A.C. Grayling – The God Argument

April 08, 2013

Remember all the greatest hits of religious apologists—the ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments for God’s existence?

You may have learned how to refute them in college—but not, perhaps, with the zest and humor shown by renowned philosopher A.C. Grayling in his new book The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and For Humanism.

But Grayling isn’t just making a negative case—his book is about how to live, and flourish, without religion in your life. It’s about how to be good—and in the end about why, to find meaning, it’s important most of all to think.

A.C. Grayling
is master of New College of the Humanities, and a Supernumerary Fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford. He has written and edited over thirty books on philosophy and other topics—including The Good Book, Ideas That Matter, Liberty in the Age of Terror, and To Set Prometheus Free.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

This is point of inquiry from Monday, April 28th, 2013. This week, we talk to a philosopher, AC Grayling, about his new book, The God Argument. 

Welcome to a point of inquiry. I’m Chris Mooney point of inquiry is the radio show and podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason, science and secular values in public affairs. And at the grassroots, we actually have a moderately swanky new studio in Washington, D.C. And I’m here with AC Grayling, the renowned philosopher who has a new book out entitled The God Argument The Case Against Religion and for Humanism. A.C. Grayling is master of New College of the Humanities and a supernumerary fellow of St Ann’s College, Oxford. He’s written and edited over 30 books on philosophy in other topics, including the good book Ideas That Matter Liberty in the Age of Terror and to Set Prometheus Free. A.C. Grayling, welcome to Point of Inquiry. 

It’s great pleasure to be here. It’s wonderful to have you now. I guess God has been dead for a while, they say. But, you know, reading your book, it’s kind of like, wow, she’s really not going to come back this time. You’ve got all the arguments. 

Well, we’re trying to just get the ghost lady arrested last year. And actually people say to me in the first half of the book where I’m talking about the kinds of considerations that somebody might have for not having a religious outlook, they say, are you really thinking you’re going to convert anybody by means of these arguments? And my response is to say, well, there’s Jonathan Church pointed out it’s very hard to reason people out of views they weren’t reasoned into. So, no, it’s not really an attempt to convert much more to the point. It’s an attempt to explain why somebody who doesn’t accept any of these claims about religion by somebody who doesn’t have a religious commitment takes that view. And it may be that if you do set out all the considerations, it might help somebody, especially because when you’re discussing religion, you’re discussing a very amorphous phenomenon. It means a lot of different things, a lot of different people. When you talk to people about it, they so frequently say, that’s not what I mean by religion. That’s not what I mean when I talk about God and say you’re dealing with this enormous, you know, lump of jelly. And every time you try to land a punch on it, it just wiggles around and gets back to its original shape. So really, the endeavor there is to say this is why those who don’t believe don’t believe God. 

You go through I want to stay with some of the arguments on why people claim they believe, because it really is. One of the things I love about the book is it’s kind of this late night dorm room rap session where you go through the ontological argument, cosmological argument from design, even Pascal’s Wager. All of them bunk. But what I really like how you do it is I want to just go through it a little bit. The ontological argument, you point out that the existence of God being this all powerful being, it doesn’t make sense because he’s not all powerful. 

He can’t. You say he can’t commit suicide. 

He can’t eat himself. 

Well, the point I’m trying to make there is that the very concept that people are playing with is itself so protean and so ill defined that these are very standard arguments for the existence of God, which, you know. I mean, the fact of the matter is that anybody who does philosophy, why no one will run through them in a couple of weeks and they can be taken seriously, but they do teach us something, which is that they show that if you’re trying to use the concept in play, you’re already dragging in an enormous amount of baggage. Let me give you the example of Pascal’s Wager. Famously, he says, even if there were only a tiny probability that there might be a God, that God might exist, it pays off to believe it because, you know, the gains are so huge. And if if you’re wrong, then you’ve got nothing to lose. But actually, you can’t just believe that one thing. You have to believe that the payoff will carry with it a lot of other stuff. Heaven, there’s the Saints. This is a huge amount of other things. And so the minute that you begin to look at the concept, it begins to sort of implode. It deconstructs you find that you’re not dealing with anything that really makes any kind of sense. So I had discussed these traditional arguments in order to show what else? All the other baggage, the whole penumbra of thinking that lies around behind them. And that when you look at that stuff shows you that there isn’t anything being said here. There’s nothing going on. 

And you you actually say and you said this in the talk you just gave here in Washington, D.C., that the word God itself, when capitalized, is itself, you know, trying to get you to assume all of these things that you shouldn’t necessarily assume just by using it that way. 

It tries to steal a pass on it because it looks like a name. It looks as though it’s referring to something. And actually, the onus is on whoever thinks there might be such a thing or things plural. It really has to give us some evidence for some reason for thinking that something that fits one of the many, many rather vague descriptions of a of a deity, you know, is being. Named here. So I think we’ve got to be ultra cautious. So we have to get to the discussion about this from several steps back from where people normally start. 

I want to talk about a couple of the others, because I know our listeners will know them, they’ll remember them fondly, but if they, of course, completely dismissed the teleological argument, the design argument, you pointed out again, something that I thought was I mean, we know this argument, but I like your take. You pointed out that it’s arrogant. And I just want to read you the quote. Maybe you can just elaborate. You wrote that I’m talking about the cosmological version where they say the whole universe is divine. You say this makes us the aim of the great universal story. All those billions of years, billions of galaxies, billions of stars, all aimed at producing us with our wars, our dentistry needs and our fashions. That’s right. Sure, it was. 

Well, it is Baiada. I went and visited the Creation Museum just recently, and I was astonished that nobody seemed to raise the question, is it really all about this planet and us on this planet? Can that really. Can you can you create John McEnroe? Can you be serious about that? Because it just seems so disproportionate, so limited and narrow. It’s such an egocentric take on the part of human beings to think that it’s all about us. But, of course, you know, here’s the here’s the point, really. There’s a version of the design argument which people call the Goldilocks argument. That’s the universe, all the constants of nature. So fine tuned that it produced us. And the probabilities of us appearing out of a whole series of random events is so tiny that there really has to be some kind of intelligent purpose behind it. And this is to have the argument exactly backwards. Simplest way to describe it is to remind ourselves of what Dr Pangloss said in Candie’s that we have newsis so that we can wear spectacles. You know, it’s just to get everything back to front. The fact is we’re here. And if I look back at my own personal ancestry and I think what my great, great great grandparents had to do and there were lots of them, about thirty two of them, I say, you know, they will have to be in just exactly that place just after that time to meet and to like one another. And they did the things they did and they survived long enough to produce. The next generation ultimately produced me. And if I thought everything they did was about me, then I would be some kind of ego maniac. 

Right. They set up the physics for you. Yeah. Fascinating. They set it all in motion. But yeah. Well, I want to remind our listeners that AC Rowling’s new book, The God Argument, is available through our website point of inquiry dot org. So outside of. You know. We remember these things as we heard them in college. Are there people at the highest intellectual ranks who actually still defend these arguments? Or is it a dead debate? I mean, among intellectuals who we think of seriously? 

Well, of course, that there are some highly intelligent and highly educated people who occupy positions of greater authority in one or another major church. Think of the Archbishop of Canterbury or the pope. I mean, these are people who’ve had long training and they’ve been around. They’ve been involved in theological discussions. But one noticeable thing about them is that if you really were to dig into how they put things and how they see things, it’s not very like what your ordinary Sunday churchgoer thinks and believes. And this worries me, actually, because there’s a big disconnect between all these sophistications and ramifications. Well, the long words and the theological treatises that these guys produce and behind which they stand, I mean, in the sense that they’re standing behind the electronic case, somebody throws a shoe. You know what the ordinary people believe the ordinary Sunday churchgoers believe. They tend to have much more. They’ll go with a white beard on the cloud kind of view about God than the theologians do. So there is a sort of systematic dishonesty there, which, by the way, is paralleled by something else. And this is a point which people think is a little bit too robust. But if you look at the history of the Roman Catholic Church in the last few decades involved with the child abuse scandal, here is a major international organization which has been systematically involved in covering up serious crimes, moving pick criminals away from where they might get arrested and try. And this has been known right up in the highest levels of the organization. If it were any other corporation who were, you know, the Shell Oil Company or General Motors, people at the very top would be culpable for a criminal conspiracy here. But somehow or other, you know, it’s his church and he gets a free pass on this. And that’s very surprising. And it’s a parallel because the moral case here, the fact that they’re getting away with moral duplicity on this child abuse matter is very like the intellectual duplicity of getting away with that. 

The cardinals and the pope and the people at the top not really believing exactly what the people at the bottom of the hierarchy believe, although in fairness, I think Catholicism took a really big public hit in the United States, you know, with all of the scandals, certainly. I mean, I think that the credibility of religion. And so if you look at, you know, the younger generation of people in the U.S. today, you look at the millennials there. They don’t like churches all that much. I think. I think everybody heard about that and everybody was disgusted. 

Well, look, I hope that’s true. But, you know, when this new pope was appointed by the Vatican just recently, the entire world media was focused on that. That was the top story that day. 

Now that we are is the smoke signals. Exactly. 

You know, waiting for the smoke signal. It’s a little bit like the fact that where Easter fell this year had to do with phases of the moon. This is the 21st century. 

I know it is. That was an amazing pageant that you just had to say. Can’t we be covering something else? But what’s all these arguments for God? It strikes me. I think it strikes you as well. They’re not very inspiring at all. So surely this is emotional to the core and you don’t buy this stuff unless you believe it for other reasons. Right. This is the dressing that’s been added later. 

Yes. Now, the problem in explaining why it is that people believe why it is that people remain loyal to religious traditions. How it all goes on in that there is some kind of, you know, inertia at work here. Those churches exist on the streets. And, you know, there are people in them, the pastor or the priest. And then there are these traditions and then that there’s the social pressure to conform, to be seen to be, you know, good neighbors. Your neighbors say you meet them in church on Sundays. So many different reasons that explain why it goes on. But through it all, there’s the following fact that there are a very sincere belief is that there are the wrong people who do good and feel good and and want to be good. And they think this is a way of expressing it. But even to them and to them, you know, with great respect, there is a great lack of imagination. 

This is very, very shallow thinking. Let me come at it another way, OK? There is no religion on the planet that you can’t explain to somebody who didn’t hear about it until now. In less than half an hour. But to understand any physics or chemistry or biology takes. Yes, I mean, really to understand it. Really to get to the. The extraordinary fascination of this world and to get any kind of insight into exploration of the attempts to understand this world around us, which is, you know, just it’s an amazing, amazing adventure. And, you know, you think about the genius and the ingenuity. The human mind is managed to crack some of these things in other ways to get I resist. 

I had to give very, very good fortune to make a program, the BBC a couple of years ago about work being done at CERN on the arts at the Large Hadron Collider. And I met and I talked to the guy who is heading up the publicity side of the Compactly on Solenoids experiment. And I went down and I saw the equipment in this great underground cavern, which is bigger than a cathedral and a beautiful piece of equipment and made by all the different countries in the world is color coded as to which countries funded which which bits of the equipment. Now, these same countries in today, you had Pakistan next to America. You had the, you know, Palestine next to Israel. I mean, it was just extraordinary, really, the way that people have got together to do this objective thing, which is scientific, fundamental scientific research. A few miles away in the center of Geneva, there’s the Human Rights Council. The same countries are at one another’s throats over matters of politics. And religion takes politics and religion, which, you know, tend to be very shallow, very transient, very ephemeral. And I made up stuff to divide people, whereas over there at CERN, the objective inquiry of science was uniting them. 

Now, that’s and that’s a beautiful image. And I’ve never actually heard it as I didn’t know that it was color coded by the conduct. 

That is that is a nice thing. What you said before, though, it does prompt a thought we had on I guess I economist, psychologist, maybe a neuroscientist named Robert McCauley from Emory. He wrote a book called Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not. And it dovetails pretty closely with what you said, which is that religious ideas are intuitive and easy to grasp scientific ideas. Often or not, they’re hard and they’re second order thinking. So, yeah, they don’t just. This is why we didn’t have science for a very long time in human existence. So you’re kind of up against a lot. You’re up against all the cognitive biases and the quick thinking leading to somebody thinking, oh, there must be a cause. There must be an agent, for instance. 

Yeah. You know, the task really is to get people to be less intellectually lazy. Now, I say that without wanting to be disrespectful of people who find it just easy, comforting, habitual to go with a religious story. It’s a very natural human thing to want a little bit of narrative that does it all. It’s got to be any sort of middle ground and explains who you are, where you came from, where you’re going, explains what you’re going to do. Then if you do very much thinking for yourself at all. It’s all done, neatly packaged for you and it’s attached to certain things. It’s but a ritual. Nice songs. You know, there are occasions in the air when you all get together. You know, the whole thing works. It’s got a lot of promises. Things don’t work out. In this life, you’re going to get rewarded and the next life. But also a little bit of coercion. You know, you’ve got to toe the line. Be self-restrained so that the whole package is fairly effective. It just has this one big problem, which is that it’s actually BSF also. That’s the problem. The one. And problem number two is that it leaves a lot of people to do very bad things and it’s very divisive. A lot of conflict in the world and in history which has resulted from it. And even if you took all the beautiful music and beautiful art, beautiful buildings and the charitable works and by the way, lots of non-religious people have produced great literature and art and music and charity. If you’re even if you set those things aside, we still have to ask ourselves the following question. Here we are at what is probably a very, very early phase in the history of the human species. 

We’re probably, you know, still just freshmen on the planet and we’re still struggling with some of the things that we were using to try to make sense of our experience. You know, a short time ago, three, four, five, six thousand years ago is very, very short time in the history of the planet. So maybe in a couple of thousand years time, people will look back and they say, wow, you know, his guys with these superstitions, these crazy beliefs, and they only just made it through before they were exterminated one another on the basis of these beliefs. But it may very well be that we will move on into a different way of seeing and thinking about the world. And therefore, we will have this opportunity, a real opportunity for everybody sign up to the same in a sense of what’s ethical, the same sense of what our rights and civil liberties ought to be. And we can stop fighting one another over them and get on with some more important things, which is making human life good. 

And that is the. Positive message of the book. So let’s let’s sort of get let’s get onto that a little bit. 

Your answer to religion is we saw Planet with humanism. You have a beautiful phrase for this, which is humanism is the philosophy that you should be a good guest at the dinner table of life. Was your quote. Explain that a little bit. Because it really is just a wonderful thing to find humanism for us. 

Well, the quotation comes from an essay by Plutarch, who’s best known, of course, for his parallel lives of the great Greeks and Romans. But he also wrote moral essays, and one of them is called The Dinner of the Seven Wise Men or the Dinner of the Sages. And it begins with an anecdote about two of the sages on their way to this dinner party. And they’re discussing the relative duty’s of the guests and the host. The host has to provide food, wine, entertainment and so on. But what are the duties of the guest? So one of them says, well, the guest is to be a good conversationalist. This is somebody who knows things, who’s read, who’s thought, who’s in well-informed, who can articulate a point of view and explain it, defend it in discussion, but also who is very attentive to and listens to the others. Here’s where they’re coming from. And he engages with them, draws them out. Maybe he can challenge them a bit about their views. So somebody who is well-informed and who is intented, who wants to engage it wants to discuss, who wants to be part of the conversation. This is the good guest at a dinner party. And so I transporter’s I export it really to the idea of being a good guest at the dinner of life. If you were such a person, you know, you would see the responsibility you have to be to be part of the story in order to sign up for this, that the project of the human conversation, if you like. And to be that kind of person means that you’ve got to give other people that their space that. And you’ve got to be able to sort of listen and look and be attentive to them. And this is what’s required of us as humanists. And by humanism here, I mean not a doctrine, not a set of teachings, not a set of prescriptions or a code, but an attitude. Humanism is really an attitude which says all of us have different talents and capacities for living good lives and being productive. And so we’ve got to each one of us has got to have the right to do that. That means that each one of us is going to give the rest of us the right to do it. But it also means trying to be as generous as we can be about human nature. I mean, human beings, you know, can fail. We do bad things. You know, we we we we tell lies occasionally. We you know, we make mistakes. We’re gonna be a bit generous about this because it’s not that easy to be Mr Goody Two shoes or Mrs Goody two shoes at every moment, but also to try and understand the human condition, which is all the constraints, the difficulties, the pressures that people feel. And then out of that, somehow to try to be a good neighbor to your fellow human beings. That’s what it is. In my view, to be human is to start from that that positive attitude towards others and a desire to make life one’s own life meaningful. 

Another thing that seems to, you know, throm through this vision of humanism is you can’t just take things as assumed. You’re supposed to be thinking. You supposed to be critically analyzing, critically engaging all the time. And so I guess in some sense, Socrates is going around poking people with sort of the first humanist. I don’t know. So I think of him as the first humanist. 

Yes. I think that he he lit the Fuze. And what’s very interesting about him is that the challenges that he posed to people in asking them what they thought about this or that or what what their big picture was of themselves was actually a challenge about assumptions, because the worst thing that we can do is live on the basis of assumptions that we never explore, never expose. I like to fool around with my my students a bit. And I say to them, look, I am speaking to you as a as an Oxford person. So you’ve all heard of Oxford, but you might have heard of this other place in Cambridge. And the thing about Cambridge is everybody there thinks that what happens in Cambridge applies to the whole universe. I say take me. I mean that there’s Newton who thinks that because the apple force and the tree and the apple and the earth are attracted to one another, that this law of gravitation applies everywhere. Now, what is the assumption that lies behind that view? If you were able to get hold of Newton now, you’d say, why do you think that a law that applies near Cambridge applies to the whole universe? 

Why do you think that you would say? Because the universe is the same everywhere. Then you ask him, why do you think it’s the same everywhere? And he would say, because he does say the universe is the same everywhere, because it was created by God and God is an economical workman. Now, there are three assumptions there. That there is a God, that God is an economical workman, and that God created the universe. And this is a three assumptions which lie in the foundation stones of classical Newtonian physics. And they’re not physical assumptions. They have no physical motivation. They have no physical test. And yet there they are in the foundations of modern physics. And it’s so important to dig out these find these assumptions and examine them. And our lives are full of assumptions like this. Personal assumptions, social assumptions, religious ones. So I say that the duty to think is, in very important part, enervate the duty of digging down, getting these things out and really asking out oneself some tough questions about them. 

I want to remind listeners again that AC Grayling’s new book, The God Argument, is available through our website point of inquiry dot org. Listening to you talk about this and reading the book about this. I was nagged by the thought. Can everybody be a humanist in this sense? It sounds a little strenuous. 

Right. This obligation to think how much are all human beings going to live up to that? 

There’s research on psychological research on the need for cognition. Some people have more need. They like thinking need for closure. They don’t like thinking. They want fixed answers. And you can. There’s a distribution in humanity on these kinds of measures. I mean, what is the maximum carrying capacity of humanity for humanist? 

Yeah, I read that this is a problem and there’s a great, you know, sort of a groundswell of desire among human beings for somebody else to do their thinking for them so that they like to have a neat, prepackaged answer. 

They just take away from the supermarket of ideas and that there it is. And they can live according to their that. I agree that this is a challenge. But, you know, it’s been a constant theme through the history of philosophy. We’re trying to get people to think. Famously, Bertrand Russell said, as we go or die, rather die than think most people do in science. And this is part of the world’s problem. People are doing things on automatic pilot and on the basis of assumptions that are pushing in the wrong direction. So it is hard work to get people to think and it is hard work for them to do the thinking when they do it. But the fact that this is so is no reason not to try. 

That’s number one. Number two, of course, the way most people live their lives is premised on a non rational sources of motivation. I say non rational because not all non rational sources are irrational. Some of them include things like one’s emotions. David Hume famously in 18th century, argued that nobody would ever do something purely for a reason that they would have that they would have to be moved in some way to do it and moved emotionally to do it. He cites the example of burdens gas station between two equally delicious bales of hay and no reason to start a man robbing the other. So he died of starvation. And this is his view of how in a reasons can’t get get get things going. So I accept the point that non rational motivations are very important in our lives. We love we we dislike, you know, we have reactions to things, but that imposes a duty on us to educate our emotions, to try to direct them. Governor, anger, nourish our love, you know, due to the things that make us more positive responders to all the people in our world around us. And that, too, involves thought does now mean having to think 24/7. It does mean from time to time, taking some time out and doing a bit of reading, discussing, listening, listening to views that you find uncomfortable, asking yourself challenging questions, exposing yourself to criticism and to watch people you respect. Think about what you think, trying up the case that you make for how you live on other people and see if they if they buy it from time to time. One’s got to do it. Someone’s got to do it from time to time throughout one’s life. It is easy to get lazy and most people do. 

So is there a set of practices or sort of interventions that actually produce kind of humanist behavior? I mean, I don’t know whether something is something that’s been tried and work where it really makes people ponder. 

Well, the hope is that an education such as reading your book of Harry S. a of course that but and that the hope is that education right the way up through maybe college primes people to begin education. You know, really, it’s just the basis for the lifelong project of continuing to be thoughtful, continuing to find out not becoming lazy and thinking the stuff that you learn at school is all there is to it, because, of course, things new things are coming into focus all the time. New ideas, new hypotheses, new technologies, new techniques. And the world is changing all the time. And one has to stay nimble and fresh. And in the ideal, people would see life as, you know, as college, really. I mean, and have a good time to buy, but also to to keep on learning and to keep awake alert, really. And part of that readiness is this business of of self challenge. 

So two two other challenges for humanism that I come to me anyway, one is. 

You know, give religions their due. If there’s one thing they’ve succeeded at is making people binding people in groups. And, you know, that’s a bad thing for many reasons. Right. But if you’re in the group, it feels really great because everybody loves you and everybody knows you. And they greet you and they ask about your life. 

And so no wonder we’re, you know, we’re group animals. Right. It feels feels right. And religions are doing this. So how do humanists give something just as good. That ties people together? 

Essentially pointless because it has the great merit of being right. And also the great narrative of being wrong in a certain way. It has a great many have been right in the sense that as social animals. Yes, absolutely. We need our communities. We need our connections with others. And we need friendships. We need to give and receive affection. And you’ll be be members of of groups of all sizes, the family group, the nation, Internet and things in between. And so people say this is what churches provide. Didn’t say to football matches is going out to dinner with friends. So it is wrong. Your reading group said is belonging to an amateur theatrical society. So it is working in a corporation with colleagues. They order them in a different way to provide communities which do different things for us. If the only community you ever had is your Sunday morning church community, that would get pretty boring and pretty insufficient after a while to actually, people do have a lot of communities and they do it because it comes naturally to us. That’s just what we are, what we need to do that and this is a wrong part of the argument, is it misleads us into thinking that there are only certain sorts of activities which are genuinely community activities. And we have to reclaim. We’ve got to rename and relabel a lot of the things that we do, which are about us as social beings in connection. I mean, you live in a city, you live in Washington, you commute. You know, you there are lots of people you pass on the street everyday or people in the same bus or train or something. This is also part of your community. You you might smile at somebody, you might pick up something and somebody dropped and had it back to them. These are a little community actions we relabeling. 

We find actually we’re part of a bigger story, you know, most of the time, most about eight. 

The other thing that I feel like humanists are going to be pushed for an answer for. I mean, I hope they have one. This is, again, where religions have sort of dominated the game. In any case is I mean, death, which I think is probably the biggest reason that people offer religion is because they just can’t stand the idea that all of this ends. What does what the humanists say? Can they be as consoling as the fiction? 

Of course they can, yes. I mean, I think it’s so interesting that discretion of death and there are a number of different considerations. 

One is that people who are afraid of death are probably not afraid of death. They were afraid of something else which is not justifying their existence and not achieving something or not having done or seeing or being or or something that there is something lacking and that they want to get it before the story ends. 

In fact, when I was younger, I went through a phase of being a bit hypochondriacal myself. You know, I used to take my pulse and think, oh my God, you know, and is nine. But I checked, but I realized that it really wasn’t that I was scared of death, you know. But like Woody Allen, I don’t really mind. I just want to be there when it happens that I kind of do. But it was because I didn’t feel that I’d done enough or done something. It was that felt worthwhile. 

When you talk to old people. Oh, people don’t mind about death. You talk to them. You find out that it’s not a thing to be afraid of. The older you get through life, the more you kind of welcome the sense of an of an absolute release and a kind of rest because life gets weary. 

It’s been very well said that old age is not for the faint hearted. You know, there is so many different struggles and difficulties for older people that the thought that there is a terminal Sturgis is quite a welcome thought. And then, of course, nature is quite kind to us to at least some people have forgotten that there is such a thing as death say they don’t worry about that either. So that there’s all that should be said. Then there’s the other thing. Death really isn’t about oneself. It’s about the people you lose and the people you grieve for. That is something you grieve over rather than something you experience. You might experience dying, but that happens while you’re alive, you know. 

So you never experience nullity or vacuum or absence or fear of death is the fear of being put into a coffin that you can’t get out of nothing. You can’t be afraid of nothing. And when my father in law died in, my small children said, Where’s Grandpa gone? 

I said to them, and this was seen as straight out of the second law of thermodynamics. And I said to them, look, in in this world of ours, all there is is change in a you are made out of all the cabbages and potatoes you’ve eaten. And when you die, that all goes back to nature. It just goes back into the trees, in the breeze, in the sky, and you just become part of something else. And the most important part of us that survives us is what people think about us after. It’s the people who loved us, the people we loved. You know what they feel about it, how the world is different for them when you’re not there any longer. And that’s part of the story, too. But the last thing is this. The fact that one lived, however long or short one’s life or whatever one does, it is an indelible part of history. So it will never be scrubbed out company. It’s that for all these reasons, is nothing to be afraid of, is a great deal in a way to celebrate. And more to the point, the fact that death is an end point gives us a sense of urgency about getting on doing something worthwhile. Now. 

Well, I think that’s quite powerful and that’s a great note to end on, so, A.C. Grayling, thank you so much for being with us on Point of Inquiry. 

Thanks very much, Chris. 

And I want to thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry to join the discussion about this show, you can visit us at point of inquiry dot org. You can send questions and comments to feedback at point of inquiry dot. Or you can find us on Twitter at point of inquiry and on Facebook at slash point of inquiry. The views expressed on point of inquiry are not necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor of its affiliated organizations. 

One of inquiries produced by Adam Isaac in Ambrish, New York. Our music is composed by Emmy Award winning Michael Wailin. I’m your host, Chris Mooney. 

Chris Mooney