Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Root of All Evil: Don't Bite Too Hard

You can find my most recent blog entry on candy with razor blades, religion, and the root of all evil here.


Casey said...

Monica, that is an awesome post. I love the last sentence.

Consider this, in defense of the idea of Christianity's "openness":

I agree that many "Christian" people seem to want to hear your conversion narrative, and seem quite willing to tell you the "minimum requirements" of institutional Christianity. But those are people. If you aren't worried about their stamp of approval, and you can develop a sense of personal spirituality that precedes communal worship, then the Christian faith remains available to everyone who hears of it...

In your years as English grad. student, you must've had this experience: You read a book and have some deep and new insight into a text and discover, to your dismay, that nobody in your class agrees with you--your professor least of all. That is the important moment... then you can either accept that you must be wrongly interpreting (wrongly believing) or you can persist, trusting that your reading of the text is valid -- if only because your conscience does not object.

But then, I guess this is a half-baked defense. It amounts to little more than driving a wedge between ideals and practice, and no one is ever convinced by that argument.

I only know this: there isn't a Christian church in the world where my understanding of Jesus would settle nicely... especially since I can't explain it in words. And though I'm sure that bothers many of them, I rarely give that kind of disapprobation any thought.

Anonymous said...

I may be joining in too late...

First, I doubt we can find such a thing as religion "itself." We may be able to identify Theravada Buddhism as practiced in Thailand, Eastern Orthodox Christianity as practiced in Russia, and we might even be able to identify certain modes of consciousness that bear marks of Otto's "mysterium tremendus et fascinans." But "religion itself"? Where? My issue here is that the term "religion" tends to cover such a wide variety of human behaviors (and feelings, I guess) that it can't be anything but a generalizing heuristic device.

Which leads me to my second point: While Hitchens' generalization about "religion" may share features with certain discursive practices of people who identify themselves as religious, it certainly bears little similarity to the Shinto practice of purchasing amulets that harness powers (kami) of protection. I am suspicious of identifying all "religion" with "making generalizations."

Tangentially: Hitchens does appear to be hasty in his generalization. And generalizations appear to be "evil" at times (like sterotypes). However, what else is thinking than the movement of consciousness from particulars to universals ("generalizations"), if Hegel is right? Hegel was probably just generalizing; aren't there many different kinds of thoughts?

In the end, while not ALL religion is the root of ALL evil, SOME religious phenomena does appear to be closely connected with SOME evil.

(Apologies for the length.)