“A person believes various things at various times, even on the same day. At the age of 73, I seem most instinctively to believe in the human value of creative writing…
I also believe, instinctively, if not very cogently, in the American political experiment, which I take to be, at bottom, a matter of trusting the citizens to know their own minds and best interests. ‘To govern with the consent of the governed’: this spells the ideal. And though the implementation will inevitably be approximate and debatable, and though totalitarianism or technocratic government can obtain some swift successes, in the end, only a democracy can enlist a people’s energies on a sustained and renewable basis. To guarantee the individual maximum freedom within a social frame of minimal laws ensures — if not happiness — its hopeful pursuit.
Cosmically, I seem to be of two minds. The power of materialist science to explain everything — from the behavior of the galaxies to that of molecules, atoms and their sub-microscopic components — seems to be inarguable and the principal glory of the modern mind. On the other hand, the reality of subjective sensations, desires and — may we even say — illusions, composes the basic substance of our existence, and religion alone, in its many forms, attempts to address, organize and placate these. I believe, then, that religious faith will continue to be an essential part of being human, as it has been for me.”
Excerpted from John Updike’s short article “Testing the Limits of What I Think and Feel”.