13 mar. 2008

Here's the problem. Arguments for there being something rather than nothing in the spiritual realm invoke our vague longings and feelings of awe, our ethical and aesthetic urges--and then tie them to something quite specific: "Here, everything you are feeling comes from Zeus, and here is a book you have to study, and Zeus wants to to do this and that three times a day. This is the kind of calf you have to sacrifice to him, etc...." But there are no good arguments for any such specifics; they are grafted onto those vague feelings in a totally illegitimate way. That's easy to prove simply by the fact that there is more than one religion in the world. Language is imperfect because there are so many of them, as Mallarmé said.

Yet the vague feelings need a specific structure, some framework, in order not to be so vague, some would argue. There has to be a name for it. In view view, theology can only be negative. There are no positive assertions that can be made without making that illegitimate move from the vague to the specific.

4 comentarios:

Henry Gould dijo...

But Kierkegaard & others might argue that Christianity (& one could add, Judaism) is not a religion in this sense.

Christianity is a historical religion, claiming divine intervention very much in THIS world.

Of course, one can refuse to accept those claims - but the refusal would have to be based on a different set of arguments than those you offer here.

Jonathan dijo...

All religions are historical. They all give a specific name to their deities and want you do do specific things, believe in specific texts. The leap from one's own feelings of transcendance to a very specific set of beliefs is identical. In fact, most people making that argument from one's own inner feelings of transcendance happen to be Christians.

So it boils down to saying: "My religion is not like the others, because it's true, it really happened." The what is rejected is an empirical claim, not the vague sprirtuality everyone feels. It is actually a lot easier to dispute those empirical claims, though. I can't deny that somebody had a particular inner religious experience, but I could question that those particular events happened.

Henry Gould dijo...

In Judaism & Christianity, the idea is that history itself, and the world-in-history, are being fashioned by the Divine toward certain ends. Islam makes a similar claim, though I don't know enough to say much about it. These claims are based on certain historical particulars - the history of the Jewish people, the lives of Christ & Mohammad.

This is a different kind of historical reality or historicism than you find in Buddhism, Taoism, various kinds of animism, etc. Buddha is also a historical figure swathed in legends (as are the figures in the Abrahamic faiths) - yet the emphasis in the non-Abrahamic faiths, it seems to me anyway, is on a timeless or cyclical transcendent Reality, divorced from historical time and events.

You argue that religion simply corrals individuals' vague feelings of transcendence, in a "totally illegitimate way". Au contraire. Religious expression can be legitimate or not, genuine or fake, deep or shallow. The literary, dogmatic and ritual phenomena of religion are expressive in themselves; they're not simply guideposts or rules for channeling individual feelings. The acts of Christ or Buddha INSPIRE feeling and action, they don't simply control some pre-existent inner state.

The soul is "naturally Christian", says Tertullian; he's talking about the receptivity of the non-believer to the message of Christ. It's not a question of control, in your sense, but of a natural affinity.

Jonathan dijo...

What makes any religious experience illegitimate or shallow or fake? Who's to judge?