Down through the weeks of ages
In the moss borne dark dank pools
Rave on, down through the industrial revolution
Empiricism, atomic and nuclear age
Rave on down through time and space down through the corridors
Rave on words on printed page
Rave on, you left us infinity
And well pressed pages torn to fade
Drive on with wild abandon
Uptempo, frenzied heels
Rave on, Walt Whitman, nose down in wet grass
Rave on fill the senses
On nature's bright green shady path
Rave on Omar Khayyam, Rave on Kahlil Gibran
Oh, what sweet wine we drinketh
The celebration will be held
We will partake the wine and break the Holy bread
Rave on let a man come out of Ireland
Rave on on Mr. Yeats,
Rave on down through the Holy Rosey Cross
Rave on down through theosophy, and the Golden Dawn
Rave on through the writing of "A Vision"
Rave on, Rave on, Rave on, Rave on, Rave on, Rave on
Rave on John Donne, rave on thy Holy fool
Down through the weeks of ages
In the moss borne dark dank pools
Rave on, down though the industrial revolution
Empiricism, atomic and nuclear age
Rave on words on printed page
Rave on, Rave one, Rave on . . .
(Van Morrison, 'Rave On John Donne')
Re-Vision Radio's RAVE ON TILL DAWN Program is hosted by the GypsyScholar, with
flower in one hand (or name) and sword in the other. Thus, Everybody
Knows, it's "flower-power" radio--with the philosophic power of Blakean
"Staminal Virtue." Because it's Re-Vision Radio, the
program re-views--looks once again in-depth at--ideas, books, issues,
people in the news, religion and politics, movements and movies.
The format of Re-Vision Radio's RAVE ON TILL DAWN Program consists in either the Gypsy Scholar's "rave on words on printed page," or the raving on by other speakers through the pre-recorded medium. Given that the Gypsy Scholar believes in the transformational power of radio, the purpose of the program is to broadcast alternative views that
are not heard on mainstream media, in order to help listeners think
outside-the-box on the important issues facing us today and, therefore,
to help establish a more informed citizenry and to empower (yes,
"knowledge is power") the people to imagine and struggle for a
different world. Why? Well, because . . .
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died....
Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton
For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows....
Oh everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
(L. Cohen 'Everybody Knows')
Imagining a different world
The Keys to Re-Vision Radio's Alternative Views:
There may be times when what
is most needed is, not so much a new discovery or a new idea as a
different "slant;" I mean a comparatively slight readjustment in our
way of looking at the things and ideas on which attention is already
fixed. --Owen Barfield
By approaching the familiar from a different angle, we see the shape of the subject change dramatically. --William Irwin Thompson
are not contributing curiosities, but observations which no one has
doubted, but which have escaped remark only because they are always
before our eyes. --Ludwig Wittgenstein
The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answer. --James Baldwin
trick of being a visionary is to slightly alter your vision as to
what's going on. The clue is to slightly change your perspective. --Terence McKenna
a vision of the Ideal World
Re-Vision Radio's RAVE ON TILL DAWN Program is dedicated to the 1968 revolutionary proposition:
"All Power to the Imagination."
Thus, because "Everybody Knows that the good guys lost" (in the archetypal sense of history's "Beautiful Losers"), the Gypsy Scholar--in re-visioning radio--presents an alternative radio program that, in a medium so full of distracting noise, gives its listeners "time to think"--and, if deeply enough, time to . . . dream . . . to imagine.
"The most unpardonable sin in society is independence of thought." (Emma Goldman)
Loneliness, tenderness, high society, notoriety.
You fight for the throne and you travel alone
Unknown as you slowly sink
And there's no time to think....
Memory, ecstasy, tyranny, hypocrisy
Betrayed by a kiss on a cool night of bliss
In the valley of the missing link
And you have no time to think....
Paradise, sacrifice, mortality, reality.
But the magician is quicker and his game
Is much thicker than blood and blacker than ink
And there's no time to think....
Equality, liberty, humility, simplicity.
You glance through the mirror and there's eyes staring clear
At the back of your head as you drink
And there's no time to think....
Warlords of sorrow and queens of tomorrow
Will offer their heads for a prayer.
You can't find no salvation, you have no expectations
Anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
Mercury, gravity, nobility, humility.
You know you can't keep her and the water gets deeper
That is leading you onto the brink
But there's no time to think....
Socialism, hypnotism, patriotism, materialism.
Fools making laws for the breaking of jaws
And the sound of the keys as they clink
But there's no time to think....
No time to choose when the truth must die,
No time to lose or say goodbye,
No time to prepare for the victim that's there,
No time to suffer or blink
And no time to think.
(Bob Dylan, 'No Time To Think')
The Gypsy Scholar's favorite program topic:
Religion & Politics
Religion & Politics:
"Are not Religion & Politics the same thing?" --William Blake
are those who say: "You seem to have taken sides" (in the political
struggle). I say: "Well, yes and no." The deeper politics makes one a spiritual revolutionary, and then one's party is not strictly partisan--neither "left" or "right"--but the para-political "Party of Eros," which is at once a political and a spiritual party. (The
"Party of Eros" is that party of radical--anarchistic-- political
theorists who were the architects of the 1960's cultural revolution.
If they had literally been a formal political party, they would have
been a rebirth of Emerson's 1830's "Idealist Party" of Soul. The
rallying cry for the "Party of Eros" actually was the 1960's "All power
to the Imagination." As it invokes the Imaginatiion, it is also associated
with Blake's mythopoetic "Devil's Party.")
This is why Allen Ginsberg has put it best: "Stand
up against governments, against God--the monotheist domination of
consciousness that insists on its own party line." (As
Ginsberg was a student of Blake, it must be Blake who influenced his
thoughts on this subject, for the "prophet against empire" condemned
what he called in his day--19th century--the conspiracy of church and
state: "The Abomination that maketh desolate, i.e. State Religion,
which is the source of all Cruelty.")
In this sense, yes, the Gypsy Scholar has indeed taken sides:
I'm on the side of the "Beautiful Losers," who are "always lost"--from the Titans, (Milton's) Satan, the Romantics, to the Beats and Flower Children--, since history is always told by the winners.
Ophis et Ovum Mundanum
I'm on the side of Always Lost Against the side of heaven; I'm on the side of Snake-Eyes Tossed against the side of seven.
A note about the Gypsy Scholar's radio essay (previously broadcast for the 4th of July), to inform listeners as to the origin and nature of the "Party of Eros" (to which the GS has been appointed "Minister of Culture & Information")
"Romantic Total Revolution: the Democracy of Soul & the Goddess of Liberty"
The Arts & Sciences of Imagination are the Destruction of Tyrannies or Bad Governments. Art Degraded, Imagination Denied, War Governed the Nations. Blake
Prophets, in the modern sense of the word, have never existed. . . . Every honest individual is a Prophet; he or she utters their opinion both of private & public matters. . . . A Prophet is a Seer, not an Arbitrary Dictator. Blake
This Duty [of forming and propagating one's opinions about the state of one's country] we should exert at all times, but with particular ardor in seasons of public Calamity, when there exists an Evil of such incalculable magnitude as the present war. Coleridge
The Gypsy Scholar's essay, "Romantic Total Revolution: the Democracy of Soul & the Goddess of Liberty," wove together the ancient Neoplatonic tradition of polis and eros, the modern Romantic tradition of the democratized poet-prophet and magical politics, and the anarcho-romantic spirit of the 1960s that united the political and sexual revolution, as expressed in the comingling of protest song with love song. The main concern of the essay, given the desperate state of our democracy today, was to outline a neglected "metaphysic of democracy" by recalling, through Romantic dreamers such as Emerson and Whitman, the archaic, visionary, and ecstatic roots of American democracy--a democracy of soul. Once more, the essay envisioned the reunion of poetry and politicsthat is, the poetic tradition of imagination with the political tradition of democracy. This bringing together of poetry and politics (mythopoetics and political theory), or mysticism and activism, is and is not what some of the religious-minded on the Left are envisioning when they call for a "politics informed by religious values" or "a more spiritual politics." Therefore, in these dark
times of crisis and despair, the essay attempted, by picking up the fallen
standard of the historical lost cause of the RomanticsBeautiful
Losers, the same project as the Romantic Essay of the nineteenth
century: to revive in the reader the original passionate response of
hope and conviction of justice, and the human passion for justice and
for faith in the victory of the good. In this dark time, then, the essay took seriously the Romantic notion that "the great instrument of moral good is the imagination, hence a man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively and, since the poet is the man or woman who has more Imagination than others, the poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Thus, in these dark times, the essay attempted to remind Re-Vision
Radio listerners that Blake declared the function of the poet is to
keep the Divine Vision in time of trouble.
Here's the Gypsy Scholar's conclusion to that essay--one that coincides with the Sixties "Party of Eros" and its vision of the union of politics and love--the sexual- and the political revolution ("make love not war"); expressed in comingling protest song with love song:
Its coming through a hole in the air, / from those nights in Tiananmen Square // Its coming to America first, / the cradle of the best and of the worst. / It's here they got the range / and the machinery for change / and its here they got the spiritual thirst. / It's here the family's broken / and its here the lonely say / that the heart has got to open / in a fundamental way. / Democracy is coming to the U.S.A // It's coming from the woman and the men. / O baby, we'll be making love again. / We'll be going down so deep /that the river's going to weep, /and the mountain's going to shout Amen! / Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. / Its coming like the tidal flood / beneath the lunar sway, / imperial, mysterious, / in amorous array: / Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. Leonard Cohen, Democracy
Therefore, if "democracy is coming to the U.S.A.," but "coming . . . in amorous array," then the political/spiritual party which will facilitate this democratic/amorous comingling will be the Sixties Party of Eros.
A Note on The Party of Eros and the Principle of Joy: Putting the Party Back Into Party-Politics
The next generation needs to be told that the real fight is not the political fight, but to put an end to politics. From politics to meta-politics. From politics to poetry. Legislation is not politics, nor philosophy, but poetry. Poetry, art, is not an epiphenomenal reflection of some other (political, economic) realm which is the real thing. . . . Poetry, art, imagination, the creator spirit is life itself; the real revolutionary power to change the world; to change the human body. . . . To begin to dance; who can tell the dancer from the dance; it is the impossible unity and union of everything. (N. O. Brown)
The Gypsy Scholaras mythopoetic-activist for the 1960s Party of Erosis dedicated to "putting the "putting the party back into party-politics," since the Party of Eros is
a philosophical- and political party, and a all-night party all in one.
(The Party of Eros has its origins (1) in that all-night
erato-philosophical discussion-party held in ancient Greece
(symposium), (2) Blake's Devil's Party," and (3) Emerson's
transcendentalist "Idealist Party." It is the real "Party of Ideas," of
which Nader's defunct campaign party was a cheap imitiation). If the
Gypsy Scholar's idea of "putting the party back into party-politics" sounds too silly to be any part of the serious business our
political struggle, think again. Let us consider one prominent
political activist's serious proposition.
Giving the keynote
address of the annual 2004 Mario Salvio Memorial Lecture in celebration
of the Free Speech Movements 40th anniversary, Ms. Molly Ivins had
this important message to pass on to todays college activists before she passed on:
You people need to work harder at having fun. You are fun-challenged.
by "putting the party back in party-politics, is meant the advocating of the unabashed necessity
for art, poetry, and music in dark timesespecially in dark times. If
the Gypsy Scholar needs historical precedent for Ms. Ivans notion of
politicswhat he terms as a joyous politics", it can be found in the
tradition of Romantic anarcho-socialism. (We can certainly see the
incorporation of the principle of eros in the
spirit Sixties, because it can be traced to the
19th-century Romantic anarchists, who seem to be the first to have a
comprehensive and consistent doctrine of the unity of art and politics.
William Blake and William Morris are the outstanding exemplars of this
view.) It is herein the interface between revolution, art, poetry, and
musicthat can be found an ignored tradition. The spirit of the
sixties owes much to it, if not in a theoretical way, then directly by
temperament, since that spirit is essentially anarchic in the best
sense of the term. And the anarchist persona who most stands out as
embodying a proto-sixties spirit in early twentieth-century America,
even as far as advocating free-love, is, of course, Emma Goldman. Her
poem, To Hell With The Revolution If I Can't Dance, perfectly fits
"putting the party back into party-politics."
Out of wild pockets through spiraling light into ardent worlds she searches for him, humming
I am your match, your mate, your other self, the dark inside where sight fails.
They meet, he invites her to the dance and their myth begins. . . .
For a model of the "politics of joy," then, we can look back to that
blend of the New Left politics and Counter-Culture consciousness that
coalesced in the Sixties, which used music, poetry, art, street
theater, and do-it-yourself spirituality to effect social change. One recalls the
outrageous fun some counter-cultural revolutionarieslike the Yippieshad in doing politics.
But it isn't just the sixties Yippies of another political era, or even
the Marx Brothers-like pie-throwing Pastry Partisans of our political
moment, who embody the principle of "joyous politics." Indeed, we can
look to a serious Marxist school of political theorists advocating the
unabashed necessity for art, poetry, and music. The Gypsy Scholar's
call for the reunion of politics, love, and poetry/musicand thus for a
parapolitics of imagination and joyhas it point of departure in what
one sociologist calls the group of visionary political theorists of the
sixtiesthe Party of Eros. It has been said that If fear and
destructiveness are the major emotional sources for fascism, then eros belongs
mainly to democracy. Of course, to the traditional Marxist theorist,
this spirit is naïve, utopian, and, ultimately, counter-revolutionary.
However, not all Marxists think dogmatically alike, especially if they are from the "Party of Eros." Thus, by "putting the party back in party-politics, is meant the advocating of the unabashed necessity for art, poetry, and music in dark timesespecially in dark times. "Putting the party back in party-politics" means what Marcuse meant he he advocated replacing the dominant reality-principle ruling socio-political relations with the values of the pleasure-principle"play, enjoyment, sensuousness, beauty, contemplation, spiritual liberation." (These values go back to the Romantic notion of "Total Revolution" and its engine of aesthetic joy as a philosophical principle.)
Therefore, the Gypsy Scholar-in re-visioning the relationship between poetry and politics through the Romantic total revolution"is here to tell his listening audience on the Left that real social/spiritual transformation is inspired not exclusively by the spirit of Marx, but primarily by the archetype of Orpheusthe image of joy and fulfillment; the voice which does not command but sings. The Gypsy Scholar has seen the return of Orpheus, the repressed culture-hero; returning to establish a new politics; a parapolitics that unites the friendly foes of the sixtiesthose of the New Left, on one side, and those of the hippy counter-culture, on the other, bringing together spirituality and social activism in a more imaginative way than has, by and large, been advocted by the new-age spiritual community.
In conclusion, if "putting the party back in party-politics" is essentially a reunion of imagination, art, and politics (in the Blakean sense: "The Arts & Sciences of Imagination are the Destruction of Tyrannies or Bad Governments. Art Degraded, Imagination Denied, War Governed the Nations"), then we should leave it to an art historian to identify the enduring potency this Romantic spirit of the Sixties:
the poltergeist was throwing plates in the kitchen, tomorrow it may
turn up in the hallyou don't know. It's a very durable spirit, and
its hard to exorcise. But it loves everything that is contrary,
extravagant, and free. And its very cussedness, its perversity, is a
form of innocencedeclaration of hope. (Robert Hughes)
TOPICS & ISSUES
RELIGION & REASON
This section of the webpage is for Rave On Till Dawn programs aired on Feb. 5, 12, 19. The topic was about "religion" in the post-modern world, and featured the debate between Sam Harris (The End of Faith) and Resa Aslan (No god, But God). The first two programs aired the entire debate (over 90'), "Religion & Reasion," from the L. A. Public Library on January 25, 2007. The last program, Feb. 19 (the very same time C-SPAN repeated its airing for the third time), only aired the first 30 minutes of the debate in order to present the Gypsy Scholar's analysis and critique. If you are a listener who didn't catch the first two programs, or didn't catch the debate on C-SPAN, you can click the link below and watch the entire debate, "Religion & Reason," at your convenience. The text of Gypsy Scholar's critique of the debate is posted below. Both those who didn't hear the Gypsy Scholar's 2/19 program and those who did hear it should read it, since the text covers points raised in the debates that didn't make it on air. The Gypsy Scholar hopes that listeners will find that this debate is as important to our lives in this country as any other critical issue facing us today, and take the time to read and ponder what he has to say.
Perversions of Christs words & acts are attackd by Paine &
also the perversions of the Bible; Who dare defend either the Acts of
Christ or the Bible Unperverted? But to him who sees this moral
pilgrimage in the light that I see it, Duty to his country is the first
consideration & safety the last. Read patiently: take up this Book
in an idle hour: the consideration of these things is the whole duty of
man & the affairs of life & death trifles, sports of time. But
these considerations are the business of Eternity. (William Blake, Annotations To "An Apology for the Bible")
Any comments listeners have about their own views can be communicated to the Gypsy Scholar by going to the next page on the website (9) and accessing the email feature.
ANNOTATIONS ON THE RELIGION & REASON DEBATE FROM ONE OF THE LOYAL OPPOSITION
The Whole of the New Church is in the Active Life & not in Ceremonies at all. (William Blake, Annotations To Swedenborgs Divine Love)
He who is out of the Church & opposes it is no less an Agent of Religion than he who is in it . (William Blake, A Vision of the Last Judgment)
He scornd Earths Parents, scornd Earths God, / And mockd the one & the others Rod; / His Seventy Disciples sent / Against Religion & Government . (William Blake, The Everlasting Gospel)
In this debate about religion I would be expected, given that Im a grad-student in "Philosophy & Religion," to be on the side of religion with Reza Aslan. However, with some reservations, the contrary is the case; Im much more in sympathy with Sam Harris anti-religious point of view. Taking this stance in defending the atheist, I find myself in the analogous position of one of my favorite poet-visionaries, William Blake (1757-1827), who, curiously enough, in his Annotations To An Apology for the Bible , defended atheist Tom Paine against the onslaught of Bishop (of London) Watson in their debate. I say curiously enough because Blake called himself a Christian (whose savior was Jesus, the Imagination) and because he also spent a lot of time raving against the reigning principle of Reason of his time, calling it mere Ratio, which can only judge and compare. Paine, atheist and upholder of Reason, had attacked the Bible, much like Harris today. It seems to me this present debate of Reason vs. Religion echoes the one between Paine and Watson in Blakes time. Thus, after I thought I had finished my own "annotations" on the debate, I went to Blake's "annotations," which so impressed me that I wanted to include them here. So let the following criticisms by Blake (written on the back of the title page) speak to us as well. [I have listed here some of Blakes critical annotations made to Watsons Apology for the Bible, since they could as well, with a change of names, apply to the debate between Aslan (Watson) and Harris (Paine). When I think that Blakes observations fit the current debate, I will insert them in red.]
The Perversions of Christs words & acts are attackd by Paine & also the perversions of the Bible; Who dare defend either the Acts of Christ or the Bible Unperverted? But to him who sees this moral pilgrimage in the light that I see it, Duty to his country is the first consideration & safety the last. Read patiently: take up this Book in an idle hour: the consideration of these things is the whole duty of man & the affairs of life & death trifles, sports of time. But these considerations are the business of Eternity.
Religion & Reason, the Sam Harris & Reza Aslan Debate L. A. Public Library, 1/25/07 Moderator: Jonathan Kirsch
Introductory Comments: Curator of the ALOUD series: No definitive conclusions. Is rationality the right standard to invoke in matters of faith? Can faith and reason be reconciledshould they be?
Actually this attempt to square reason with faith has been a project that has been going on in Western European religious culture since at least Peter Abelard (1079-1142). Once more, it should be pointed out here (because of the current demonization of Islamic culture) that this project of using rational, critical categories and methods to explicate scripture could not have even begun if it were not for the Aristotelian Arabs. It has been observed that Abelard and those like him shared the intellectual excitement of the age which undertook to reconcile faith with reason, authority with experience, and the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle with the theology of the Church. As for this present debate about faith and reason, JK invites them to reconcile their points of view. I judge it impossible. Maybe only God could reconcile them. But since one view holds that God doesnt exist, then its impossible!
JK: Karen Armstrong: our religious imagination; to capacity to envision a higher power. Case for homo sapiens, rational or thinking man, is also homo religiosus, religious man or believing man. (JK: "This is a theme we will probably return to again and again.")
Throughout the debate, it seemed to me that the problem in RA and SH coming a little closer together on their views is due to a semantic problemthat is, what we mean by religion. In fact, this is a very controversial issue (in recent decades) for students of the history- and philosophy of religion. The failure to address this problem plagues the debate throughout. As an example of one of the consequences of not being more discriminating when the term religion is used (in a generic sense) is that of identifying modern religious man with homo religiosus. The problem with this comparison is that Armstrongs use of it is rather sloppy. In point of fact, the term homo religiosus was coined in 1928 by Ruldoph Otto (The Idea of the Holy), who is now recognized as one of the pioneers of the phenomenology of religion. It was subsequently made part of the vocabulary of the history of religions by the Mircea Eliade, whose studies of primitive, or archaic religion (mythology and ritual) have become classics in their field. He defined archaic man as homo religiosus almost in contradistinction to the man of the purely historical religions (e.g., Judeo-Christianity). Thus, when RA claims that SH is wrong, because Religions are not concerned with genuine history but with sacred history, he is being misleading (at best). Indeed, what distinguishes the monotheistic religions (and it is a distinction which the representatives of these were at pains to make, since they had real religion and a real historical savior or prophet while the earlier religions, with their polytheism and cyclical time, just had mythology)from both the earlier ancient religions (of Sumer, Egypt, and Greece) and the archaic, tribal religionsis precisely their concern with history and (as Eliade points out) its "irreversibility." No, sacred history is, for archaic and ancient man, the history of the gods, the heroes, the ancestors, the immortals. It is not a term (in the history of religions) that can be applied, willy-nilly, to describing what the people of the Book (religion as a written creed) are writing about (unless sacred history is taken loosely to mean a history of a people that is sacred to them). (For the important difference between the conception of time between archaic and modern peoples, see Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane.) Thus, I submit that modern religious man is not homo religiosus, but homo credensbelieving man (or even homo credulous). Therefore, not only is it questionable that the term homo religiosus can be applied to the creature of modern religions but the passages in the work of Eliade (the pioneer in the study of the history- and phenomenology of religion) definitely point to a dis-identification:
"As for the Christianity of the industrial societies and especially the Christianity of intellectuals, it has long since lost the cosmic values that it still possessed in the Middle Ages. We must add that this does not necessarily imply that urban Christianity is deteriorated or inferior, but only that the religious sense of urban populations is gravely impoverished." In archaic societies, although they are conscious of a certain form of "history," they make every effort to disregard it. In studying these traditional societies, one characteristic has stands out among the rest: their revolt against concrete, historical time, their nostalgia for a periodical return to the mythical time of the beginning of things, to the "Great Time." The meaning and function of what are called 'archetypes and repetition' disclose themselves to us only after we had perceived these societies' will to refuse concrete time, their hostility toward every attempt at autonomous 'history,' that is, at history not regulated by archetypes. This dismissal, this opposition, are not merely the effect of the conservative tendencies of primitive societies. In our opinion, it is justifiable to read in this depreciation of history (that is, of events without transhistorical models), and in this rejection of profane, continuous time, a certain metaphysical "valorization" of human existence. Thus, the chief difference between the man of the archaic and traditional societies and the man of the modern societies with their strong imprint of Judaeo Christianity lies in the fact that the former feels himself indissolubly connected with the Cosmos and the cosmic rhythms, whereas the latter insists that he is connected only with History.
And from a study on the religious concepts in Eliade's work, we read the following:
Existence and Sanctified Life,' Eliade points out that in the
contemporary world "religion as a form of life and Weltanschauung is
represented by Christianity." A factor which can limit one's
understanding of the total gamut of religious expression and
expressivity available within the mental universe of homo religiosus."
"As a learning community rooted firmly in a Western contextthat is, a context shaped by the history of Western ideaswe must acknowledge that Judeo-Christian gestalten and their derivative classificatory schemas and terms have informed our own sensibilities either latently or directly. Thus, we are prone to evoke the name or word Godthe at once English and Judeo-Christian-related term for the Somewhat/Something Other/numinous/wholly Other/holy. However, with a modicum or degree of introspection, we realize that the term God is much too imprecise, has much too specialized of a linguistic, semantic, and cultural pedigree, to be a universally descriptive term for that connoted by the more universal terms, such as Somewhat Something Other numinous Holy The word God is descriptive and transformationally powerful in its utterance within the Judeo-Christian cultus or even in a world shaped by the Western intellectual tradition; however, the word is not the most descriptively encompassing, most generalizable, most universal term for that which Homo religiosus has oriented itself by, through, and towards both throughout history and in the contemporary world." I mentioned that at best the proper term for today's religious animal is homo credens (and at worst homo credulous). Upon further research, I discovered the following from Christian Smith, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, on "Believing Animals." He establishes that since human beings cannot access any absolute truth, we must be believing animals. Without an absolute reference point or perspective, we would be lost and therefore must believe in a world view in order to interpret, act, and live. Referring to mankind as Homo credens, Smith says, "We are all necessarily trusting, believing animals, creatures who must and do place our faith in beliefs that cannot themselves be verified except by means established by the beliefs themselves." Smith quotes Augustine of Hippo: "I believe that I may understand." From Eliade's passages on the nature of archaic homo religiosus and his sacred cosmos, I think it is evident, without some discriminating qualifications, that the identification of modern religious man with the former by RA and JK is at best dubious, if not an outright example of "intellectual dishonesty." [For further writings on homo religiosus and the phenomenology of religion (and, especially, the problem with the definition of what "religion" is) see section below: "Homo Religiosus: Man, the Religious Humanoid."]
RA: Religions are not concerned with genuine history but with sacred history . The truths they convey have little to do with historical fact . The only questions that matter with regard to religion and its mythologies are what do these stories mean. After all, religion is, by definition, interpretation, and by definition all interpretations are valid. (Next sentence: while it is true that all interpretations are valid, some interpretations are more reasonable than others.) That is important to note because in many ways it goes to the heart of this discussion. False dichotomies created. To either believe the Bible is the word of God, or its not, is not the best way to think about the role of religion.
Again, when RA uses the term mythologies along with sacred history, it is misleading, because it sounds like hes discussing the pre-monotheistic, pre-historical religions, which were oral traditions that had sacred narratives (myths) of the origin of the world (cosmogonies) and of the gods, immortals, heroes or ancestors (theoganies). The problem here is the contradictory character of RAs claimsof which he himself has set up by coming out of the starting gate with a definition of "religion" that has nothing, or little to do, with the kind of religion that SH is attacking--the "religion" as practiced by millions of its followers today. RA: After all, religion is, by definition, interpretation, and by definition all interpretations are valid. (Next sentence: while it is true that all interpretations are valid, some interpretations are more reasonable than others.) To claim that religion is, by its very definition, interpretation (a definition I would agree with--in the best of all possible worlds) is a slippery slope to the deconstruction of scripture as sacred. RA calls for more sophisticated reading of scripture and speaks of modernist readings. How about postmodernist? Thats just where this definition leadsto postmodernist readings that deconstruct the sacred text as such; there is no word of God, just interpretations. (Careful Reza, there are those who will take you up on this seriouslyand you wont like it!) Therefore, almost everything RA later defends (against SH) lands him in contradiction. But RA also qualified this by saying some interpretations are more reasonable than others. True, but he leaves out that there are some that are more esoteric/mystical than others also. So, for that matter, how about kabbalistic and hermetic interpretations (a la literary critic Harold Bloom), if were going to talk of sophistication? However, theres the other side of this glaring contradiction: when you talk in terms of scriptural interpretation as more reasonable, you have set yourself up for a criterion that invites the kind of reading for which got Paine in trouble with the religious authorities. [See introduction above, An Apology for the Bible.] This more reasonable scripture has had its interpreters from Jefferson (The Jefferson Bible) to the Jesus Seminar (The Five Gospels), which has not only questioned whether many of Jesuss sayings are authentic (82% of words ascribed to Jesus not his), but also expunged all the miracles out of the New Testament. I seriously doubt that RA would approve of this more reasonable scripture! Therefore, I would like to ask of RA, since he claims unequivocally that all interpretations are valid: Is the following exegesis on the Bible more reasonable or is it more sophisticated? I tell you no virtue can exist without breaking these ten commandments. Jesus was all virtue, and acted from impulse, not from rules. Moral Virtues are continual Accusers of Sin & promote Eternal Wars & Dominency over others. (Blake)
SH: The point is that so many Christians and Moslems believe these things and not this liberal view of their scriptures. They have views that are worthy of our denigration. Views held by those whose decisions affect our lives. Religion is a strategy built on lies and self-deception.
SH is right on! Id like to know who these most people are; those that read the Bible in this poetical, allegorical, and symbolical way. And since this country is so heavy to the side of the fundamentalist Christian reading of scripture, I like to know: just where are all these Joseph Campbell-trained readers? But if RA wants a more sophisticated reading of the Bible, let me offer this infernal reading: The Vision of Christ that thou dost see / Is my Visions Greatest Enemy . . . Thine is the friend of All Mankind, / Mine speaks in parables to the Blind: / Thine loves the same world that mine hates, / Thy Heaven doors are my Hell Gates. . . / Both read the Bible day & night, / But thou read'st black where I read white. (Blake, The Everlasting Gospel)
RA: Multiple means to understand religion or scripture, as there are multiple means to read any piece of literature, or any ideology for that matter. Accusation of literalismSH reads scripture like any fundamentalist extremist. True test of how one goes about not just reading scripture but understanding scripture is understanding not just the historic context of it, the social context of it, but also recognizing that what you are reading is a description of sacred historya description not just of facts and events." Gospel writers not writing history"no writing of any scripture is writing what we consider as history. They were writing about the description of the numinous experience and encounter with the divinehowever that encounter is understood. We as intelligent 21st century modernist readers have to have more sophisticated understanding of these scriptures and read them within the sort of poetic, allegorical, and historical context or we should be laughed at too.
The problem with this argument is, as SH points out, that most believers dont read scripture this more sophisticated way (especially in America); they read it literally or legalistically or moralistically. Who are these most people? Are they most people in avant-garde theological seminaries or religious studies departments? Furthermore, the way RA states the problem with SHs way of reading scripture in historical and social context is very misleading, since the problem is just the opposite; for throughout most of the history of scriptural exegesis the Bible was read without any historical and social contextungrounded, ahistorical, and absolutist readings. RA becomes a master in sophistry here, using the altogether deceptive strategy of blaming the critic with just the thing the critic charges the believers withliteralism. Thus it is no accident that at one point RA, in making his case, says: It wouldnt be mere sophistry to say . . . . Oh yes it would! So if anyone is to be laughed at, it's the one who wants us to laugh at SH. [See next entry.] The issue of whether writers of scripture are doing history or not is too complex and involved to answer here. Suffice to say that RA's claim is, at best, misleading. Does he actually mean all writers of scripture? Even if we confine ourselves to the Biblical tradition, is there no "history" (as we understand it) in either the Old- or the New Testament? Even if we narrow the scope of the inquiry to the latter, is RA trying to tell us that there are no strictly historical (chronological) accounts there? This claim is hard to square with the overriding obsession of scriptural exegesis in the last century; that is, the search for the historical Jesus (even though there are in the ancient world only a couple of minimal references to Jesus outside of the Gospel narratives). (This was actually begun by Prof. Hermann Reimarus in middle of the eighteenth century.) To know the truth about Jesus, the real Jesus, one had to find the Jesus of history. The question of the historical Jesus was stimulated by the prospect of viewing Jesus through the new lens of historical reason and research instead of the lens of theology and creedal formulations. To complicate matters further, the aims of scriptural exegesis have gone through reversals. For instance, in the early nineteenth century it was once assumed that scholars had to prove that the details in the synoptic gospels were not historical. Thus D. F. Strauss applied the myth theory to the life of Jesus and treated the Gospel narrative like any other historical work, denying all supernatural elements in it. The current assumption is nearly the opposite: the gospels are now assumed to be narratives in which the memory of Jesus is embellished by mythic elements that express the church's faith in him, and by plausible fictions that enhance the telling of the gospel story for first-century believers who knew about divine saviors and miracle-workers firsthand. Thus, the historical elements in these narratives must therefore be demonstrated to be such. Furthermore, RA's claim is contradictory in another sense; the controversy caused in modern biblical exegesis when certain scholars pointed out that the Gospels were not historical (or biographical) narratives as conventionally believed, but texts whose purpose was to, as we might say today, rally the faithful. These are some of the problems with RA's claim, but there is another that I can't pass up. Recently,
theologians and scholars have offered a history of divergent Christian
communities and their anonymous writers who wrote widely different
chronicles for distinct purposes for over a period of a hundred years.
Once more, these "writers" (who RA claims are only writing "sacred
history") of later centuries assigned names of apostles and disciples
to the anonymous narratives about Jesus and his teachings, adjusted
chronologies, and expunged everything that would not present a coherent
history of the faith and justify the power of the church. Thus, RA's claim totally ignores the fact that the gospels have come down to us through centuries of scribal translation and interpretation, which not only contain human error but also purposeful manipulation to fit what the current prejudices dictated them to mean. [See link below: "Bart Ehrman and Misquoting Jesus."]
RA's insults: I write books because Im an expert in . . . whereas you . Your research tools are okay if you get them from Fox News. Unsophisticated view of religion. Simplistic ways of thinking. Knee-jerk blame of Koran and religion in general. Sams views are perfectly logical if your research tools are Fox News no, I mean that seriously! [Audience laughter.] SH treats religion in a vacuum and demonstrates a profound unsophistication. In all due respect to your intellectualism .
To his credit, SH not only doesnt play tit for tat and remains restrained, but actually complements RA: Your job is to and you are better at it than me. You are a diplomat. And speaking of being diplomatic, who is being, throughout the debate, more diplomatic? SH: I dont think were as far apart as you believe. Reza and I can possibly have a meeting of the minds here. Reza and I have more of a commonality in our approach to religion. (Reza Aslan is a Research Associate at USCs Center on Public Diplomacy.) Who is the "diplomat" here? Thus, here is an instance, aside from the intellectual content of the debate, when the atheist is much more considerate and kinder to his opponent that the religious man, who is supposed to me more moral. I have not the Charity for the Bishop that he pretends to have for Paine. I believe him to be a State trickster. Dishonest Misrepresentation. Priestly Impudence. Contemptible Falsehood & Detraction. . . . Mr. Paine has not extinguishd & cannot Extinguish, Moral rectitude; he has Extinguishd Superstition, which took the Place of Moral Rectitude. What has Moral Rectitude to do with Opinions concerning historical fact? It appears to me Now that Tom Paine [SH] is a better Christian [Moslem] than the Bishop [RA].
RA: Im an expert. My expertise.
RA keeps insisting that Im an expert! Im an expert! Is RA protesting too much? If he is such an expert in Mid-East affairs, his understanding and sympathies of the Israeli-Palestine issue leave much to be desired. His identification of Central American (Catholic) Liberation Theology (as Marxism) with death squads is patently false. Who had the death squads? The real government-backed right-wing death squads so infamous in that region were responsible for the murder of Liberation Theologist, Archbishop Romero. This is his example of bad Christianity? Listening to this disinformation, I can't help but feel that there's a certain logical connection to RAs demonization of Liberation Theology and his distaste for SH's social emphasis of scripture. Given this general aversion to any social reading of scripture, it makes sense that he would not like the social gospel.
RA: Its the easiest thing in the world to criticize religionjust turn on the TV! Intellectually dishonest about Biblical morality. To read scriptures in this way is to fundamentally misunderstand the key point of scripture The easiest thing in the world to find offensive and despicable in Bible .. and by these example deny the entire history of religion. Generalities based on anecdotal evidence.
This smacks of the right-wing redherring that is the anti-Hollywood argument (a la Michael Medved); that Hollywood movies always put religion in a bad light. If anything is "easy," it's this silly attempt to generalize about the content of TV programming. As far as criticizing the scripture is concerned, is it really that easy? It may be to point out religions evils, but is it so easy to get to the heart of the problem with religion and how it operates subliminally in our psyches? Was it "the easiest thing" for Nietzsche? Besides, SHs critiques by themselves are sometimes at the most obvious level. There is another level, and that is how these beliefs get translated into psychological, social, and political beliefs (e.g. how religious Ur-concept of monotheism, one God, gets into concepts that make for one truth, one country, one culturemonocultureall mitigating against diversity. And even if it is the easiest thing, could it be because religion has made it easy? In other words, while the secularists/atheists/agnostics first challenged the claims of religion, it could be argued it is nonetheless the case that the representatives of religion, by their making God so puny and provincialthe image of their own ignorant and twisted minds projected on a cosmic scalethat they invited independently-thinking people to overturn Him? For decades now we have heard religionists and other traditionalists bemoaning the terrible decline of religionthe loss of belief, values, and, moralityand pointing a waging finger outward at the forces of secularism, the enemies of religionthe unbelievers; atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, the counter-culture, Hollywood, rock music, hip-hop, and etc. Are these really the ones ultimately responsible? Again, perhaps we should look to our religious leaders as responsible for this state of affairsfor the the death of God; and for giving religion a bad name. Given the absurd, repressive, and destructive belief systems that these men of God have erected and promoted, no wonder that intelligent and inquiring minds of the modern period have rejected these beliefs outright! In support of my outrageous argument here, let me quote the 19th-century poet, painter, visionary Christian, William Blake, who proclaimed the death of the Christian God in his own way; he called this idol Nobodaddy and claimed Jesus the Imagination as his savior.
O for a voice like thunder, and a tongue To drown the throat of war! ---When the senses Are shaken, and the soul is driven to madness, Who can stand? When the souls of the oppressed Fight in the troubled air that rages, who can stand? When the whirlwind of fury comes from the Throne of God, when the frowns of his countenance Drive the nations together, who can stand? When Sin claps his broad wings over the battle, And sails rejoicing in the flood of Death; When souls are torn to everlasting fire, And fiends of Hell rejoice upon the slain, O who can stand? O who hath caused this? O who can answer at the throne of God? The Kings and Nobles of the Land have done it! Hear it not, Heaven, thy Ministers have done it! (Blake)
RA: "The death of God has been going on for a long time" and yet people still believe (in spite of such dire pronouncements).
It could be said that this debate represents the ontological divide that separates those who, on the one hand, feel the death of God the believers worst nightmare and, on the other hand, those who feel it the best thing that happened since the Big Bang. (Actually, theres a more complex position: that of the person of faith (such as the "religious existentialist" and the "death-of-God theologian") who understands that the death of God is, paradoxically, the rebirth of something greater. (But that may be too sophisticated a position for RA to grasp.) I would suggest that perhaps the death of God has already occurred when Nietzsche said it did, but most believers are too blind to know whats going on. Nietzsche was truly prophetic. (RA says he thinks the prophets today are scientists!) But RA, in rebuttal to SH, keeps harping about the need for a more sophisticated approach to religion and scripture. So if RA wants sophistication, then lets get sophisticated, because in order to understand what Nietzsche meant by the death of God, a more sophisticated and non-literal approach must be taken. (Its ironic that RA abuses SH for this literalistic approach to his sacred cow, religion; yet he himself takes just this literal approach to the supposed anti-religion thesis known as the death of God. Like many of his camp, they use Nietzsche as a straw man and seldom ever read him.) In fact, the death of God means the death of the entire symbolic cosmos that supported the belief in God; it meant, among other things, that religious constructs are obsolete. It meant, in other words, the death of an idol. (The death of the idol Blake called Nobodday.) Once more, Nietzsches Zarathustra was himself a religious prophet. Therefore, the God that was dead was God in its fullest sense. To quote Nietzsche: At bottom it is only the moral God that has been overcome. (Sophistication? Cf. theologians and philosophers of religion who are working out an alternative religious system to replace classical monotheismpanentheism.) Again, since RA states that he wants more sophistication in approaching these matters and accuses SH of being profoundly unsophisticated, the question is: Just who is guilty of being profoundly unsophisticated?
RA: On double-standard. Why dont we blame science, secularism, and other ideologies by the same standards? . . . overlaying religious constructs on nationalistic issues. . . . doing exactly what the religious extremists are doing . . . the cosmic conception history. The cause of conflict, bloodshed, and war in history is not religion, but other social ills, like nationalism and etc. You are blaming religion.
Double-standard indeed! If the charge against SH is that of a double-standard, then RA certainly is
himself guilty, since he defines "religion" in such a way as to validate
it when necessary and yet absolve it of responsibility when necessary.
(This seems like hypocrisy. Didn't Jesus have to say something similar to the Pharisees, about their hypocrisy? Something that could be loosely translated as "those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones"?) SH had pointed out this deceptive word-game in his very first response to RA description of
what "religion" is to believers; i.e., SH being accused of
misrepresenting the beliefs of Jews, Christians, and Moslems whenever
he criticizes religion. Again RA demonstrates sheer sophistry. (It wouldnt be mere sophistry to say . . . .) About the charge against science and secular ideologies, perhaps this is off the mark because science and secularism do not share, by definition, the same claim to absolute, unchangeable truth. Try as Aslan may to deflect the valid criticisms of religion, this equivocation of religion and science is sheer sophistry. For while there may be some secondary ways that religion and science could be equally held responsible, no amount of verbal slight of hand can alter the fact that they differ essentially in their ontological and epistemological underpinnings. And when its convenient to do so, the religionists are the first to point to the unbridgeable gulf that separates them; after all, God, not man, institutes religion and whose Word in scripture (dogma) is infallible and unchanging. Religion, as institution is, so to speak, vertical to all other man-made, horizontal institutions. (Cf. the sophistry of the Bishop trying to deflect responsibility away from the sex scandals in the Church. A Roman Catholic Bishop appeared on a TV interview in the wake of the revelations of the sexual misconduct of Catholic priests with young boys. He offered a brilliant piece of sophistry: the Church was actually no different from the rest of the institutions in our society; they all had their share of sexual misconduct in the workplace. Really? I hate to quibble over insignificant details, but what the good Bishop fails to take into consideration is that these other institutions are secular and dont include in their articles of incorporation a dogma on the nature of sex and its place in the great scheme of things, or that the Church itself sees its own institution as ontologically vertical to all other horizontal secular institutions. Thus one is tempted to ask: Could it be that the there is a direct relationship between the sexual misconduct of its priests and the Churchs teaching about sex, in general, and its official policy of celebrate priests, in particular? )
As far as other ideologies are concerned, if they in fact are guilty of absolute dogmatism and etc. (like Marxist ideology), perhaps its because these unconsciously have incorporated structures from religion. (Yes, Stalin was a mass murderer, but he also was trained--"indoctrinated"--as a seminary student!) Perhaps one good example will suffice to demonstrate what Im talking about: how Marx unconsciously incorporated Christian eschatology into this vision of the ideal society. As atheist Bertrand Russell pointed out, despite its dogmatic atheism, Marxism is modeled on the Christian messianic view of history. In Marxs writings the redemptive role of the just and the anointed in Christian eschatological writings becomes the proletariat, whose struggle and sufferings change the world. Thus Marx predicts a final struggle between good and evilpersonified, respectively, by the proletariat and capitaliststhat is analogous to the beginning of the Millennium. Paradise, in the communist utopia, is a classless society in which work is done by machines and all goods are held in common.
RA's protests (like the "double standard") are part of his main defense against SHs critique of religion; that it makes as much sense to fault religion for these social ills than it does science and secular ideologies. My point here is, again, that while SH's criticisms may indeed seem like a double standard on a one-to-one basis, it is in fact, at another levelthat of the unconscious and subliminala valid criticism, because these dogmatic beliefs become, after some 2000 plus years of mental programming, deep-seated structures in the subliminal mind, conditioning even the ideologies of its enemies. As a result, these deeply buried religious constructs are almost impossible to overcome. For instance, it has been my experience to witness that even those persons who were raised religiously and "lose their faith" in later life (like recovering Catholics) nevertheless have a strong emotional attachment to their childhood faith. Consequently, when someone like SH levels charges against religion, it is not only the "liberal" or "moderate" religionists who balk. In fact, it is often those who have supposedly lost their religion who habitually come back at you with "you have a jaundiced view of religion," or "you can't blame religion for these evils in the world, religion has done more good things; why don't you concentrate on those?" (My own "jaundiced" view takes its cue from the third-century Neoplatonist philosopher, Porphyry, who witnessed the rise of Christianity and judged it to be "a disease of the soul." Because Christianity has been imposed so deeply in the psyche of Westerners, in a certain sense all of us have been infected, whether we consciously adhere to its dogmas or not. Thus, I view Christianism as an internal toxin, or "virus," in the body politic; a kind of theological pigment in the blood that causes us to behave Christianity, whether or not we are consciously holding its doctrines in our minds. I'm waiting for a "more sophisticated" analysis of the legacy of Christianity in the modern world, one that (talking about "jaundiced") colors much of our secular and political views. Although modern psycho-analysis, since Freud, has demonstrated the sexual unconscious of modern Westerners and its repressive outcome personally and socially, we have yet to confront the fact that we are all walking around with a theological unconscious. Therefore, it is deceptive to think we can have a fair debate on a level playing field concerning "religion;" that positions pro and con start from an equal advantage.) RA wants more sophistication. However, to engage this problem at this level would certainly take a deeper, more sophisticated analysis of the role religion plays in the formation of science and secular ideologies. (Cf.
the Old Testament concept Gods chosen people and how this concept
gets translated into secular terms in modern empire-building in
general, and in the fabric of the American character; its founding and
its role in the world, its "Manifest Destiny." Cf. the notion of the material world as devoid of spirit by religion and dead stuff in science.) Yet RA's argument against SH is that his opponent "overlays religious constructs" on secular issues and nationalistic phenomena and uses the same "cosmic conception of history" as the fundamentalists do. Thus, one wonders where RA has been since the beginning of the Iraq war (of which, by the way, he's supposed to be an "expert"). There is the ultra-right ideologue, Ann Coulter, who, in a fit of crusading Christian zealotry, seriously advocated that the U. S. forces in Iraq kill as many Muslims as they could find and convert the rest to Christianity. Before we wrongly assume that this kind of crusading fanaticism is limited to democracy-challenged theocrats and right-wing journalistic psychopaths, one of the commanders of the U. S. military in occupied territory, General Boykin, has become infamous for making public appearances, in full military uniform, during which he declares that America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are part of a Christian Holy Crusade against Islam, a religion that Boykin suggests is aligned with Satan. After it became known that General Boykin was making such declarations, President George W. Bush stood behind him, defending Boykin's place at the center of what Bush, himself, had called a crusade.
About the argument over whether religion is more responsible for bloodshed and war than secular institutions and ideologies, SH replies that he does not think religion is more responsible. However, for the sake of argument, one could make the case that it is. The only reason that secular ideologies seem to be more responsible (forget, for the moment, the Church's role in the genocide of the native populations of the Americas; or forget the psychological impact of centuries of European Inquisitions, Witch-hunts, and religious wars--as its representatives would like us to do!) is that in the time of the reign of Christendom there were fewer populations to kill and the Church didnt have the advanced technologies of killing that the modern, secular world does. Be that as it may, and to concede the point to RA, the problem with RAs argument is that it totally ignores the question of whether, by the indoctrination generations of people with its religious ideologies, the Church set the stageat least ideationally and psychologically for the conflicts of the modern secular state. (Cf. the argument about the conflict in the Mid-East and how the Christian Right is using it to bolster its Christoid fantasy of Armageddon.) To give one prime example: the responsibility of the writings of the New Testament for anti-Judaism, which developed into modern anti-Semitism. To the uninformed it appears that anti-Semitism is purely a secular creation, having to do with ultra-Nationalism in Nazi Germany (and other countries). But they havent looked into the religious roots of this secular phenomenon in early Christianity and in the Middle Ages. From early on the Christian view was that the Jews were responsible for killing Christ, and during the medieval period they were pictured as the very Anti-Christ of the Book of Revelation. (The Protestant Reformation had little effect on curbing these anti-Semitic tendencies of the Catholic Church. Martin Luther himself was a rabid anti-Semite.) Thus during the Crusades (c. 1096), certain Christian princes and noblemen realized that the infidel they were fighting against in the east (the Moslems) was in their very midst (the Jew). So in the Rhineland (!) they launched pogroms on entire communities of Jews. In other words (against RAs claim that religion has nothing to do with this kind of thing), it wouldnt be too much to say that without Christianity fascist anti-Semitism would not have been possible. Therefore RAs claim that SH is overlaying religious constructs on nationalistic issues is wrong in this case, and by extension, many others. It simply appears to be the case that these secular ills are totally outside religion when one is ignorant of the deeper roots of these ills. (Cf. historians Arnold Toynbee and L. L. Whyte, who have examined the Christian roots of our environmental crisis, especially the former's "The Genesis of Pollution.") In recent decades some representatives of the Christianity (Jewish theologians have long been writing about this) have been brave enough to tackle Christian anti-Semitism and hold their religion responsible. (See Sidney G. Hall, Christian Anti-Semitism and Pauls Theology and John Dominic Crossan, Who Killed Jesus: Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus. For a scientific study, see Glock and Stark, Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism: A scientific study of the ways in which the teachings of Christian churches shape American attitudes toward the Jews.) In this area of the way in which religion gets translated into and informs secular ideologies, RA totally ignores not only the subtle aspects Im pointing out, but also the blatant alliance of State and Church in this country (never mind in Islamic ones). Thus, if I were debating someone like RA (or his Christian counterpart), I would argue that phenomenon of the spectre of fascism in America is essentially a Christian phenomenon. I have coined the term (1990) "Christo-fascism" to identify this. (A recent book, American Fascism by Chris Hedges, has validated my designation. In the light of the Christian Right's rise to national power and their wish to reestablish an American theocracy, I would think it's about time we have a debate on whether Christianism is a "religion," or, in fact, essentially--since Emperor Constantine made it the state religion--a politicalmovement in disguise. Of course, as long as there's no prior debate on whether what we know as the Christianity is the religion of Jesus or the religion of Paul, we will be in no position to argue the former.) Paine says that Christianity put a stop to improvement, & the bishop has not shewn the contrary. . . . State Religion which they calld God & so were liars as Christ says. That the Jews assumed a right Exclusively to the benefits of God will be a lasting witness against them & the same will it be against Christians. All Penal Laws court Transgression & therefore are cruelty & Murder. . . . The Abomination that maketh desolate, i. e. State Religion, which is the source of all Cruelty.
RA: I dont understand that irreconcilable dogmas have anything to do with the existence of God or the question of the existence of God. Thats where Im fundamentally confused by that argument.
I think RA is confused all rightbut not by this argument! Its about this Godsthis loving Fathersactions. To me, who believe the Bible & profess myself a Christian, a defense of the Wickedness of the Israelites in murdering so many thousands under the pretence of a command from God is altogether Abominable & Blasphemous. . . . Christ died as an Unbeliever & if the Bishops had their will so would Paine . . . .
RA: Slavery. No moral quality whatever attached to slavery 3000 years ago. To read it in this way is to totally misunderstand the point of scripture. We should laugh at literal readings that look at slavery in this way. Like rejecting Huck Finn because of the morality of 2000 years ago. JL: Paul didnt worry about slavery because the end of the world was coming soon, and so the moral problem of the institution of slavery would be solved.
Talking about laughing at different readings of scripture, what would make me laugh, if it werent so perverted, are exactly these learned pronouncements in defense of Biblical slavery. Especially absurd and perverted is the twisted logic (is he serious?) of JK; that the institution of slavery solves itself because of the prophecy of the end of the world. I cant help but think, wouldnt it be nice if all our social ills were so conveniently and terminally solved? Speaking of morality, what kind of morality is this? Does JK actually believe Paul? Since RA is so sincere about labeling SH as doing what the religious extremists are doingreading Bible literallylets take him up on it! Aren't JK and, by extension, RA doing exactly what the religious extremists (in this country) are doing? Whose morality is this? Isnt it exactly the morality that we have witnessed time and time again of the Religious Right? The morality of the end of times and the Rapture? And the morality that gets translated into social policy in this country? Remember Secretary of the Interior, James Watt? We were told that we didnt have to worry about our environmentthe end of the world was imminent and Jesus was coming back. Yes, here, too, the environmental crisis would solve itself! So, whose reading is exactly like the religious extremists? (Again, see Arnold Toynbee and L. L. Whyte on the Christian roots of the environmental crisis.)
About the issue of judging the past by the moral standards of today, this politically correct mistake was earned the epithet of Presentism: judging the past by the moral standards of today. Okay, but, even so, Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God! We should hold the incarnation of Christ-consciousness (which has an eternal range) to a higher standard than that of the average person, who gets cut more slack because his morality is finite, fallible, and conditional, since it evolves with time. Be that as it may, my point here is that this charge of presentism just doesnt stand up to the facts of history. A good example of this charge of presentism was brought home to me during the Native American campaign of 500 Hundred years of Resistance in regard to our Columbus Day celebrations. I had asked the deacon of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, a liberal priest, about whether it was time for the Catholic Church to formally apologize for the genocide it perpetuated upon the indigenous peoples of the Americas. The response was that this was presentism. The problem with this excuse is that Bartoleme de las Casas, Spanish priest, scholar, historian, and founder of utopian community, was a human rights advocate and activist for native peoples in Columbus time. He denounced the practice of slavery. Now, as far as Jesus and Paul are concerned, both RA and JK claim that SH cant condemn the New Testament for its support of slavery because there was no moral judgment whatsoever was attached to the institution in that era of history. However, this view is belied by that fact that ancient man did consider the morality of slavery. First, I want to briefly examine the issue of slavery in the ancient world in general, and then in ancient Roman Palestine in particular. (I don't know where RA gets the figure of 3000 years when considering the New Testament. Nevertheless, I will give him almost this much time, although the argument was over slavery in the world of Jesus' time.)
In fact, the father of philosophy and founder of a mystical community, Pythagoras, according to his second-century biographer, Iamblichus, was an opponent of slavery (On the Pythagorean Way of Life, 33). This is in the 6th-century BCE!, which seems to give good evidence that the ancients did grapple morally with the institution of slavery. Of course, one could reply that this is far in time and place from the Palestine of the New Testament. If the Greek Pythagoras and his world seem far removed from the Palestine of Roman times, let me offer this piece historical biography, because this retort is short-circuited by a curious fact in the life of Pythagoras (c. 582-507 BC). It seems that when he was a young seeker after wisdom he took a ship from Egypt, where he was studying, to Israels Mt. Carmel, which he climbed in order to contact the Essene sanctuary there. Atop the mountain he received teachings from the Essene Nazarenes. When he returned to the ship, the Egyptian sailors planned to sell him into slavery, but were so impressed with his spiritual numinosity that they relented. So there is a connection between the values of the Greek world and the Jewish. Yet, admittedly, this doesnt necessarily prove anything about the issue of slavery and attitudes toward it in ancient Roman Palestine. However, upon further research, we discover three important facts: (1) The Essene community figures into the world of the New testament, since Jesus is said to have either been influenced by the Essenes through John the Baptist, or even may have been Essenes himself; (2) The Essenes were against slavery; (3) There is a connection between the Essene and the Pythagorean communities.
The Essenes are mentioned by several ancient writers, including Josephus, Philo, Pliny, and Porphyry. Philo states that the Essenes rejected animal sacrifices, despised wealth, lived communally, did not make oaths, and rejected slavery (Every Good Man is Free), saying there is not a single slave among them. Instead of this search for the Essenes in the Dead Sea Scrolls, we should look at the Pythagoreans. While the similarities between the Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls community seem to be nebulous and tenuous at best, the similarities between the Essenes and the Pythagoreans are obvious and striking. The followers of Pythagoras, a Greek philosopher of the 6th century BCE, are an easy choice for comparison with the Essenes for two reasons: first, they had so much in common with the Essenes . . . that it would be correct to speak of these latter groups as Jewish Pythagoreans; and secondly, because Josephus states flatly that the Essene lifestyle and the Pythagorean lifestyle were the same (Antiquities 15.10.4). We dont have to look far to find similarities between the Pythagoras described by Iamblichus and the Essenes described by Josephus, Pliny, Porphyry, and Philoas well with the Jewish Christians. The neo-Pythagorean Iamblichus in his book On the Pythagorean Way of Life states that: Pythagoras was an opponent of slavery. [Keith Akers, The Lost Religion of Jesus, 2001]
What we know about slavery is that it was a universal institution throughout ancient times, yet, as SH points out it was never questioned in the Old Testament or New Testament. However, this doesnt mean that either (as we have seen) the world of Jesus time was completely devoid moral conscience about it (as RA and JK would have us believe), or that the ancient world in general never questioned the morality of slavery. In fact, the second person on record (after Pythagoras) to denounce slavery as an evil was the Greek playwright Euripides (c. 480-406 BC), who wrote in his play Hecuba: That thing of evil, by its nature evil, / Forcing submission from a man to what/ No man should yield to. The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, by Diogenes Laertius, has the following statement from a letter of the Milesian philosopher Anaximenes (c. 585-525 BC) to Pythagoras: To what purpose should I trouble myself in searching out the secrets of the stars, having death or slavery continually before my eyes?
Therefore, both the line from Euripides and the letter of the Greek philosopher should warn us that it is not presentism (judging the ancient past by our values or morality) to critically ask why Jesus and Paul could not see their way clear to morally condemn the institution of slavery. Given this information about the issue of slavery in the ancient world of the New Testament, we can only wonder about how RA and JK can make their claims and ask: Just who is being intellectually dishonest? I have not the Charity for the Bishop that he pretends to have for Paine. I believe him to be a State trickster. Dishonest Misrepresentation. Priestly Impudence. Contemptible Falsehood & Detraction. . . . The Bible or Peculiar Word of God, Exclusive of Conscience or the Word of God Universal, is that Abomination . . . & henceforth every man may converse with God & be a King & Priest in his own house.
RA: Religion and literature. Condemning Bible for its immorality. His analogy of Huck Finn with the Bible; We wouldnt condemn all literature because the novel used the word nigger. (SH interjects: Im not rejecting in terms of literature.)
The problem with this specious analogy is the unacknowledged difference that makes all the difference in the world between secular literature and sacred scripture is that people are not fighting wars and killing each other over whose a better writer, Dickens or Hemmingway. Besides, this analogy begs the question as to the idea of Bible as literature. (Opening commentators remarks about everything is interpretation.) Bible first interpreted by an exegesis using the tools and methods of literary criticism. Watch out what analogies you makeyou dont want to go there! Perhaps the Bible and the Koran can survive their privileged status in modernism, but in postmodernist literary criticism there are no sacred texts per se; that is, no text that can claim to be the unmediated Word of God, since they are all written by all-too-human authors. Again, as pointed out in the debate: everything is interpretation. So who is being disingenuous?
RA sees SHs view of the role of religion/Islamas essentially a religious problemin world conflicts as simplistic, as a fundamentalist, literalist reading of scripture by the light of todays morality.
But it is anything but simplistic to see how religion sets up the intellectual atmosphere, the entire social context, and language used in otherwise geo-political conflict. And how religion justifiesno, sanctifiesthe atrocities committed.
RA: Religion is just the language these political extremists use to express their economic and other interests. On the other hand religion is so much a part of history that you cant have or write about history without it. Religion is also a language that describes the mysterious transcendent experience. The writers of the Bible are not writing history as we know it today they are writing about a numinous experience.
This view wants it both ways: on the one hand, religion is everything about historyyou cant separate the study of history from the study of religion; on the other, religion is reduced to merely a language, either for political grievances or to phenomenologically describe the transcendent /numinous experience. Here, in using the term numinous, RA is using the language not of mainstream theology, but the technical vocabulary of the disciple of the history- and phenomenology of religion. It was coined (as far as Im aware) in Rudolph Ottos classical study, The Idea of the Holy (1928). Suffice to say, in contradiction to RAs claim, few believing Christians would recognize this description for what the Bible is describing. Moreover, the main problem with this claim is that the numinous (like the term, homo religiosus) was coined to describe a very different kind of religious world-view; that of archaic man, who didnt have religion (in the Axial-age sense and in our modern sense of revealed scripture as creed) as much as he had mythology (which expressed and embodied, through ritual, an original ontology and cosmogony). Indeed, it was precisely on this issue of mythology that the historical religion of Judeo-Christianity carved out its superior niche in the ancient world. Other sects had mythology, whereas they had the real thingreligion (i.e. their savior god was a real, historical person not a creature of myth like Dionysus, Attis, Adonis, Mithras, etc.). For RA to make such a claim goes against the distinction upon which Christianity made itself superior to all other sects in the ancient world. Therefore, like RAs dubious claims about scriptural religions overriding concern with sacred history (which is another concept better suited to the cosmogonies of archaic man and the theoganies of ancient man than to the creedal religionsmonotheist Judaism, Christianity, Islamthat identify with linear history), these comparisons are misleading, sounding more like hes teaching a class in the history- or phenomenology of archaic religion than debating the actual issues involved with our current religious situation and its history. (I will leave it to the reader to decide, since RA is so concerned about this fault, whether he himself is being intellectually dishonest or merely disingenuous.)
Therefore, we have to ask what it means for the writers of the New Testament to be writing about this transcendent experience. How are they writing about it and why? If the writers of the New Testament, especially Paul, were in fact only interested in describing this transcendent experience (Pauls conversion experience on the road to Damascus), it was only to shore up their claim to the one and only truth of their savior, the Christ. Indeed, if it was the numinous, then it only served the miracle mongering that proved the our god is better than your god claim; i. e., it won over new converts (which conversion project religious historian Ramsey MacMullen describes the Christians carried on like a shoot out at Dodge City). Thus, if we are going to call this transcendent experience in the New Testament a description, then I say its not a description in a phenomenological sense but rather a description in a polemical sense. The other problem with this claim is that it smacks of something the Church of Rome always held suspect and thus repressedmysticism. You were not supposed to go around seeking this transcendent experience; it was enough that the divine was mediated through the sacraments of the Church. The mystical experience was dangerous because you could get the notion that you didnt need the mediating priesthood; that, in fact, you were one with God. (Since RA represents the Islamic faith, it should be mentioned that just this mysticism led to the torture and crucifixion in 922 of al-Hallaj, the Persian-Sufi teacher and poet, who claimed just this.) With this in mind, I will, again, leave it up to the reader to decide if RA is being outright intellectually dishonest, or merely disingenuous.
JL: Islam, unlike Christianity has gone through a reformation which has tempered its excesses.
Agree with RA here. SH needs to be more even handed in his condemnation of all three religions to an equal extent. However, to be equally critical, when SH accuses Islam of becoming a death cult, this should also be applied to Christianity, but not in the sense that SH meant it. It could be argued (and Nietzsche did argue it) that Christianity is a death cult (Nietzsche claim Christianity was in love with death; was anti-life), in the sense of mistaking eternal life for the stasis of death. This is can be seen in its primary symbol, the Cross of the Crucified Christ. Because of its preoccupation with torture, suffering, and death, theologians, like Mary Daly, have pointed out the essential masochistic nature of that tortured symbol. (Actually the Cross wasnt the first symbol of the religion but became that; the first symbol was a fish.) Now that we have seen the logical outcome of this symbol stated graphically by Mel Gibsons The Passion of the Christ, what further evidence do we need to see Christianitys masochistic death wish? That being said, one has to agree with the criticism from RA and JK. I would say that SHs strong suit is not the nature of the crisis in the Mid-East, nor the particulars of the players involved. One has to be particularly cautious not to appear to be buying into the current American demonization of all things Arab and Islam (as if these two things necessarily were one). That being said, I dont think SH has any particular prejudice against Islamic religion over the other monotheistic faiths. I think he is coming out of a certain ignorance about the issues involved. However, as I stated before, for that matter, judging by RAs counter-assessments, he could also use some educationlike about whats going on in the conflicts in Palestine and Iraq. (See, Robert Fisk, The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.) Yet, the difference is that SH isnt constantly pounding his chest about his expertise.
JL: Newton and Bible. Scientific mind can co-exist with mystical mind. SH: partitioned mind.
Newton and the Bible. Okay. But how about Newton and the Alchemical text? Here, I trust that both RA and SH have no room in their respective world-views for the Newton who wrote both the Principia Mathematica and the Hunting of the Green Lyon.
SH: We have moderation and liberalism in religion today because of hundreds of years of religions collision with modernity and so understand Bible differently.
This is an important point. One aspect of it deserves comment. The upholders of religion in our time cry foul whenever anyone like SH levels incisive criticism at their sacred cow, labeling it bashing religion/Christianity. Some of the more sophistically clever even claim that those who engage in attacking religion do so because it's now cool to be anti-religious. But the truth is that given the many centuries of Christian political and cultural hegemony in the West, the religionists are not accustomed to hear criticism and, thus, engage in knee-jerk defense of their right to impose their religious views on the rest of us. Indeed, no authoritarian system suffers questioning acceptingly. As far as being cool to be anti-religious, it wasnt cool for those that stood courageously up to the imposition of the Christian religion (from both the orthodox and liberal camps) on secular Americans in their public institutions. Witness what happened to atheist activist Madalyn Murray OHare in the 1950s and 60s. As SH indicates, the atheists seem to be the last unacknowledged repressed minority in America. (Those who seem to think it's "cool" to be against religion are those who haven't bothered to seriously study religious traditions and the real issues involved; they simply are responding in a gut-reaction way. In this sense they are the twin-brothers of the uninformed believers.) Be that as it may, the "bashing religion/Christianity" knee-jerk defense (a la Jerry Falwell, Michael Medved, and et. al.) is simply an attempt to turn reality on its head: "We are the real historical victims of repression!" No, you just want to continue unchecked in your project to turn America into a theocracy ("This is a Christian country"). (I would have liked to hear more debate on this issue, as it pertains to the problem of the hegemony of "religion" in secular America. Since I have already quoted Blake about Jesus--"His Seventy Disciples sent / Against Religion & Government"--, I would add what Allen Ginsberg, who considered Blake his original mentor, had to say in a 1994 interview: "Stand up against governments, against God--against the monotheist domination of consciousness that insists on its own party line.") I would suggest that if the Christians don't like being criticized they cease and desist in trying to impose their religious views (in both blatant and many subtle ways) on the rest of us secular people. I, for one, am a live-and-let-live person. I don't care what anyone believes about "religion" (whether formal, or whether it gets expressed in more far-out ways of fantasy). But if you start telling me that, besides respecting your views, I have to be subservient to them (in one way or another), or if you're claiming that you're a better American (or even a better person) than me because of your belief in Jesus (when you actually mean the "religion of Paul"), then you've got a fight on your hands brother! As far as SH's observation goes, if the Christian Church looks more moderate or reasonable now, it is incumbent that we understand that didnt change out of the goodness of its religious heart, because it saw the wisdom of changing its outmoded and repressive viewsno, it was dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world; forced to change when people became more educated and freer from the monopolistic influence of the Church. And you can bet your life that (as SH said we no longer do) wed still be burning heretics at the stake, if the Church had its way. Christ died as an Unbeliever & if the Bishops had their will so would Paine . . . .
To conclude my analysis of the issues raised in this debate on Religion and Reason, I end the same way as I began; that is, with the candid and terse observations from Christian William Blake on that earlier debate on the same subject.
Paine has not attacked Christianity. Watson has defended the Antichrist.
Paine is either a devil or an Inspired man. Men who give themselves to their Energetic Genius in the manner that Paine does are no Examiners. If they are not determinately wrong they must be Right or the Bible is false . . . . The man who pretends to be a modest enquirer into the truth of a self-evident thing is a Knave. . . .
The trifles which the Bishop [RA] has combated in the following Letters are such as do nothing against Paines [SHs] Arguments, none of which the Bishop [RA] has dared to Consider. One, for instance, which is that the books of the Bible were never believd willingly by any nation & that none but designing Villains ever pretended to believeThat the Bible is all a State Trick, thro which tho the People at all times could see, they never had the power to throw off. Another Argument is that all the Commentators on the Bible are Dishonest Designing Knaves, who in the hopes of a good living adopt the State religion; this he has shewn with great force, which calls upon His Opponent [RA] loudly for an answer. . . .
[Written on last page of the An Apology for the Bible] It appears to me Now that Tom Paine [SH] is a better Christian [Moslem] than the Bishop [RA]. I have read this Book with attention & find that the Bishop [RA] has only hurt Paines [SHs] heel while Paine [SH] has broken his head. The Bishop [RA] has not answered one of Paines [SHs] grand objections.
As an epilogue to the debate "Religion & Reason," I want to address the issue of "intellectual dishonesty." This was raised in the debate, oddly enough, by Reza Aslan, who used it like a club to beat Sam Harris over the head (of his "intellectualism"). Oddly, because in debates over religion it is usualy heard from the other side; that is, the atheist will charge the theist with "intellectual dishonesty" about his or her beliefs (beliefs in spite of the theological, scriptual, or historical evidence to the contrary). Indeed, I have observed many good Christians, even saintly ones, who have unmoving faith in the dogmas because they seem to be able to compartmentalize their minds and thus avoid certain facts that would seriouusly challenge their beliefs. Consequently, I can say, in a certain sense, I suspect I have never met an intellectualy honest Christian. Ordinarily, I would not press the issue of "intellectual dishonesty," but given the fact that Mr. Aslan has made an issue out of it--big time--I must pick up the gauntlet. I think I have already demonstrated in my "Annotations" that Mr. Aslan's charge of "intellectual dishonesty" is the proverbial "pot calling the kettle black." Here, I want to take it one step further. Admittedly, I have heretofore only suspected (with no proof) that Christians are "intellectually dishonest." But that was before I heard scholar Bart Ehrman being interviewed on C-SPAN. Thus, maybe the fact that I never met an intellectually honest Christian is because to be such means you can no longer be a Christian! Hear it for yourself.
Man as homo sapiens, the rational animal, or man as homo religiosus, the religious animal?
Crucial to an understanding of Eliade's The Sacred and the Profane are three categories: the Sacred (which is a transcendent referent such as the gods, God, or Nirvana), hierophany (which is the breakthrough of the sacred into human experience, i.e. a revelation), and homo religiosus (the being par excellence prepared to appreciate such a breakthrough). One of Eliade's aims is to acquaint readers with the idea of the numinous, a concept provided in Rudolf Otto's The Idea of the Holy. The numinous experience is that experience of the Sacred which is particular to religious human beings (homo religiosus) in that it is experientially overwhelming, encompassing the mysterium tremendum et fascinans, both the awesomely fearful and the enthrallingly captivating aspects of the Holy, or, the Wholly Other . In expanding and expounding the phenomenological dimensions of the Sacred, Eliade points out that the Sacred appears in human experience as a crucial point of orientation at the same time it provides access to the ontological reality which is its source and for which homo religiosus thirsts. According to Eliade, homo religiosus thirsts for being. Myth as the repetition and imitation of divine models allows homo religiosus to (1) remain in the sacred, "hence in reality;" and, (2) sanctify the world. "It is not without interest to note that homo religiosus assumes a humanity that has a transhuman, transcendent model. This is so because homo religiosus always views the world as revealing a sacred modality. "Every cosmic fragment is transparent; its own mode of existence shows a particular structure of being, and hence of the sacred," since, for homo religiosus "sacrality is a full manifestation of being." Cosmic sacrality is thus primordial and yet ever-present in its distant revelation and ongoing revelatory capacity.
In turning to issues of "Human Existence and Sanctified Life," Eliade points out that in the contemporary world "religion as a form of life and Weltanschauung is represented by Christianity." A factor which can limit one's understanding of the total gamut of religious expression and expressivity available within the mental universe of homo religiosus. Indeed, to have studied the great classical religions and the high-religions of other cultures is of some advantage, but other data need to be considered far beyond that. "To gain a broader religious perspective, it is more useful to become familiar with the folklore of European peoples; in their beliefs and customs, their attitude toward life and death, many archaic religious situations are still recognizable." This is so because many of the religious expressions of rural peasant Christians in these European countrysides have incorporated a primordial, ahistorical Christianity that preserves a cosmic religion from pre-historic times not readily seen in the more urbanized Christianities of the secular cities. But beyond this there is the "primitive" world of "nomadic herdsmen, of totemistic hunters, of peoples still at the stage of gathering and small-game hunting (p164)" for whom the world exist in total sacrality, and for whom every aspect of existence reflects a sacred connection. "This is why, beginning at a certain stage of culture, man conceives of himself as a microcosm. He forms part of the god's creation; in other words, he finds in himself the same sanctity that he recognizes in the cosmos. It follows that his life is homologized to cosmic life; as a divine work, this cosmos becomes the paradigmatic image of human existence." "Openness to the world enables religious man to know himself in knowing the world--and this knowledge is precious to him because it is religious, because it pertains to being." Thus, homo religiosus lives in an open cosmos and is in turn open to the world. "This means (a) that he is in communication with the gods; (b) that he shares in the sanctity of the world. That religious man can live only in an open world, we saw when we analyzed the structure of sacred space; man desires to dwell at a center...His dwelling is a microcosm; and so too is his body."
What Is Religious-Ness And Religious Consciousness, As Functions Of Orientation
But when we say that "God" is the object of religious experience, we must realize that God is frequently an extremely indefinite concept which does not completely coincide with what we ourselves usually understand by it. Religious experience, in other terms, is concerned with a Somewhat. But this assertion often means no more than that this Somewhat is merely a vague something; and in order that man may be able to make more significant statements about this Somewhat, it must force itself upon him, must oppose itself to him as being Something Other. Thus, the first affirmation we can make about the Object of Religion is that it is a highly exceptional and extremely impressive Other. Subjectively, again, the initial state of mans mind is amazement; and as Soderblom has remarked, this is true not only for philosophy but equally for religion. As yet, it must further be observed, we are in no way concerned with the supernatural or the transcendent: we can speak of God in merely a figurative sense; but there arises and persists an experience which connects or unites itself to the Other that thus obtrudes. Theory, and even the slightest degree of generalization, are still far remote; man remains quite content with the purely practical recognition that this Object is a departure from all that is usual and familiar; and this again is the consequence of the Power it generates. The most primitive belief, then, is absolutely empirical; as regards primitive religious experience, therefore, and even a large proportion of that of antiquity, we must in this respect accustom ourselves to interpret the supernatural element in the conception of God by the simple notion of an Other, of something foreign and highly unusual, and at the same time the consciousness of absolute dependence, so well known to ourselves, by a indefinite and generalized feeling of remoteness. (Van der Leeuw, Religion in Essence and Manifestation)
In addressing the What of religious studies puzzle/conundrum, it is most useful to follow the cairns or trail markers of those who have embarked upon this line of inquiry before. Three of the more historically recent or proximate trail blazers from the phenomenological school of religious studies are the German theologian and comparative religions scholar Rudolf Otto, the Dutch theologian and comparative religions scholar Gerardus van der Leeuw (cited above), and the Romanian-born comparative religions scholar Mircea Eliade (also cited above). It is from some of the seminal assertions made by these scholars that we can begin to approximate a substantive response to the fundamental What is religious-ness question. What one must conclude from the phenomenological approach to answering the What is religious-ness puzzle is that all phenomena that are categorizable or classifiable as religious must in some manner be functions of Homo sapiens being primarily oriented by, through, and towards a Somewhat (in van der Leeuws terms or parlance), a Something Other (again, in van der Leeuws approximations), the numinous (a term derived from the Latin numen, meaning God or Divinity, implemented by Rudolf Otto to connote that which is Wholly Other), or an extra-ordinary eruption of power (dunamis, in Greek, from which the English word dynamic and dynamism are derived, or kratos in Greek, also connoting power) into the empirical or observable field of human consciousness. Therefore, anything that is classifiable as religious (whether in history or in the contemporary world) must be a function of a kind of intentional orientation by, through, and towards a Somewhat, a Something Other, the numinous, or an extra-ordinary eruption of power into the empirical worldthe here and now fieldof Homo sapiens (remember Michael Novaks assertion that the word religion comes from the Latin Re-ligio, connoting to tie, fasten, or bindbeing oriented is essentially being tied to or bound to some axis or center that provides balance). That which is religious is that which is in some primary or derivative way a function of this fundamental orientationwhat Mircea Eliade calls a method of orientatio that renders our species not only classifiable as Homo sapiens (the thinking or sapient hominid) but also Homo religiosus (the religious hominid).
Otto, van der Leeuw, and Eliade, in turn, assert that any phenomenon classifiable as religious must be correlated with primary experiences of power: essentially the eruption of the power that is the Somewhat, the Something Other, or the numinous/Wholly Other into the empirical field or life-world of human being. Eliade classifies this kind of eruption of the Somewhat/Something Other into the empirical field, a kratophany (a Greek term meaning the revelation or manifestation of power). When the Somewhat/Something Other/numinous erupts into the empirical field of human consciousness, human being as Homo sapiens is transformed into Homo religiosus, that is, the hominid who is oriented by, through, and towards some more primary eruption of power into the here and now field some kratophany.
When the Somewhat/Something Other/numinous erupts into the empirical field, not only is this an eruption of power but it is also simultaneously an incidence of the Holy (the English term holy is derivative from the German term Heil or Heilig, again connoting power that is extra-ordinary and Something Other or Wholly Other). Eliade asserts that a primary kratophany is not only a manifestation of the powerful in the empirical domain of human being but also simultaneously a manifestation of the holy: a hierophany in Eliades terminology or parlance (throughout his books and journal articles, Eliade refers to a hierophany/kratophany interface that is fundamental to any derivative phenomenon that is classifiable as religious). Thus, inherent in any phenomenon that is classifiable as religious is this fundamental quality of power-relatedness. . . .
In his classic phenomenological study called The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and Its Relation to the Rational, published first in 1928, Rudolf Otto introduces the idea of the numinous as a term connoting that which is Wholly Other or holy. Moreover, Otto explores the domain of the human experience of this numinous or Wholly Otherthe experience that renders Homo sapiens also classifiable as Homo religiosus. Otto indicates that when Homo sapiens understands herself/himself as Homo religiosus, through some kind of primary or derivative experience of the numinous or the Wholly Other, Homo sapiens becomes religiously conscious or exhibits a kind of consciousness that must be called religious. Otto asserts that the experience of the numinous, the Wholly Other, the holy, is an experience of mystery (mysterium in Latin): a mystery that is tremendous, fascinating, majestic, and evocative of a religious fear (all these adjectives are used by Otto in their more Latin, cognate senses). The classificatory term religious, then, as a term connoting orientation that is a function of a primary or derivative experience of the numinous/holy, must include human agency: a religious consciousness on the part of Homo religiosus. Any phenomenon that is classifiable as religious must entail some human response to a primary or derivative experience of the Somewhat/Something Other/the numinous/the wholly Other/the holy for human beings. That which is religious is that which in some primary or secondary way entails human agency or response: orientation or orientatio is, after all, a human response a human consciousness. . . .
The binding and paying attention to concepts of orientation (traceable through an etymological or word-origin examination of the term religion) become recurrently paramount or crucial in prehending (grasping) the psychologicalthe non-rational and rationalcontent and the actual behavioral dynamics indicative of religious consciousness: in his classic book/monograph called The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (1959), Mircea Eliade stresses the dynamic centrality of orientation in terms of religious consciousness, stating, for nothing can begin, nothing can be done, without previous orientationand any orientation implies acquiring a fixed point. It is for this reason that religious man has always sought to fix his abode at the center of the world (22). Remember, also, that Eliade stresses that Homo sapiental consciousness itself is most primarily and originarily a function of orientation around the axes of bipedal uprightness in the world: again, Eliade states in A History of Religious Ideas,Vol. I that, It is from this original and originating experiencefeeling oneself thrown into the middle of an apparently limitless, unknown, and threatening extensionthat the different methods of orientation are developed; for it is impossible to survive for any length of time in the vertigo brought on by disorientation (3). That which is classifiable as religious or religious consciousness itself begins and is sustained through binding, intentional orientation; however, a most crucial question emerges when we grasp the dynamic model or thought paradigm of orientation as our crux in this line of inquiry called religious studies or World Religions.
As a learning community rooted firmly in a Western contextthat is, a context shaped by the history of Western ideaswe must acknowledge that Judeo-Christian gestalten and their derivative classificatory schemas and terms have informed our own sensibilities either latently or directly. Thus, we are prone to evoke the name or word Godthe at once English and Judeo-Christian-related term for the Somewhat/Something Other/numinous/wholly Other/holy. However, with a modicum or degree of introspection, we realize that the term God is much too imprecise, has much too specialized of a linguistic, semantic, and cultural pedigree, to be a universally descriptive term for that connoted by the more universal terms, such as Somewhat Something Other numinous Holy The word God is descriptive and transformationally powerful in its utterance within the Judeo-Christian cultus or even in a world shaped by the Western intellectual tradition; however, the word is not the most descriptively encompassing, most generalizable, most universal term for that which Homo religiosus has oriented itself by, through, and towards both throughout history and in the contemporary world. As Van der Leeuw asserts (as memorialized in the cited material at the beginning of this lecture), But when we say that God is the object of religious experience, we must realize that God is frequently an extremely indefinite concept which does not completely coincide with what we ourselves usually understand it. The word God bears an entire genealogy or archaeological matrix of subtexts and/or nuances, traceable along sometimes visible, sometimes invisible or abandoned, lineages of usage, in multivalent cultural contexts (the term God is akin to the Islamic-Arabic Allah, the Ancient Semitic El, the Native American-Algonquian Manitou); therefore, for our more trans-historical, trans-cultural religious studies agenda, we need to isolate a more significantly and conceptually encompassing term to designate and describe, in a focused manner, the sacred, the holythe orienting axis. . . .
Finally, then, as derivable from van der Leeuws normative assertions (assertions that have profound impact on and import for religious studies, but nevertheless, must not be hastily accepted as absolutely accurate without continual scrutiny and analysis), any phenomenon that can be classifiable as religiousany measurable or quantifiable historical or contemporary product of Homo religiousis the direct, differentiated localization or temporalization of the universal dynamic field of mana. Mana (a concretization of the more unspeakable or ineffable mysteries correlated with the abstract terms Somewhat, Something Other, numinous, wholly Other, holy) is the undifferentiated, homogeneous, universal field which Homo religiosus is always ultimately and intentionally oriented by, through, and towards. . . .
Therefore, based upon this more phenomenological approach to resolving the What is religious-ness puzzle (an approach that is de facto scientific in that it always demands auto-correction in the service of deriving more accurately descriptive hypotheses), the solution to the puzzle is a complex, yet simple, one: every phenomenon that is classifiable as religious is in some primary or derivative way a function of some fundamental orientation by, through, and toward a Somewhat/Something Other/numinous/wholly Other/holy, identifiable through the more specialized term mana, which orders through consecration all aspects of the experienced, perceived, and rationalized world for Homo religiosus: a fundamental orientation that itself is always a function of some primary or derivative hierophany/kratophany experience intrinsic to or inherent in religious consciousness as such.
The following images and text are for an up-coming Essay-In-Argument-&-Song:
"Romantic Total Revolution: The Democracy of Soul & the Goddess of Liberty"
Romantic Total Revolution Flag of the Imagi-Nation
The Declaration of Independence
"Liberty Leading the People" (Delacroix, French Romantic Painter, 1798-1863)
The Declaration of the Rights of Man, 1789
French Constitution, 1791
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen
The Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen
Manifesto adopted by France's National Assembly in 1789, which contained the principles that inspired the French Revolution. One of the basic charters of human liberties, it served as the preamble to the Constitution of 1791. Its basic principle was that “all men are born free and equal in rights,” specified as the rights of liberty, private property, the inviolability of the person, and resistance to oppression. It also established the principle of equality before the law and the freedoms of religion and speech. The Declaration represented a repudiation of the pre-Revolutionary monarchical regime.
"French Constitution, Rights of Man and Citizen"
This image of the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen includes a fascinating mix of symbols. By arranging the articles on tablets, the artist clearly meant to associate this document with Moses’ Ten Commandments. Such a link could establish the revolutionaries’ handiwork as equivalent to that of God. Reinforcing this is the all–seeing eye located at the top of the tableau. However, this is not the God of biblical revelation but of the Masonic order, which espoused a deistic vision of a benevolent creator and founder of general laws. This deity was not a worker of miracles. Thus the Declaration results from the actions of humankind, who enjoy the beneficence of the generous deity.
To contemporaries who subscribed to the Enlightenment, the term "reason" was to be contrasted to superstition. Even though Christians, too, believed in reason, they also wanted to make room for the possibility of God’s intervention, particularly in miracles. Such exceptions seemed to Enlightenment adherents to conflict with reason, which they argued demanded evidence to substantiate claims. To this day scholars still dispute whether enlightened thinkers’ faith in reason was so encompassing that it acted as a belief not all that different from religiosity.
Postscript to Declaration of the Rights of Women
Woman, wake up; the tocsin of reason is being heard throughout the whole universe; discover your rights. The powerful empire of nature is no longer surrounded by prejudice, fanaticism, superstition, and lies. The flame of truth has dispersed all the clouds of folly and usurpation. Enslaved man has multiplied his strength and needs recourse to yours to break his chains. Having become free, he has become unjust to his companion. Oh, women, women! When will you cease to be blind? What advantage have you received from the Revolution? A more pronounced scorn, a more marked disdain. In the centuries of corruption you ruled only over the weakness of men. The reclamation of your patrimony, based on the wise decrees of nature--what have you to dread from such a fine undertaking?
The following images and information are for the on-going 9-11 material.