Frye on God: “The less we ‘believe’ in the ordinary sense, the better”

Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, frames the issue as a matter of “blind faith” in the face of “scientific fact”

Continuing with our posts on Frye on God, here he is again in “Pistis and Mythos” on belief after “the death of God”:

I notice in my students a strong willingness to come into contact with religion, along with an equally strong reluctance to go along with “dogma.” This seems to have some relation to the fact that “God” has dried up as a conception, of no use to any form of scientific or, increasingly, philosophical construct. It looks as though, if belief is to be understood as the voluntarily credible, it cannot for much longer be regarded as a virtue. When we consider beliefs that others hold and that we do not, our feelings are increasingly those of a sense of freedom delivered from obsession. In short, the less we “believe” in the ordinary sense the better, and one comes to distrust believing in anything that has to be believed in. (CW 4, 8)

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6 thoughts on “Frye on God: “The less we ‘believe’ in the ordinary sense, the better”

  1. Veronica Abbass

    This is the quote I’ve been looking for and you have found it for me. Thank you. I included a link to this post at See in comment #17

    I wonder what Frye would have said about The God Delusion? We know Frye read at least one of Dawkins’ books because Frye mentions Dawkins and The Selfish Gene in The Double Vision.

    the natural man sets up a hierarchy within himself and uses his waking consciousness to direct and control his operations. We call him the natural man partly because he is, first, a product of nature, and inherits along with his genetic code the total devotion to his own interests that one writer has called ‘the selfish gene’ (13, n 2)

    1. Michael Happy Post author

      I put up the Dawkins video because I think he also represents the kind of thinking Frye wants to get beyond: that because there’s no “evidence” for God’s existence, there is no God, only science. As we’ll see, Frye’s notion of the divine exceeds both this and the “belief” he refers to above.

  2. Matthew

    If faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen, to use the line from Hebrews (11.1) that Frye so loved, then it stands to reason that science–scientia, knowledge based on the observable–is necessarily disconnected from faith. I’d argue that science, for Frye, is connected to one side of an opposition he is more content to draw–that of the essential difference between history and myth.

  3. Nicholas W. Graham

    “God in Frye’s Annotations”

    I just finished transcribing Frye’s annotations in Robert Greer Cohen’s MALLARME IGITUR (1989). Opposite “This is what Mallarme is saying..,” (p.60), Frye writes in the margin: “God comes out of nature not the other way round.”

    Hoping this is of some help.

    –Nicholas W. Graham

  4. Nicholas W. Graham


    Pardon my mistake and quoting Frye from memory.

    What Frye actually writes is: “God emerges from creation not the other way round.”

    Again, Sorry.

    Nicholas W. Graham

  5. Veronica Abbass

    Thank you Nicholas W. Graham

    “God emerges from creation not the other way round, ” is closer to my interpretation of Frye’s words: God is a myth, a story humans tell to make sense of their world.


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