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Religion in the wrong hands

7 June, 2007

Chris Hedges, reviewing Christopher Hitchens’ new book God is Not Great, says:

“The problem is not religion but religious orthodoxy and the form it takes in human institutions.

“Once moral teachings are written down they become, in the wrong hands, codified and used to enforce conformity, subservience and repression. Writing, as George Steiner has recognised, freezes speech. The moment the writers of the gospels recorded Jesus’s teachings, they began to kill their message.

“There is no room for prophets within religious institutions – indeed within any human institution. Tribal societies persecute prophets; open societies tolerate them at their fringes. Today, our prophets are usually found not within the church but among artists, poets and writers who follow, as Socrates or Jesus did, their inner authority, an authentic religious impulse.

“Those who transform faith into a creed transplant religion into a profane rather than a sacred context. Like all idol-worshippers, they seek to give the world a unity and coherence it does not possess. And with this false coherence imposed, faith withers.

“Hitchens is right in going after this form of belief. He is wrong in assuming that it stands for religious thought.

“Religious faith has no quarrel with science. It seeks a spiritual truth, not a scientific or historical fact. It allows us to cope with ambiguity and uncertainty, with the ultimate mystery of human existence in this morally neutral universe. …

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. The Imugi permalink
    8 June, 2007 12:06 am

    I think that’s a great article. I think the division between “irrational” and “nonrational” (I would suggest even “supra-rational”) is something that needs to be taken into account.

    Personally, I don’t think it’s “Religion” that’s the problem; it’s what people bring to religion. It’s how religion is approached. Instead of looking at people in terms of their tradition, it’s more helpful to look at people in terms of their orientation to tradition. As an example, I think fundamentalists tend to be the same, regardless of tradition. By the same token, mystics employ similiar approaches, regardless of what tradition they belong to.

  2. 8 June, 2007 1:33 pm

  3. 10 June, 2007 1:11 pm

    metafish aka existential tadpoles – enjoy!

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