blue bits. red rocks.


You know something’s changing when Rush Limbaugh calls the pope a Communist. Have We Reached the End of Traditional Religion?

For many of us, science has supplanted religion. We harbor a naive faith in the godlike power of science. Since scientific knowledge is cumulative, albeit morally neutral, it gives the illusion that human history and human progress also are cumulative. Science is for us what totems and spells were for our premodern ancestors. It is magical thinking. It feeds our hubris and sense of divine empowerment. And trusting in its fearsome power will mean our extinction. The 17th century Enlightenment myth of human advancement through science, reason and rationality should have been obliterated forever by the slaughter of World War I. Europeans watched the collective suicide of a generation. The darker visions of human nature embodied in the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad and Frederick Nietzsche before the war found modern expression in the work of Sigmund Freud, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka, D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Mann and Samuel Beckett, along with atonal and dissonant composers such as Igor Stravinsky and painters such as Otto Dix, George Grosz, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Human progress, these artists and writers understood, was a joke. But there were many more who enthusiastically embraced new utopian visions of progress and glory peddled by fascists and communists. These belief systems defied reality. They fetishized death. They sought unattainable utopias through violence. And empowered by science and technology, they killed millions. Chris Hedges

Religion is based upon the perennial human desire to be in harmony with the supreme power of the universe, but modern liberal theology has had trouble speaking of the world as God’s creation and of God as providentially active in the world in any significant sense. David Ray Griffin

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Religions aren’t monolithic; if people really are involved in deep spiritual reflection on the matter of homosexuality, then they will surely be able to find an interpretation of their religious texts that allows for the kind of evolution that President Obama described. This doesn’t mean I’m not serious about practicing Judaism; it means I’m serious about finding a way to reconcile my belief in the teachings of Judaism with my belief that people should be treated equally. But, obviously, one must actually have both of these beliefs. What do we call someone who either fails to consider the alternative teaching of his or her religion or rejects that teaching because it doesn’t lead to continued condemnation of gays and lesbians, someone — in other words — who doesn’t actually have both a religious belief and a belief in equality? With apologies to Loury and Althouse, I think I have to call it bigotry. kohenari

Violence is the ethos of our times. It is the spirituality of the modern world. It has been accorded the status of a religion, demanding from its devotees an absolute obedience to death. Its followers are not aware, however, that the devotion they pay to violence is a form of religious piety. Violence is so successful as a myth precisely because it does not seem to be mythic in the least. Violence simply appears to be the nature of things. It is what works. It is inevitable, the last and, often, the first resort in conflicts. It is embraced with equal alacrity by people on the left and on the right, by religious liberals as well as religious conservatives. The threat of violence, it is believed, is alone able to deter aggressors. It secured us forty-five years of a balance of terror. We learned to trust the Bomb to grant us peace. The roots of this devotion to violence are deep, and we will be well rewarded if we trace them to their source. When we do, we will discover that the religion of Babylon—one of the world’s oldest, continuously surviving religions—is thriving as never before in every sector of contemporary American life, even in our synagogues and churches. It, and not Christianity, is the real religion of America. Walter Wink

Science and religion have much in common. They are communal activities and involve a search for some greater truth. The sharing of ideas is fundamental to both. The discipline of science can make a valuable contribution to religious thought; critical honesty, the willingness to abandon old ideas and modes of thought when fresh insight demands it and the centrality of experience as an arbiter of truth are as important in one as in the other. In both the scientific and religious searches for truth, the implications of current beliefs are explored to see where they lead. Beliefs are not just safe ledges in an uncertain reality, but rather handholds from which further heights can be reached. Faith & Practice, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain

The news is all abuzz today over the fact that Santorum “lost” the Catholic vote in the primaries last night. It’s a construction that assumes that it was his to lose, and is based in one of the most pernecious myths of the Beltway media, which is that America is a sectarian society where “people of faith” not only vote according to religious guidelines, but according to those set by the loudest sectarians amongst them. Thus, you get claims that Obama is going to lose the “Jewish vote” because, I dunno, something about Israel, even though he really hasn’t done a damn thing to hurt Israel. And now there’s a growing adherence to the nonsensical belief that Catholics are a voting bloc, and one that votes primarily based on what a bunch of right wing celibates who spend all their time on TV denouncing vaginas think. The only group that doesn’t get this treatment is mainline Protestants, because as the mainstream media doesn’t tend to think of “white” as a race so much as a baseline, so it thinks of mainline Protestantism as the norm by which you measure others against. (On that basis alone, I enjoyed Santorum saying mainline Protestants aren’t real Christians, because it actually jolted the media into realizing that various Protestants are also religious groups, just like Jews, Catholics, evangelicals, and Mormons.) But really, this nonsense about the “Catholic vote” has got to stop. There’s literally no evidence for such a thing. Most Catholics are pro-choice and use birth control, and they do so in roughly the same numbers as non-Catholics. In fact, they’re indistinguishable from the public at large in their voting habits. There’s perhaps a slim chance that some of them were moved against Santorum by the JFK comment, but honestly, I’m skeptical. The reason is that we’re talking about a Repubilcan primary. I guarantee their identity as Republicans was a bigger factor for Catholic Republicans voting in the primary than their loyalty to the only Catholic President. There is no “Catholic vote”

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For Santorum, as for Ratzinger, if your conscience says one thing, and the Pope says another, you obey the Pope, not your conscience. And for the Christianists, if your conscience or intelligence says one thing, and the Bible says another, you obey the Bible, not your conscience, and certainly not your intelligence. Because beneath Christianism is a deep fear of the human mind - as if they actually believe that reason is stronger than religion and therefore must be restrained. As if the human mind can will God out of existence. This is Santorum’s fear-laden vision. Which is why he is not a man of questioning, sincere faith and should not be flattered as such. He is a man of the kind of fear that leads to fundamentalist faith, a faith without doubt and in complete subservience to external authority. There is a reason he doesn’t want many kids to go to college. I mean: when we already know the truth, why bother to keep seeking it? And if we already know the truth, why are we not enforcing it as a matter of law in a country founded on Christian principles? It is not religious oppression if it is “the way things are supposed to be”, by natural law. In fact, a neutral public square, in his mind, is itself religious oppression. Andrew Sullivan

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