Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Battle For God: The End

Page 337: Once again Armstrong reiterates her point about the separation of mythos and logos. Reading the dust jacket, she was a nun for seven years, yet somehow she managed to avoid reading about the division of the law. In Christian theology, the law is divided into three branches, ceremonial, civil, and moral. The ceremonial law was the rules of worship given to the Jews. Christ fulfilled the ceremonial law, which is why Christians don't sacrifice animals at their worship services. The Civil law was given for the rule of the theocratic state of Israel prior to the kings, and is no longer valid, as it refers solely to that historical moment. Only the moral law remains intact throughout history. I believe that much of the problem arises from her belief that fundamentalists demand that the Bible be interpreted literally. This is not entirely true. Fundamentalists demand that the Bible be interpreted as it is written. Thus poetry as poetry, history as history, prophecy as prophecy, etc. The "literal interpretation" is a straw man used to attack fundamentalist interpretations.

Page 354: This is a telling quotation: "For secularists and liberals such Enlightenment values as the autonomy of the individual and intellectual liberty, are inviolable and holy. They cannot compromise or make concessions on such issues. These principles are so central to the liberal or secular identity thaty if they are threatened, people feel that their very existence is in jeopardy." Fear of annihilation is Armstrong's motive force for Fundamentalism, and secularism bears the same burden.

Page 365: "However hard we try to embrace conventional religion, we have a natural tendency to see truth as factual, historical and empirical." This statement is oddly behind the times. She is arguing from a modern viewpoint against post-modern views of truth. Secularism is as threatened by the denial of absolute truth as is religion. If truth is socially-constructed, then "science" really has no more claim to its veracity than mythology.

Page 368-9: "We have seen the nihilism that can inform the fundamentalist program. It is impossible to reason such fear away or attempt to eradicate it by coercive measures. A more imaginative response would be to try to appreciate the depth of this neurosis, even if a liberal or a secularist cannot share this dread-ridden perspective." I remember reading that the Soviets defined religious belief as just such a neurosis, and then used it as an excuse for marginalizing those with religious beliefs, removing children from religious homes, and sending religious people to psychiatric institutions. Describing a belief as a neurosis seems terribly dangerous to me, a justifiable first step in the persecution of religious belief. Armstrong calls fear the motivation--fear which cannot be reasoned away. A justifiable fear, however, is one which is not likely to be reasoned away. As Kissinger said, "Even paranoids have enemies." If she wanted to make religious people feel persecuted and afraid, such statements are the way to do it.

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