Thursday, September 07, 2006

On religion

This is a subject where I have been curiously reluctant to wade in. In the modern West religion in its Christian guise is a mere shell of its former glories: it is now popularly understood only in its decayed fundamentalist form which is simply, humiliatingly, the deformed and despised twin of the 19th century positivist science - having us to believe all matter of nonsensical things about biology, geology and human sexuality among other things. Anyone faintly taking religion seriously is immediately tainted with this present combination of cruelty and utter stupidity. Of course religion is not about dogma, theology and formal institutions. It has never been about them. They are just tools for short sighted power struggles as any other tools in our tragic and bloody history. The official doctrines are intellectually utter nonsense trying - at their best - to formulate in formal language meanings that cannot be formulated in formal language. This is true I think of any religion, not only Christianity. Buddhism in its purest forms comes close to being a coherent philosophy but as a hopeful Western activist its resignation and turning away from the world is not a path that I would be able to accept in its entirety.

So, the essential religious question in my view is not "Does God exist?" - that is a trivial, fairly non-relevant issue - but instead, "What is the appropriate response to the experience of being in the world?" And here the mad visions of early Christianity, Sufi dances and dreams, abstract Buddhist mediations, still, for me, easily beat any completely rationalist scientific world views. Art has two faces: it has a continuous dialogue with philosophy but its other side is eternally facing towards religion. If our civilization abandons this concern with faith, with the mystical side of our being, it will not remain vital - or rational.

1 comment:

Ergotelina said...


Talking about rationality and Religion

Christianity as the Religion according to Reason
Ratzinger debates with German philosopher Jürgen Habermas at the Catholic Academy of Bavaria, Germany in 2004.
Ratzinger debates with German philosopher Jürgen Habermas at the Catholic Academy of Bavaria, Germany in 2004.

In the discussion with secularism and rationalism, one of Benedict's basic ideas can be found in his address on the "Crisis of Culture" in the West, a day before Pope John Paul II died, when he referred to Christianity as the Religion of the Word (the original Greek, Logos, meaning reason, meaning, or intelligence

After quoting this, the pope then quoted an academic, Theodore Khoury, who edited the original dialogue, as saying, "In Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.".

Turk Imam Bardakoglu was particularly incensed with the latter quotation.

"They used to believe in three Gods," Bardakoglu said. They say Jesus is the son of God. Where is the rationality in that?"

Bardakoglu also called for the cancellation of the pope's scheduled visit to Turkey in November.

"I wouldn't expect anything good to come from a visit to the Islamic world by someone who thinks like this about Islam's prophet. First he must save his heart from this hatred," Bardakoglu said. ..................

Ali Kizilkaya, chairman of the same council, said Benedict's remarks were "extremely regrettable" since the pope had also appealed while in Germany for a dialogue among religions. "This was not a positive thing to say in such a dialogue," said Kizilkaya.

"If we were all to start digging up examples from history, then a dialogue would hardly be possible at all."

Pope criticised for Islam remarks