Beyond Disbelief

By Zaleski, Carol | The Christian Century, January 25, 2005 | Go to article overview

Beyond Disbelief


Zaleski, Carol, The Christian Century


I GREW UP in an apartment on the 12th floor of a World War II era red-brick apartment building in lower Manhattan, with my parents and a goldfinch. In an identical red-brick building, across from the playground where I got m), head stuck between iron bars and had to be rescued by the rite department, lived Berenice, an elderly lady who had been my grandmother's best friend during their days at Cornell. Berenice was a pulp fiction writer who had carried on a dalliance with a celebrated author, but never married. She wrote and lectured on the "great experiment" of Soviet communism, and kept a daily journal which by her death at age 97 had grown to 85 volumes.

Her conversation was a pastiche of recitations from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and other works a photographic memory had engraved upon her mind. I can still hear the plaintive "hwy, hwence and hwither" with which she breathed out the melancholy lines of Edward Fitzgerald's translation from the Persian: "Into this Universe, and Why not knowing, / Nor Whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing; / And out of it, as Wind along the Waste, / I know not Whither, willy-nilly blowing."

Since Berenice had no surviving kin, it fell to my mother to look after her, and I was a frequent visitor. From the time I first evinced interest in religion, visits to Berenice meant a barrage of questions served up with cookies and juice. Berenice was haunted by a childhood memory of having cursed God on a whim, and she never quite forgave him for it. "I'm a determinist," Berenice would proclaim, with a determination that belied her doctrine. Yet she was obsessed with finding evidence for God, freedom and immortality. In her 90s she went deaf, but kept asking the same questions long past the day when she could hear my response: "'What's that you say? Ontological argument? First cause? Design? Mysticism? Morality? Parapsychology? Common consent? I'm sorry, but you'll have to do better. I need proof!"

Last month Berenice came to mind when I read the newspaper accounts of British philosopher Antony Flew's defection from the atheist fold. His politics couldn't be more different from Berenice's (her FBI file is a family heirloom), but he has devoted his distinguished philosophical career to holding God accountable to Berenicelike standards of evidence. In The Presumption of Atheism, Flew maintained that the burden of proof rests with religious believers. In his famous essay on "Theology and Falsification," Flew argued that if the assertion that God exists cannot be falsified by any state of affairs here below, religious belief dies "the death by a thousand qualifications." Coincidentally, on the day the Flew story broke my philosophy of religion class was discussing the closing lines of "Theology and Falsification":

Someone tells us that God loves us as a father loves his children.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Beyond Disbelief
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.