I was reminded of another reason to like Arthur C. Clarke in this article:
“Absolutely no religious rites of any kind, relating to any religious faith, should be associated with my funeral” were the instructions left by Arthur C. Clarke, who died on Wednesday at the age of 90.
Like Clarke, I not only disagree with but resent the attempt to insinuate a religious subtext into all things. But unfortunately, and predictably, that's just what the author of this piece sets out to do to Clarke himself:
But his fervor is still jarring because ... Mr. Clarke’s writings were the most biblical, the most prepared to amplify reason with mystical conviction, the most religious in the largest sense of religion: speculating about beginnings and endings, and how we get from one to the other.
This couldn't possibly be further from the truth. I've always said that God is the name that mankind gives its ignorance. The desire for a religious answer to every unresolved question is just the opposite of "speculating about beginnings and endings"; rather, it's a manifestation of the desperate need for resolution, an impatience for mystery, an inability to accept that there are limits to what we know. It's an attempt to give the same rote answer to every question worth asking. Despite popular belief to the contrary, it's the atheist who is the most comfortable with the central mysteries of existence, since it's the atheist who doesn't feel the need to fill those voids with the sterile certainties of ancient mythologies.
It's true that Clarke often dealt with beginnings and endings in his writings, but he did so in a way that was the antithesis of a religious approach. He actually spent time thinking about what our place in the universe might be in the far future, and imagining what wonders we might eventually find (or that might eventually find us). But it was always firmly within the context of science and the natural world—an attempt to approach the unknown on its own terms, and to embrace and appreciate awe without invoking any supernatural source. If his best fiction brought out the most fundamental questions of existence, it's a testament to the power of an imagination unconstrained by religious orthodoxy. I'm happy to see he remained true to that right up to the end.