Tuesday, February 15, 2005


There's much that has been making me think about one of the main themes of this weblog - distinguishing healthy religion from all the harmful stuff that's out there. One challenge has been correspondence with a couple of fairly narrow Christian conservatives over Does Christianity kill or cure? and various other theological forays. Since I believe that Christian faith redeems us from war to healthy argument, this is a necessary thing to do. But it's also extremely tough-going. Not like talking to a brick wall, just an extremely resistant, angry, righteous human being (on a mission, naturally) in one case. Heart-breaking in the best and worst senses.

In terms of overviews and snapshots, the strange byways of faith are well tracked (with amusement and curios on the way) by Bartholemew's notes on religion. Also worth attention is Religion and Society. At some point I might further revise my own Changing the world, changing Christianity?

And what happens when it all gets too much? People react in different ways. "God? Allah? Aliens? Krishna? All of them, and more. Come take a look at one of the oldest human urges - religion. After all, the only thing that makes us screwier is sex," says Lilith Saintcrow on God and consequences. Even more blunt is the demolition drama of Religion is bullshit (no room for equivocation there) or, only a little more subtly, Sam Harris's polemic in The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.

What we need is a good theological guide to the territory (reasoning faith at religion's wit's end, that is), and it will not surprise you to know that I recommend Nicholas Lash's The Beginning and the End of 'Religion' (Cambridge University Press, 1996), as well as the breathtaking Holiness, Speech and Silence (Ashgate, 2004) - about which I simply cannot rave too much. Sorry.

Of the former, CUP says:
"The common view that ‘religion’ is something quite separate from politics, art, science, law and economics is one that is peculiar to modern Western culture. In this book Professor Lash argues that we should begin to question seriously that viewpoint: the modern world is ending and we are now in a position to discover new forms of ancient wisdom, which have been obscured from view. These essays explore this idea in a number of directions, examining the dialogue between theology and science, the secularity of Western culture and questions of Christian hope. Part One examines the dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism, while Part Two considers the relations between theology and science, the secularity of Western culture, and questions of Christian hope, or eschatology."

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