help you do the things that can make life
as fulfilling as possible. Some people then
say, “I didn’t have anything [spiritually] as
a child.” I don’t think that excludes you.
But when we find a phenomenon that is
universally experienced, over a long period of time and age groups and generations, you have to think that is something.
F T: Christians might hear that as the “God-sized
hole” inside us that we refer to sometimes.
MS: Yeah, I very much think that. The
other thing along the same lines, only
slightly more poetic, is on Ash Wednesday
we say, “Remember man, thou art dust.”
I translated that differently – “Remember
man, thou art stardust, and to stardust you
will return.” How much more magical. I
see the new science as opening up our
sense of amazement, wonder and awe and
not shutting it down. The more we know,
the more we know we don’t know.
FT: Whether you consider yourself religious
or not, you have been accused of being the
mouthpiece of religious people. How do you
MS: It’s a strategy of the people who absolutely hate religion. They can’t tolerate it.
This “label as religion and dismiss” is a
last-ditch strategy. When they can’t deal
with you in any other way, that’s the way
they deal with you.
Recently I’ve been writing a lot about
the strategies the pro-euthanasia people
have used. One of them is to say the
people who are against it are religious and
religion has no place in public policy. I
don’t use religious arguments, at all, ever.
That is not the basis of what I look at.
I use run-of-the-mill general philosophical arguments, and sometimes not
in a very sophisticated way, and I get attacked for that too. I’m not trying to talk
to erudite philosophers. I’m trying to talk
to the average person. So many people,
and this is a recurring phenomenon,
come to me and say, “Thank you. I knew
that was what I believed, but I didn’t know
why or how to say it.” That is my job, trying to give the public the words they need
to stand up for what they believe in.
FT: There is this pervasive view that religion
does not belong in the public square. You have
argued that it does.
THE FT INTERVIEW