The Ultimate Squash Match

Earlier this year, while researching the nature of sensualism for my forthcoming comprehensive apologia, I bumped into yet another surprise. I say another, for you might recall in The Atheist Pantheist how I unexpectedly ran across Shelley's scintillating essay on atheism. Schools really do need to broaden the assigned readings in class. For here it is some half century later, and I find two pieces which could have saved me much tribulation.

The second, today's gem, is a work of genius entitled Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man. Tah-dah! It was penned by the remarkable and too often dismissed Marquis de Sade in 1782, but first published in 1926! Instantly I think of Oscar Wilde's so-true statement:
There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are either well written or badly written. That is all.
Censorship, besides being flat out ineffectual, is a crime against humanity. Indeed, a crime against nature, since we evolved brains designed specifically to engender thought. In pop culture this is often phrased: use it or you lose it. 

I can say quite unequivocally to all in dog collars, take that Index Librorum Prohibitorum and shove it right up your...no wait a minute, you'd probably enjoy that.

That D. H. Lawrence's classic, Lady Chatterley's Lover had to languish 32 years before appearing "legally" in print in his own country was bad enough. (And yes, I am old enough to remember when it could only be bought over here under plain brown wrapper), but that de Sade had to wait 144 years is pure evil. He is an exquisite writer, sharp, clear, precise and funny. And to incarcerate a person merely for wishing to create with language is madness.

Anyway, this essay is brilliant. Its title provides the précis. A priest comes to "aid" a dying man by seeking words of repentance, but soon finds he has more than met his match in the sickly one.

The dying man argues brilliantly (and with wit) that nature is responsible for why humans do what they do; deities need not apply. 

Do you recall that Three Stooges short in which the trio were plumbers? Curly needed to bridge a one-foot gap between two fittings. By the end of the program, he had completely encircled himself within a hundred feet of piping, twisting this way and that, at impossible angles, just to get from here to there. A wonderful analogy to what the priest proffers in this dialogue. The dying man would have simply solderied in a one-foot length of pipe and called it done. Or more likely, a fait accompli

In the beginning, the dying man's words anticipate Blaze Starr (the famous stripper with a gubernatorial appetite) in a most amusing way. Do you remember her? Near the end of her spicy career, a reporter asked Starr if she would change anything about her life,
“Not a thing,” she responded. “I would just do a lot more of it...
Which is precisely what the priest got in repentance from the dying man. It's hilarious!

About a third of the way later, the dying man cleverly invokes Occam's Razor but in an absolutely valid fashion, completely nonplussing the priest. Still later, he provides a very accurate picture of formalism and certainly of "life imitates art."

Then de Sade, through the words of the dying man, clearly expounds on something very dear to my heart. Not only is Pascal's Wager a total disaster, but it also means wasting the only life we're given. We better cram as much in while we can, for there's no guarantee of aught else.

The dialogue is extremely well written, cogent and funny all at the same time. It's quite short, so I hope everyone can fit it into their reading stack. You can find it online at the following link. It's also available in print from Amazon; how the times have changed!


The Marquis has been an essential part of my life since 1970, yet with this new find, I admire him even more. A true hero for all humanity.

Next installment: The Age of Aquarius

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