Catastrophe then—yes, I am sure of it—whether it has happened or not; whether by war, bomb, fire, or just decline and fall. Most people will die or exist as the living dead. Everything will go back to the desert.
Can good come from evil? Have you ever considered the possibility that one might undertake a search not for God but for evil? You people may have been on the wrong track all these years with all that talk about God and signs of his existence, the order and beauty of the universe—that’s all washed up and you know it. The more we know about the beauty and order of the universe, the less God has to do with it. I mean, who cares about such things as the Great Watchmaker?
But what if you could show me a sin? a purely evil deed, an intolerable deed for which there is no explanation? Now there’s a mystery. People would sit up and take notice. I would be impressed. You could almost make a believer out of me.
In times when nobody is interested in God, what would happen if you could prove the existence of sin, pure and simple? Wouldn’t that be a windfall for you? A new proof of God’s existence! If there is such a thing as sin, evil, a living malignant force, there must be a God!
During the sixties I was a liberal. In those days one could say “I was such and such.” Categories made sense—now it is impossible to complete the sentence: I am a—what? Certainly not a liberal. A conservative? What is that? But then it was a pleasure to take the blacks’ side: one had the best of two worlds: the blacks were right and I wanted to be unpopular with the whites. It was a question of boredom. Nothing had happened since I ran 110 yards against Alabama—we lived for great deeds, you remember, unlike the Creoles, who have a gift for the trivial, for making money, for scrubbing tombs, for Mardi Gras. The sixties were a godsend to me. The blacks after all were right, the whites were wrong, and it was a pleasure to tell them so. I became unpopular. There are worse things than being disliked: it keeps one alive and alert. But in the seventies the liberals had nothing more to do. They were finished. I can’t decide whether we won or lost. In any case, in the seventies ordinary whites and blacks both turned against the liberals. Perhaps they were right. In the end, liberals become a pain in the ass even to themselves. At any rate, the happy strife of the sixties was all over. The other day I ran into a black man with whom I had once stood shoulder to shoulder defying angry whites. We hardly recognized each other. We eyed each other uneasily. There was nothing to say. He told me had had a slight stroke, nothing serious. We had won. So he bought a color TV, took up golf, and developed hypertension. I became an idler.