary “And I will be absent wherever and whenever I choose to be absent.” And he–or whatever it is, she–has certainly been absent for a long time.”

Harold Bloom: What is Most Important?

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“What is the most important activity in life?”
 
“Reading. Especially Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, and Dante, or for that matter, Cervantes, Leopardi, Jane Austen, and George Eliot. And rereading. Go outside somewhere, particularly if it’s poetry, and read it out loud to yourself so you’re not bothering anybody else, at a distance from others, and listen to it. Give it a home in yourself. I think the only thing I’ve been able to achieve in almost two thirds of a century of teaching is the feeling that somehow at very good moments as I teach or as I listen to my students speak to one another, I and they are inside the poem, or we are inside the play, or we are inside the novel, and that is magnificent.”

Elaine Pagels on Faith

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“Is faith necessary to receive the wisdom of religion?”

“I don’t think so at all. Faith is a particularly Christian preoccupation. Protestants talk about it more than Catholics do. If you talk to a Buddhist or many Jews, it’s about practice; it’s about what you do. If you take something like the Torah–“You shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall honor your parents”–there are very specific ways of acting, and that’s what really matters. It’s about justice and mercy. Buddhism is about the practice of compassion and generosity; it’s about seeing reality the way it is and attempts to do that through meditation. It’s about how you act, what choices you make.”