Sunday, January 29, 2012

The social origins of religion?

The link disappeared!  I will hunt around for it......


Found it!

if Cavemen used facebook

The rather tenuous connection to religion:  that 'community', that is society... is natural to humanity and religion, quite apart from its 'truth' or 'falsehood' is intrinsically communal - as well as individual - which is what this article is suggesting.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January 18 Day of Protest

Not religion - but the internet is under attack by large, traditional media companies who are using legislatures to contain, restrict and mould the net, including the world wide web, into their restrictive practices. Tomorrow a number of sites will be 'black' in protest - I took this from the Wikipedia English language site, but it applies generally - even here:

We depend on a legal infrastructure that makes it possible for us to operate. And we depend on a legal infrastructure that also allows other sites to host user-contributed material, both information and expression. For the most part, Wikimedia projects are organizing and summarizing and collecting the world’s knowledge. We’re putting it in context, and showing people how to make to sense of it.
But that knowledge has to be published somewhere for anyone to find and use it. Where it can be censored without due process, it hurts the speaker, the public, and Wikimedia. Where you can only speak if you have sufficient resources to fight legal challenges, or if your views are pre-approved by someone who does, the same narrow set of ideas already popular will continue to be all anyone has meaningful access to.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Rudolf Otto and the Numinous

Otto speaks:

I recall vividly a conversation I had with a Buddhist monk. He had been putting before me methodi cally and pertinaciously the arguments for the Buddhist 1 theology of negation', the doctrine of Anatman and ' entire emptiness'. When he had made an end, I asked him, what then Nirvana itself is; and after a long pause came at last the single answer, low and restrained : ' Bliss—unspeakable'. And the hushed restraint of that answer, the solemnity of his voice, demeanour, and gesture, made more clear what was meant than the words themselves.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Garry Wills

On a listserv I follow, I have taken up a challenge to critique the work of Garry Wills as an historian. Not all his work, but his focus on religion. I had maintained on that list that while he was a very good historian at one time, when he decided to write about religion, he became a polemicist. I have begun with his 'What Paul Meant' in audio book form.

Here, slightly edited for this space, are my first thoughts:

I have finally found time to look
at Garry Wills's work on religion 'as an historian' - and I emphasise this - I am not critiquing his thinking (for that is what writing is) for literary technique or for passion, but in how he uses his sources and how he presents the context within which evidence is analysed.

I decided to present little snippets in blog, or as we used to
say, journal form as I read. This is a purely practical need due to
personal circumstances which force me to do much of my thinking in the interstices which now and for the foreseeable future comprise my intellectual life.

I have begun reading Dr. Wills in that same necessary way by downloading an audio book of his from my local public library to listen to while multitasking. I had hoped to begin with one of his books that caused a furore, but the one available is less well known. 'What Paul Meant' will serve just as well, I think.

I have just begun listening and have already had my eyebrows raised - but perhaps only
temporarily as he may indeed do better as an historian when I get deeper into the book.

He refers to Paul's 'dark theology'. ( a nice phrase, BTW, skilfully setting his tone and establishing his thesis), his thesis being that Paul was worse than Judas. Judas merely caused the death of Jesus's body through betrayal while Paul betrayed and killed our Lord's spirit, Dr. Wills says.

At this point he has done quickly and easily what every undergraduate history student must learn: to state clearly and in your first paragraph your thesis or theme.

But, he gets a failing grade at this early point - or at least my red pen would be out (actually I
would be inserting comments in red font) for the first sources he quotes. He seems to think that Thomas Jefferson, George Bernard Shaw and Friedrich Nietzsche are good sources to understand the theology of Paul and Jesus in historical, or for that matter, ahistorical context. So immediately I began to appreciate Garry Wills's skill as a polemicist, but not yet as an historian.