Amongst other parts of the email interview, I liked this:
I also was interested in this, because while writing a long rambling piece on sex and sexuality, soon to be posted, I started talking about the question of personal existence too:Q.After talking with Richard Swinburne, a British philosopher who believes in God, you wandered down a street “engulfed by a diffuse sense of contentment.” Might it make sense to believe in God for the possible contentment it offers when other answers may be equally unprovable, no matter how scientific their basis?
A.That sense of contentment, as I suggested in the book, probably had more to do with the bottle of Shiraz I downed in the Oxford brasserie after leaving Swinburne. But Swinburne’s own religiosity, while it may offer him contentment, is based on rigorous intellectual foundations. You could question or reject his premises — I certainly did — but they weren’t a matter of wishful thinking or wallowing in cheap contentment.
Q.There’s a chapter about your mother’s death that I found incredibly moving. What impact, if any, did it have on you with regard to the big questions asked by your book?
A.The question “Why does the world exist?” rhymes with the question “Why do I exist?” Both cosmic and personal existence are precarious in the extreme. This was borne in upon me when, just as I was writing the last chapters of the book, about the self and death, my mother unexpectedly died. I was alone with her in the hospice room at the last moment. To see a self flicker into nothingness — the very self that engendered your own being, no less — is to feel the weirdness of existence anew.