Thomas Nagel and the All-Encompassing Mind

There are many religions, and they are very different, but what I have in mind is common to the great monotheisms, perhaps to some polytheistic religions, and even pantheistic religions… It is the idea that there is some kind of all-encompassing mind or spiritual principle in addition to the minds of individual beings and other creatures – and that this mind or spirit is the foundation of the existence of the universe, of the natural order, of value, and of our existence, nature, and purpose. The aspect of religious belief I am talking about is belief in such a conception of the universe, and the incorporation of that belief into one’s conception of oneself and one’s life.

The important thing for the present discussion is that if you have such a belief, you cannot think of yourself as leading a merely human life. Instead, it becomes a life in the sight of God, or an element in the life of the world soul. You must try to bring this conception of the universe and your relation to it into your life, as part of the point of view from which it is led.

This is part of the answer to the question of who you are and what you are doing here. It may include a belief in the love of God for his creatures, belief in an afterlife, and other ideas about the connection of earthly existence with the totality of nature or the span of eternity. The details will differ, but in general a divine or universal mind supplies an answer to the question of how a human individual can live in harmony with the universe. Perhaps religious persons will regard this as a simple-minded caricature, but it is the impression that a nonbeliever gets from the outside, of what it would be like to have a religious worldview.

From Thomas Nagel’s (atheist), Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament (Oxford: 2010) pp. 4-5


One response to “Thomas Nagel and the All-Encompassing Mind

  1. Religions and belief in God are not the same thing. Anybody can believe in God without any religious framework. Religions are purely human inventions, and are almost always in bed with politics.

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