Surprising Dialogue Between an Agnostic and an Atheist

February 13, 2023

The following is a reflection written by Fr. Alain Lorans, FSSPX.

Not long ago, a novelist and a philosopher met. The first declared himself to be “authentically agnostic,” and the second claimed: “For me, there is no doubt, God does not exist.”

And yet the latter did not hesitate to declare during the interview: “In my opinion, it is a mistake to claim, in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, that, etymologically, religion should be the art of linking men with one another.”

“On the contrary, I think that we should favor a vertical reading: religion links, of course, but it links the low and the high, the immanent city of men and the transcendent city of God.” And he specifies a little further: “A civilization needs transcendence.”

In passing, the philosopher says to the novelist: “The so-called integrists are people who I hang out with like you, on the one hand because they have culture and intelligence, but also because I find them very courageous.”

“Each time I have discussions with traditionalist priests, I notice that they are very sharp in theology, ontology, even in philosophy in the broad sense of the term, especially on the question of phenomenology. But it must be said that they do everything they can to avoid be loved, saying in particular, contrary to Pope Francis, that Islam is not great.”

His agnostic interlocutor, evoking Baudelaire, speaks of the “dogma of original sin” as a “very important thing.” And he goes so far as to admit: “What I prefer about Joseph de Maistre are his writings against Protestantism. He goes all out and, for him, it is clear, all the evil comes from Luther, including the French Revolution.”

“He uses strong phrases, like: ‘Protestantism is republican in monarchies and anarchist in republics.’” And he insists: “I find that resisting, as he did, the spirit of the times, was courageous. I would have liked him to have been there at the time of Vatican II.”

To this the philosopher adds: “Catholicism has resisted everything except Vatican II.” And the novelist asserts: “This marked the beginning of the decline of the practice [of the Catholic Faith], and even more of the vocations of priests, which has since collapsed.”

The interview, published in a special issue of the magazine Front Populaire (November 2022), ends with this wish, which gives it its title: “God hears you, Michel.” Michel Houellebecq is the agnostic, who formulates it, and addresses Michel Onfray, the atheist.

This surprising interview prompted us to give it an imaginary follow-up, by collecting the recent declarations of Michel De Jaeghere, Pierre Manent, and Laurent Dandrieu on Christianity, secularism, and the Second Vatican Council.

The interview that can be read in issue 199 of Nouvelles de Chrétienté. It is an imaginary interview on very real questions that arise today in a tragic way.