Milosz on belief

To put it very simply and bluntly, I must ask if I believe that the four Gospels tell the truth. My answer to this is: ‘Yes.’ So I believe in an absurdity, that Jesus rose from the dead? Just answer without any of those evasions and artful tricks employed by theologians: ‘Yes or no?’ I answer: ‘Yes,’ and by that response I nullify death’s omnipotence. 

Czeslaw Milosz, ‘If Only This Could Be Said’


3 thoughts on “Milosz on belief

  1. Belated serendipity! You seem to be reading many of the same writers I read when I first considered converting to Roman Catholicism five years ago…Pope Benedict’s Introduction to Christianity, Kolakowski (I especially enjoyed Modernity on Endless Trial) and Milosz. I loved To Begin Where I Am. It was the poet, of all of them, who made me understand Catholicity best. Regrettably I found very little poetry in the American Church and could not rely on any innate cultural Catholicism to see me through (it seemed as though Milosz had a hard time with American Catholicism too while ‘exiled’ in Berkeley).

    I honestly wish I could recapture that hope I once had, that sense that my questions had finally been answered by the Catholic faith. I found Milosz to be a bit of a fideist at the end of the day, which is a no-no in the Thomistic-dominated Magisterium, but I related quite well to that (the only thinker who ever kept alive the flame of theism when I was an outright atheist was Kierkegaard). I relate to fideism because what I know about, say, the natural sciences, keeps me from having a rational faith in God or a good creation or teleology. But I want to believe and find that poets and musicians and artists are probably closer to the ‘truth’ than the academic theologians and apologists and culture war defenders of the faith who dominate Christian discourse.

  2. Thanks for the comment – good to hear from you, and you’ve encouraged me to return to these writers when I can find the time. Like you, I find myself particularly attracted to the poets and artists who point towards a transcendent truth, and also those who have come to faith after a long struggle, and have chosen faith after deep engagement with the alternatives. There are precious few mainstream theologians and religious writers out there who really understand the contemporary mindset, and I totally agree with you about the culture warriors who dominate the debate – especially online.

  3. Perhaps there are many contemporary mindsets, even as types, as general types. In many respects, the Western societies are very heterogeneous, allowing for an existing variety of mindsets.

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