I don’t ever remember believing in God. I’ve been to church many times. But I find them fascinating places from a genealogical and historical point of view and tranquil from an emotional one. I don’t believe that has anything to do with a belief in God.
I am without doubt an athiest. My independence makes it almost impossible for me to want to lean on anything, and certainly not something as unprovable as ‘god’. It would be nonsensical and hypocritical. And this is what makes Percy Shelley’s views an interesting subject for me.
We live in an age of multiple faiths and no faiths at all. But in the 1810s this was quite a proclamation. There was little in the way of science to help form alternative thoughts. And the possibility that someone was willing to step away from what was a common regard for religion was progressive, odd, damaging.
Of course it’s entirely perfect that it should be someone like Shelley who should choose to challenge these ideals. As I’ve never considered Shelley a particularly strong character this has intrigued me. As he has now become an important part of my research I have started to warm to him and his complicated thought processes and angle on life, the universe and everything.
Shelley jointly published his pamphlet ‘The Neccessity of Atheism‘ in 1811 which resulted in him being removed from Oxford. The above link is an 1813 expanded version. Science means we have ample reasoning for atheism. Shelley had less. But his arguments are basically the same. Prove it. And proving it depends on who you are, and your own experiences.
I wonder how he reconciled his lack of faith with the deaths of so many of his children, of the suicide of his first wife, of the death of Byron’s daughter Allegra to whom he was so involved in her early years, and ultimately with his own mortality on board the Ariel in August 1822.
And then I look at my own experiences of untimely death and how I reconcile that. I don’t. Is the answer. To me death is no worse or better for believing in God.
Byron writes not long after Shelley’s death:
There is another man gone, about whom the world was ill-naturedly, and ignorantly, and brutally mistaken. It will, perhaps, do him justice now, when he can be no better for it.
You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.