Within the debate between Christian and atheist authors, here come the Gnostics.
In this brain-twisting meditation on freedom, Gray (The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths, 2013), a former professor across disciplines (at Harvard, Yale and Oxford), covers a wide expanse of intellectual territory, from the ancient Greeks to science-fiction futurism. Yet the underpinning theme concerns Gnosticism, which the author describes as “the faith of people who believe themselves to be machines,” for whom “the creator was at best a blunderer, negligent or forgetful of the world it had fashioned, and possibly senile, mad or long dead; it was a minor, insubordinate and malevolent demiurge that ruled the world.” Gray finds in this ancient belief a visionary illumination of our modern predicament, in which reason has shown itself to be more curse than blessing, progress is an illusion, and the machines man has invented might soon render mankind obsolete. He finds a kindred spirit in Philip K. Dick, “a brilliantly original writer of science fiction who uses the genre to question what it means to be human” and who once wrote, “it is not man who is estranged by God; it is God who is estranged from God. He evidently willed it this way at the beginning, and has never since sought his way home.” Gray connects the dots among science fiction (including that of Stanislaw Lem), Borges, the human-sacrificing Aztecs, global warming and the loss of privacy (and freedom) that the cyberrevolution has wrought, challenging readers to make some leaps of logic and come to counterintuitive conclusions. “Human beings may behave like puppets,” he writes, “but no one is pulling the strings….We think we have some kind of privileged access to our own motives and intentions. In fact we have no clear insight into what moves us to live as we do.”
A brief, elliptical inquiry designed to raise more questions than anyone could answer.