Thursday, February 23, 2006

On the relevance of Christianity

I suppose I have been trying to formulate a somewhat complicated position about religion in my postings - basically I think that the organized formal religion, with its various dogmas and theologies, is very much beside the point. We should not judge religion based on these flimsy, laughable justifications for power structures, control and aggression. The modern and much thriving fundamentalism is nothing but a base variation of the 19th century positivist science, in itself a very primitive and destructive world view. The essence of religion is somewhere else, in something that can never be satisfactorily formulated, in the silences and gaps of our experience. I have earlier quoted Larkin's "Church Going" in relation to this point - it is a serious house, on serious earth, and not irrelevant at all to our civilization. I believe that our experience of the world is at heart mystical, something beyond words and formal thought. Religion, in its purest form, when stripped of all pretensions to power, captures this mystical nature of experience much better than wholly rational and materialistic enlightenment thought. This is not to posit any supernatural beings or "true" theologies, but to express the opinion that certain dimensions are inherent in our being in the world, and that we will be less serious, less belonging if we ignore them. This is why Christianity still matters, or should crucially matter to us. What was thought and said 2000 years ago, was a universal message - whatever its origins.


helsinkian said...

Christianity remains relevant from an ethical point of view. Modern societies thrive on the imperative of treating others as you'd want to be treated yourself and society goes down the drain when the opposite happens, as it did with totalitarian concentration camps.

What I believe is even more relevant than Christianity is the dialogue between religions. What is needed is an ethical discussion that includes more than just the part of the world with a Judeo-Christian heritage.

Religious fundamentalism is very similar to political extremism. It thrives on the idea of treating those badly who do not share a dogm with you.

For globalization to function, the rules have to be the same for everybody. Whether it is about terrorism, wars, exploitation, torture, you name it the key is how we treat others.

Humanism has a debt to Christianity here. I'm sure there are many other religions that share such ethical ideals as well.

I think Europe and North America needs more dialogue with Asia, a continent of a multitude of religions. I think such a religious and ethical dialogue would benefit both parties and prepare everyone better for the economic and political rise of Asia.

I think those Christians who have been in contact with Asia for a long time, including missionaries, could have a lot to say about the similarities and differences between Christian heritage and that of various Asian religions. Christianity strictly speaking also comes from Asia, the Middle East. In some sense, the religious people might have a more valuable input in seeking a meaningful dialogue than those Westerners who have been in contact with Asia on a strictly business agenda.

A dialogue about ethics and values is essential for making globalization work. So I see a role in such a dimension for organized religion as well. But as far as personal seeking of religious experience goes, even there I think there will be more and more cross-cultural encounters and sharing of wisdom between civilizations on a non-organized level.

stockholm slender said...

Yes, very valid point for these alarming times. I must confess that I see 99% of organized religion as totally irrelevant from any spiritual point of view. It is simply a political ideology, invariably used as a tool in the perpertual human power struggle that is history. The timeless visions have been brutally recast to enable organization and a controllable dogma. This makes any dialogue very difficult, yes, there are differences of world view, but there are also undeniable differences in power that can't be solved through cultural dialogue. We must find practical accommodations that would moderate and weaken all ideologies of hate and supremacy. Of which the various religious fundamentalism are among the worst.