Thought for the Day

%(sane)(nothing to do with my life in particular; just a general thought about religion and New Atheist optimism)% It is very difficult to live with as little hope as the situation warrants.

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4 Responses to Thought for the Day

  1. chris y says:

    But it’s relatively easy to live with despair. The siren songs of nihilism can make a sweet anodyne. Which is so dangerous.

  2. H. E. Baber says:

    Sad bidness. I do think religion is essentially over, just surviving in “developing” countries until they get develop–whenever that may be. What I wonder is why Christianity isn’t degrading gracefully like Greco-Roman paganism, where the ceremonies and sacrifices continued, but the educated elite didn’t believe the stuff even though they participated in the cult. Instead we (in the US) have an educated elite, most of whom don’t participate in the cult, including a minority who’re actively hostile, set against a minority of avid fundamentalists, while those in between gradually drift away as secularism trickles down.

    The intriguing question: is this primarily a result of the difference between Christianity and Greco-Roman paganism, which was a completely different animal, or is it primarily a consequence of circumstances that are extraneous to these religious packages? I mean, why didn’t it happen this way for us: everyone keeps going to church, the high days of the liturgical year are celebrated, Bible stories and the lives of the saints are familiar to everyone, various “spiritualities”–Eastern, New Age, and psychotherapeutic–are absorbed, and everyone participates in the culture-religion but believes what they please–and behaves as they please. This is, crudely, the way it went in the Hellenistic world–why so different for us?

  3. acb says:

    @ chris: nihilism is itself a disproportionate and failed response. There is a huge difference between living with no hope and living with little hope; it is the latter that’s hard and demanded here.

    @ harriet: is it really so different in America? Surely, among the real middle classes, it has been true for the last thirty years or so that %(sane)everyone participates in the culture-religion but believes what they please%

    The culture religion of America isn’t Christianity, of course, as you yourself have argued. That’s why no one does the saint’s days but everyone does Black Friday or Superbowl Sunday.

    I don’t know a great deal about paganism in late antiquity, but I do know that the proles then took their religion seriously enough to riot about it. Of course these weren’t theological ideas, as Gibbon pretended. My guess is that the working classes have always demanded theological rigidity as a proxy for group allegiance.

  4. H. E. Baber says:

    40 years ago middle-class Americans did Christianity in the way that educated pagans did their cults, knowing that the poets lied. Then they started dropping out which is why the liberal mainline churches that cater for the middle class are dying. Educated pagans didn’t drop out: the cults were shut down by the Christian state and popular uprisings instigated by the Church. Oh hell I’m just a miserable romantic yearning for a fantasy version of semi-pagan Mediterranean Folk Catholicism. But as culture-religions go that’s got to be better than the culture religion of shopping malls and Superbowl Sunday.

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