Nagel makes it clear that he is talking about the fear of religion as such, and not merely fear of certain of its excesses and aberrations, and confesses that he himself is subject to this fear:I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that. (130, emphasis added)
Nagel goes on to say that he may have what he calls a "cosmic authority problem." This seems to me to suggest that he also has a very primitive notion of God. Maybe he should see if he has, say, a "cosmic artist problem." The view of God as a kind of everlasting Hammurabi is an old one, but its longevity does not make it true. Subjects may genuinely love their king because he is genuinely lovable. But if he is not lovable -- if, indeed, he is hateful -- their expressions of love are purely self-protective. This is perhaps a greater problem with believers than with unbelievers. One often gets the impression that the faithful talk about God's loving us because they are afraid of saying otherwise. But the God they really believe in seems to be a stern authoritarian just waiting to catch them in some infraction of the law and punish them accordingly. But, as Jesus noted, "the law was made for man, not man for the law." A good bit of it also seems to have been made by man.