From Kaddish by Leon Wieseltier. Knopf, New York, 1999. Pages 235-236.
At the desert shul I open a glossy magazine and find a meditation on the afterlife. “On the night of July 17, TWA flight 800 blew up and fell into the ocean, taking 230 people to their deaths. Where are those people now? … I continue to be amazed at the reluctance of many people to acknowledge the consequences of their lack of belief in an afterlife.” Living on in the memory of others, you see, is not enough. “People who don’t believe in an afterlife must recognize that being remembered is no substitute for the afterlife.… What about those Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust along with every single person who loved or knew them? With no memories of them, and no afterlife, what has become of them?” What has become of them? I’ll tell you what has become of them, you pious fool. Nothing has become of them. Or more precisely, they have become nothingness. That is why courage is required for the confrontation with their death, with all death. “The consequences of their lack of belief”! What do the consequences of belief, or the lack of it, have to do with the truth of belief, or the lack of it? Reality does not answer to need. I need to believe that my father is not gone, but I cannot believe it. And if I could believe it, the intensity of my need to believe it would make my belief suspect, at least in my eyes. Consolations are more frequently false than true. The universe does not owe me edification.