I’m yet to read Peter Singer, but an interview with him in Saturday’s Australian magazine caught my attention. He writes:
Some things that many people consider unknowable I believe we do already understand quite well – for example, that the universe was not created by a divine being, and that there is no survival after death.
It hurts me to read these sentences, and see the world through his eyes for a moment. He doesn’t find such a world at all bleak, but I do. His certainty shocks me; does he really feel there is a consensus around these two things? Or maybe he’s not talking about consensus, but the certainties that people with the right conclusions or assumptions can ‘understand quite well’. (The ‘we’ is all people denuded of their theistic delusions.)
I find it hard to understand why most people in the world don’t have existential dread hanging over their heads in response to these two questions; most people seem to live blithely, with trite answers to both. Yet the whole mode of our living hangs on both answers. As St Paul says, if Christ is not risen we are to be pitied more than anyone.
His interview concludes with the side of Singer I heartily agree with: ‘Try to make a difference to the world. It’s the most fulfilling way to live.’ (Actually, probably living in existential dread is not a good way to make a difference to the world.) I remember when his latest book came out, a review talking about how he lives on a basic amount of money and gives the rest away. I admire him for that.