Monday, August 06, 2007


The only two consistent views of the world are Christianity or existentialism. Everything else is playing pretend.

Ingmar Bergman, a partisan of the latter view, died this last week. One of the Swedish filmaker's predominant themes was the consequences of the non-existence of God. You can see it on full display in what is perhaps his greatest film, The Seventh Seal. It is a stark and frightening movie.

Unlike the new atheists Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, Bergman, along with existentialist writers like Nietzsche and Sartre, faced their atheism honestly and squarely. The new atheists try to hang on to some sort of absolute morality or meaning in the world despite the fact that the only rational grounding these beliefs can possibly have is God.

Bergman and his fellow existentialists knew that there are two alternatives available to men: a world in which God exists and there is meaning, or one in which he does not exist and everything is absurd. Take your pick.

I don't agree with the existentialists, but at least they are intellectually consistent, which is more than can be said of the new atheists.


Anonymous said...

Despite his Atheism, Bergman was one of the most innovative and important directors ever to sit behind a camera. the day of his death, along with that of the passing of Michelangelo Antonioni, were sad days for all cinephiles.

Martin Cothran said...


I take it from the web address you left that you think my dichotomy between Christianity and existentialism is a false dichotomy. If so, then you need to read the explanation of the fallacy of false dichotomy on the site you referenced a little more carefully.

A false dichotomy "involves a situation in which two alternative statements are held to be the only POSSIBLE options, when in reality there exist one or more other options which have not been considered." [my emphasis]

However, I didn't say these options were the only POSSIBLE views of the world, but the only CONSISTENT views. It is POSSIBLE to take an INCONSISTENT view of the world, which materialists do.

Anonymous said...

Martin Cothran said...

Keith said...

Is existentialism intellectually consistent? Existentialists first say that life is meaningless . . . and then that man must create his own meaning. I've always that this to be very inconsistent and intellectually unsatisfying. The new atheists just drop the "life is meaningless" part and go on believing that they can create their own meaning . . . which is intellectually inconsistent, but at least they don't confuse matters by first declaring life to be meaningless before they go on to pretend to wring meaning out of it.

Martin Cothran said...


Good points. When we discuss consistency, I suppose we are always talking about where a position is on the spectrum between being completely consistent and completely inconsistent, and everything really falls somewhere in between. I should perhaps have said that existentialism is a lot closer to being consistent than materialism.