Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Central Feast

I was raised as a Catholic. My father is Irish.  My mother was a Christian who embraced nearly all sects associated with Christianity.  I am a retired Christian now. I gave up most of my notions of salvation and divinity long ago, shortly after my teenage years.  I have accepted the substitute religion of art, though I believe to understand what that trade-off means, though perhaps only naively so.  My retirement from Christianity came after a long episode of inwardly shameful incidents and a slow but steady retreat from the church.  I regret none of it and those were the best years of my life up until then. I still harbor some vague concepts of divinity, but they are now inextricably bound up with the concepts of beauty in art.

Jesus did not rise from the dead, of course, nor is he the son of God as it is described in the central mythic text of Christianity.  He did not die for my sins though I understand the importance of the concept of religious sacrifice.  I have been to Burning Man, etc. It was not ever necessary for any divine creature to come to earth to pay penance to another divine being in this way.  That much seems self-explanatorily false, and with the benefit of history, also absurd. Atonement is a big part of the Judeo-Christian tradition and it serves as an important part of the romantic ceremonies found there. Christ's contribution to the romantic spirit as we now know it is inestimable. He virtually invented the poetic figure that we recognize and devote occasional esteem to through both celebrity and secular sainthood, and even saints. 

Many people that I discuss these things with, who assume themselves to be fully enlightened, attack religion with an almost primal ferocity.  They speak of the evils of the church and of the history of evil conducted by all religions at all times. Their line of reasoning and historical timeline always stops there. They never extend the conversation backwards and go beyond that point to consider the perfect paradise man had created for himself before religion. How murder and rape and every other manner of possible atrocity went not only unpunished but mainly unquestioned.  Free love, etc. They assume that because we have society and culture now that we no longer need religion. That it has served its nefarious purpose and now should not only be done away with but that the practitioners should probably have some sort of wickedness brought down upon them commensurate to the crimes of religion. They reserve no sense of humanity when it comes to punishing the religiously iniquitous, they are quite organized about it you see.

God is the most important concept man has ever created. Just ask Christopher Hitchens.

Another thing...  There has never been such a thing as a religious war.  I remember hearing this phrase in school and even then it struck me as highly improbable. All war is fought over land. There has never been a war that functioned in any other way.  A religious war, if it were possible, would happen in libraries and hardly anywhere else. A truly religious war would be a war almost exclusively of ideas.  Now some might argue that the land is holy and the resources there are gifts from God.  The crusades are a good example of this thinking.  The crusades, like all other wars, were fought over what was considered "holy" land.  It was an attempt to seize land.  The banner under which that land grab was waged means very little.  The political-religious leaders who sanctioned them were attempting to expand their empires.  Now, those who fought and died for them might very well have believed that they were dying for their religion. Even the emperors who initiated them might have believed this.  But that should surprise nobody and it changes nothing.  

There are components of war that do not directly involve land but the objective of all wars is to possess the resources of another group. Actual physical presence through invasion is a requirement for a war to occur. Otherwise is it just theft and does not meet the standard of war.  Ideological and economic occupation and indoctrination are vital components to war but if these occur without the transgressing of boundaries, borders, or political perimeters then all you have is what is known as cultural influence.  

The term "culture-war" is unnecessary and exaggerated.  It only describes the natural tension that develops between conservative and liberal values.  It greatly heightens the implications of that struggle and it reveals the desire of each side to eliminate the opponent, to banish them from the ideological holy grounds.  Americans seems to prefer the term "war" to describe any resistance to their most cherished notions. It is perhaps an extension and effect of the civil war that we seem to be perpetually engaged in, the endless divisions within, the constant pull of polarities.  Or perhaps the misuse of the term is only an indication of our detached ignorance of the actualities of war.  I wonder if the Lebanese now use the term "war" to describe social value conflicts.

I have angered many people throughout the years with these assertions.  I am supremely confident that trend will continue unabated.  I encourage anybody who wishes to respond to these last few paragraphs to really stop and consider their examples carefully.  There have only been a few instances that have made me pause and reflect for a moment and I have developed substantial rebuttals that might not seem obvious at the time and that have only strengthened my claim.  I'm certain that others have arrived at the same conclusion as myself though I have never researched it to find out. In fact, it would not surprise me if it is a commonly held belief by many historians. Though I arrived at the conclusion independently. I prefer to work my way through the concept without the help of others, especially the experts. You see, I'm afraid I might be dead wrong.  Hopefully the idea will find a way of rising on the third day and devouring chocolate bunnies and eggs alike.... I soon hope to invade a bottle of red wine and claim it for Christ's empire.  

Drinking is the only way to make any real progress in a religious argument.  

Penitent I, the moveable beast.