Back to God with Camille Paglia

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The route to a renaissance of the American fine arts lies through religion… When a society becomes all-consumed in the provincial minutiae of partisan politics, as has happened in the US over the past 20 years, all perspective is lost. Great art can be made out of love for religion, as well as rebellion against it. But a totally secularized society with contempt for religion sinks into materialism and self-absorption and gradually goes slack, without leaving an artistic legacy.

Camille Paglia, “Religion and the Arts in America”, A lecture at Colorado College, February 2007, available on CSPAN

This is for nother, who wrote on the site a year ago that he’d be happy to hear Camille and Chris “discuss a grilled cheese sandwich.”

Yes, conversations with Camille Paglia tend to go everywhere… and we’ll surely get to the Edwardses, the Clintons, the Giulianis and the rise of a compelling new presidential persona in the brownskinned JFK, Barack Obama. I wonder why she writes in her Salon column, resumed after 5 years: “I wish Nancy Pelosi were running;” and what prompted her to tell Mitt Romney (running against Ted Kennedy in 1994) “You’re going to be president.”

Because she’s always had a brilliant ear for media trends, I hope we’ll get to the surging power of YouTube as an instance of the now all-dominant (blogosphere-challenging) visual culture. I hope she’ll have a shot at explaining the voluminous hostility of the Salon comment thread on her comeback pieces… But we’ll begin with Professor Paglia’s observation of the collision between the almost-theocracy of the Bush years and hard-sell neo-atheism from the likes of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. What has become of the relaxed and tolerant fascination with each of the world religions as, in Paglia’s line, “a complex symbol system, a metaphysical lens through which we can see the vastness and sublimity of the universe.”

Paglia calls herself an “atheist,” but it always seemed to me the wrong word for a woman who grew up, as I did, with the gaudy statuary, stained-glass piety and Counter-Reformation confidence of the Catholic church in the

American 1950s — and who celebrated Italian-Catholic paganism in her breakthrough book, Sexual Personae.

Paglia is a scholar and culture buff who cannot imagine human life without the religious appetite — or American life without the vital pulse of our religious history. Without the King James Bible, as she writes, there is no Hawthorne or Melville. Without the fire and brimstone of Jonathan Edwards in the 18th Century, there is no Rush Limbaugh today. Without the “image mania” of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, there is no “YouTube” culture stamping out the last inhibitions of Calvinism on our laptop screens. Without the hymns of the “great awakening” in America there is no Elvis and no James Brown. From Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic” to the swan song of the Titanic, “Nearer My God to Thee,” Paglia insists that the genius of “American hymnody should be required study.” And further: African-American gospel music — “passionate and histrionic” — should be recognized as “America’s grand opera.”

So how, she asks, did we come to the sullen and simple-minded alienation of conservative Christians blaming Godless leftists for sex and violence in the popular media; and smug liberals in high dudgeon about the Fundamentalist hostility to abortion and gay marriage?

I hope this conversation will take in how much has changed since yesterday — 1991, in fact — when Camille Paglia burst onto our scene. She’s changed, too — partnered up and adopted a child who’s now in primary school. Ever and always she remains, as I wrote on the site two years ago, My Kinda Talker. What else must we talk about, please?

Extra Credit Reading
Camille Paglia, Cults and Cosmic Consciousness: Religious Vision in the American 1960s, Arion, Winter 2003: “Religion has always been central to American identity: affiliation with or flight from family faith remains a primary term of our self-description.”

Camille Paglia, The Salon Interview: Camille Paglia, Salon, February 7, 2003: “Anyone who thinks symbolically had to be shocked by the explosion of the Columbia shuttle, disintegrating in the air and strewing its parts and human remains over Texas — the president’s home state! So many times in antiquity, the emperors of Persia or other proud empires went to the oracles to ask for advice about going to war. If there was ever a sign for a president and his administration to rethink what they’re doing, this was it. I mean, no sooner had Bush announced that the war was “weeks, not months” away and gone off for a peaceful weekend at Camp David than this catastrophe occurred in the skies over Texas.”

Thomas Hibbs, Praising Paglia, National Review, August 12, 2003: “[Paglia] wants religious texts to be taught as culture rather than as morality, a bifurcation utterly foreign to religious texts. Paglia’s dilemma here is instructive. She faces the obstacles of the modern, self-conscious pagan, someone who cannot believe in the pagan gods in the way an unreflective ancient Roman once did, but is nonetheless attracted to its mythic structure and its rich symbolism.”

galoot, in a comment to Open Source, April 2, 2007: “As a painter I am puzzled by the quotation from Paglia. She calls herself an atheist, but looks to religion to rejuvenate the arts? I’m starting to think that just as you can’t be a little bit pregnant, you can’t be a little bit in favor of religion. Reason v. Unreason, that’s where the battle lines are being drawn – in politics, in art, everywhere.”

pryoung, in a comment to Open Source, April 2, 2007: “Camille Paglia: ‘But a totally secularized society with contempt for religion sinks into materialism and self-absorption and gradually goes slack, without leaving an artistic legacy.’ Well, what about a deeply (often fanatically) religious society that sinks into materialism and self-absorption?”

S. Casey, Camille Paglia on C-SPAN: On the Arts and Religion, The Laughing Bone, March 15, 2007: “In a startling and delightful transformation, she suddenly becomes a hyper-intellectual improvisational stand-up comedian, with all of her natural Martin Scorsese-on-speed vocal mannerisms in full effect.”

Judith, Art and Politics, Part 2, Our World and Welcome to It, March 7, 2007: “Granted, someone can have deeply-held political beliefs and the talent to display them artistically, but anything – art or politics – means little if it doesn’t have something deeper than humanism or materialism as the outcome.”

Camille Paglia discussion group, The Camille Paglia Community: “This is a community dedicated to the study, appreciation, and discussion of camille paglia’s works, career, influences, and characteristic subject matters.”


  • Lumière

    ///Great art can be made out of love for religion, as well as rebellion against it. But a totally secularized society with contempt for religion sinks into materialism and self-absorption and gradually goes slack, without leaving an artistic legacy.\\\

    Can great art be made from nature?

    Please ask.

    Goethe thought art would be the next religion.

  • farouet

    Paglia and I share a generation. Anything ‘Pop’ she’s mentioned has reverberative connection inside my psyche. She’s also very much the contrarian, and — if I’ve read her rightly — found much stuffy Establishment to stumble over.

    I was outside academia from the mid-70s until the early 90s and missed the ‘culture-shift’ that abraded her for years. Once back in, I found myself in something of a personal dystopia: I was told by those in positions of academic power that my background was ‘strongly classical’ — although I saw myself most heavily schooled in ‘modernist’ literature, many of those authors were disparaged for lack of relevance.

    What seems to have happened is this — and here is what CP might want to wade around in — the ‘world pulse’ has widened. What Europeans and Euro-Americans had managed to contain in pockets of brilliance and under perspectives of (apparent) superiority (or at least superior development) shows itself to be wondrously more deep and wide.

    The anthropologists opened the bag; the imperialists exploited it; now, the indigenous are reclaiming it — without any Euro glosses, thank you very much. What I see in the demo-community college world where I work is an insistent crashing of social needs with an attendant cultural spray. The ‘traditional world’ meets the ‘Pop’, but not with anything like the articulation CP offers, not much of the order she brings to it.

    Are we too close, really, to get any sense of ‘outcome’? Are we ever anything but too close to much beyond the ‘feel’ of sudden beauty or ‘fullness’ of apprehension? Are we responding to mental ‘archetypes’, chance structure of our brains? Does any chance situation that anyone may find herself in offer this big ‘Holy’ if only we back off and ride its wave?

  • http://www.liftport.com Brian Dunbar

    What else must we talk about, please?

    Being me I wonder how she feels about that space thing – private enterprise, so-called statist efforts, etc. But that’s my hobby-horse not her’s or y’all’s.

    partnered up and adopted a child who’s now in primary school.

    Ah! Is Ms. Paglia going to home school? How does she feel about phonics? Has a child changed her point of view or perspective at all?

  • Pingback: salon » Back to God with Camille Paglia

  • Bobo

    Dawkins’ crusade against God only further undermines what was already a shaky reputation as a scientist. Dawkins is a pop-scientist. He makes headlines by making outlandish statements and backing them up with nothing but rhetorical prose. This is the same approach he’s taking to God. But this is not science. And Dawkins in NO way speaks for the scientific community.

    I apologize for this rant, but when I saw Dawkins pop up on this page, I wanted to make sure that it was very clear that he is not representative of the scientific world-view. It is not, nor has it ever been, an either-or situation between science and God. The existence of God is fundamentally something which can neither be proved nor disproved. Therefor it is not within the realm of science. Any scientist worth their salt leaves religion out of the workplace. While we might become angry when people outright deny evolution, or make comments and policies which we view as short-sighted, all we can do is present facts and observations. Whether or not people chose to listen is up to them. We won’t change the world by calling people’s beliefs stupid.

  • Bobo

    Allow me to demonstrate my previous point… http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/the_difference.png

    Note: The scientist does not immediately accept or deny the existence of the ‘bolt from the heavens’. They just keep pulling the levers.

  • Nick

    I’d like to take a stab at answering the question implied in Chris’s billboard write-up:

    ‘What has become of the relaxed and tolerant fascination with each of the world religions as, in Paglia’s line, “a complex symbol system, a metaphysical lens through which we can see the vastness and sublimity of the universe.”’

    Please bear with me through this necessary preamble:

    Is ‘truth’ illusion, or ‘real’? Can humans (or, hell, ‘Martians’, for that matter) perceive the universe’s ‘truths’?

    Or is ‘Truth’ as slippery and as ultimately illusory as Plato’s “ideal essences”?

    —As in: “Plato was an essentialist since he believed in ideal forms of which every object is just a poor copy.”

    Ought humans pursue ‘truth’ – or, worse, ‘Truth’?

    – Or, given the limitations of our finite minds trying to apprehend infinity and eternity, and how that problem manifests via the constraints of our finite, proximate, and largely metaphorical conceptual tools, is attempting to describe the universe’s many astonishing phenomena as accurately as we can the best we can strive for?

    Which of these is more accurate?

    1. The universe is spaghetti and meatballs – the meatballs are matter, the spaghetti “cosmic strings”, and the sauce “dark matter”.

    Or…

    2. The universe might be best described using String theory – but we don’t know yet whether this is the most accurate means of describing and understanding the universe, since we haven’t yet devised ways to test S.T.’s theoretical implications. In the meantime, we find that gravitational theory and quantum theory both describe their target phenomena with highly acceptable accuracy – yet they are currently incompatible when extrapolated towards the others’ theoretical domain.

    If you choose option no.2, congratulations! – You understand the limitations of metaphor and the greater accuracy of abstractions.

    Abstractions, however, are much harder to understand than metaphors (even silly and misleading ones like my made-up-on-the spot spaghetti comparison). I, for example, have a better chance of cracking next month’s New York Times bestseller list than I have understanding String theory.

    Still, I would prefer to understand the universe accurately rather than merely metaphorically. It’s a vain preference, sure, but a preference all the same—so I suppose I’ll have to get by with generous helpings of spaghetti & meatball-like metaphors (and, uh, better ones, preferably).

    End of preamble, and back to Paglia:

    “(Religion is) a complex symbol system, a metaphysical lens through which we can see the vastness and sublimity of the universe.”

    If religion is a complex set of symbols – metaphors and ‘metaphysics’ (whatever that means) – is it able to allow “sight” of the universe with any meaningful accuracy? What, exactly, does it purport to illuminate?

    The world, according to the perceptions of the founders of the Middle Eastern monotheisms currently ascendant, didn’t have galaxies, or space, or microbes, or, hell, even skin mites! They simply weren’t visible, or otherwise perceptible, to those ancient thinkers.

    If today’s dominant religions were founded by minds who, through no fault of their own, were utterly ignorant of the universe’s fundamental structures (let alone of the tiny arachnids thriving in colonies on their faces), how can any of their voluble proclamations purport to describe the universe with any accuracy less mushily general than my silly spaghetti metaphor?

    If contemporary religion is largely fabrics of metaphors concocted by minds working only with the tiny conceptual toolboxes available to our species 2000 or so years ago, and yet those metaphors—which, let’s face it, amount to little more than wild guesses grounded in their society’s “divine” (parental) archetypes—are presented as ‘truth’ instead of as metaphor, does religion illuminate anything – or does it mislead?

    On the BBC last night, I heard a Creationist conversing with a scientist while both stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon. To the Creationist, the Canyon was magnificent evidence of Noah’s flood. The scientist couldn’t disabuse him of this strong belief, in part because it’s impolite, but also because he viewed her evidence-based understanding of the Canyon’s millions of years of erosion as ‘just another belief’. Obviously, one problem here is that we haven’t yet developed or accepted a concept denoting the provisional acceptance of evidence-based descriptions of the universe – a concept that would stand in sharp, deliberate contrast with evidence-free, metaphor-based ‘beliefs’. The scientist had no other word aside from the ancient concept ‘belief’ to represent her credulous appreciation of the painstaking research, observations, tests, and open-minded analyses that describe the Canyon’s evolutionary provenance — and that describe it with highly credible accuracy.

    So, to answer Chris’s question (as I understand it): “What has become of the relaxed and tolerant fascination with each of the world religions…?”

    In my case, these religions do not admit their use, or the very existence of, their metaphors. They instead present their metaphors as ‘truths’, employing evasions, equivocations, and outright tautology in the face of the incompatible analyses rising from the newer, vastly more accurate descriptive methodology that humans have developed over the past couple of centuries.

    I can’t respect religions (or any other believers) that can’t admit that they don’t – and can’t – “know” that their supernatural assertions are accurate (let alone ‘true’!). “Faith” is a mental straightjacket — it cannot allow free-thought or even simply uncomfortable questions (without having to employ ridiculous evasions like the classic “God works in mysterious ways”).

    That said, I’m fascinated by religion as a human phenomenon – but I don’t expect to find ‘illumination’ in it. I find instead wild inaccuracies and reams of unverifiable propositions exactly as credible as the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    This opinion does not however preclude me from appreciating the universe’s wondrousness. Actually, I’m greatly more awestruck by the millions of years necessary for the Colorado River to carve the Grand Canyon than I am by the fantastical notion of Noah and all the animals whose existence he couldn’t have even been aware of that somehow nevertheless survived the ‘Flood’.

    I don’t see religion as ‘illuminating’ anything save the contortionist mental gymnastics apparently necessitated by human terror of the death of personal consciousness. (Which, to be frank, doesn’t much scare me. Why be scared of nothing?)

    Religion – so long as it cannot or will not admit to uncertainty – is simply misleading. And perhaps, considering what we’ve learned with acceptable accuracy in recent centuries, it’s even flat-out deceitful.

    Worse (and finally to the point), since ‘conviction’ (faith) is necessary so long as religions cannot admit to the unknowableness of their supernatural assertions, religionists will, probably ad infinitum, deem it crucial to attempt extinguishing any epistemologies, and those epistemologies’ descriptive produce, that do not support the tenets and dogmas of their faith.

    Why, Chris, ought we ‘tolerate’ the intolerant?

    To miscast or dismiss Sam Harris and others as “hard core atheists” essentially overlooks and excuses away the relentless assault that religion (so long as it insists on possessing sole understanding of wholly unverifiable ‘truths’) is fomenting on reason and on the human search for accurate understanding of the world we inhabit, and the universe that birthed the stardust we are each animate, intelligent, and conscious forms of. (And, to be perfectly blunt: Harris deserves a good-conscience reading before any brusque mischaracterization of his points or of his purpose.)

  • herbert browne

    Hey, bobo… thanks for the ‘toon. I wonder, though, at the labels… Are both the “normal” person &/or “scientist” the way they are because of differing aspects of the same “culture”? Or are we seeing something else at work? (I kinda wish it were easy to make a similar series of the tongues of people who have had a recent tooth extraction… and see if the tongue that keeps seeking out the hole, to see if it still hurts, is the “normal” one…) I’m kinda with Lumiere, re finding inspiration for art in that olde mystery, Nature; but I don’t think that it’s anthropocentric enough to please CP, somehow… For myself, ecology has replaced Catholicism as a realm wherein my “inner supernal” finds mystery that provokes conjecture and seeks salvation… prob’ly some Art implied there, too… ^..^

  • Bobo

    Nick: “If today’s dominant religions were founded by minds who, through no fault of their own, were utterly ignorant of the universe’s fundamental structures (let alone of the tiny arachnids thriving in colonies on their faces), how can any of their voluble proclamations purport to describe the universe with any accuracy less mushily general than my silly spaghetti metaphor?”

    Why do we still read Aristotle? Why did you reference Plato? Why is it that I began weeping the other night when I gazed in wonder at the 60,000 year old paintings at Chauvet? ( http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/arcnat/chauvet/en/ )

    Even though our knowledge of the world around us has grown (not necessarily improved) throughout the ages, our knowledge of ourselves has remained the same. Our ability to think, to reflect, to understand Humanity, is the same now as it was for the ‘cavemen’. Believing in the same God that people believed in 1400, 2000, or 6000 years ago offers us a glimpse of the universal ‘Truth’ which is God. Parables remain relevant because despite all of our superficial changes, we are still human. And that is the power of parable. Religion is not a set of irrelevant observations made by long-dead ignorami. Rather, religions present observations about the essential nature of the human condition. They might not all be correct, but they have a lot to offer.

  • Bobo

    Apologies and correction: The Chauvet Cave dates to 30,000 not 60,000 years B.P.

  • Nick

    Two clarifications to my long post above (they never look that long on my electronic page before copying pasting!!!)

    1. The scientist couldn’t disabuse him of this strong belief, in part because it’s impolite, but also because the Creationist viewed the scientist’s evidence-based understanding of the Canyon’s millions of years of erosion as ‘just another belief’.

    2. I’m unable to respect religions (or any other believers) unwilling to admit that they don’t – and can’t – “know” that their supernatural assertions are accurate (let alone ‘true’!). “Faith” is a mental straightjacket – it by definition cannot allow free-thought, or even simply uncomfortable questions (without having to employ ridiculous evasions like the classic “God works in mysterious ways”).

    Also, the point about Harris is that he isn’t necessarily “against God” – he’s using simply reason against the rising tide of religious irrationalism that is threatening to spin the USA back towards the 1600’s. And for this he is reviled!

    We need some new concepts, folks.

    bobo, I’ll try to answer you substantially tomorrow. Briefly though: we ‘use’ what what is taught to us. That it is taught doesn’t make it accurate. Are Jews and Slavs inferiors, as half a generation of German children were taught in the late 1930′s and early 1940′s? Do native American parables count for less than the biblical parables simply because they aren’t part of the dominant culture?

    If religions candidly admitted that all their putative “knowledge” is uncertain — and ancient conjecture — instead of ‘truth’, I’d have little if any problem with them.

    Thus, in reply to your closing sentence: “They might not all be correct, but they have a lot to offer” — does ‘deceptiveness’ and ‘lack of candor’ count as ‘a lot to offer’?

    Talk to you tomorrow…

  • Nick

    Bobo: I couldn’t fall asleep without writing and posting this.

    First, and just to be clear: I cited Plato as an example of a belief that strongly influenced Western thought for centuries – yet without any merit. I think it’s fitting that the fantasy of ‘ideal types’ closely parallels the issue of ‘truth’ – which varies from one subjective human mind to the next. Thus I suggest we look to improving the accuracy (not truthfulness) of our descriptions, eschewing any hope for the perceiving the illusion of ‘truth’, just as we should for Plato’s imaginary ‘ideal types’.

    Next, regarding parables and metaphors:

    I’ll have to confess some ignorance: I don’t know whether biblical parables are taught as ‘parables’ (metaphors) or as ‘truths’. (And maybe it depends of the relative fundamentalism of the religionist using the parable…?)

    If parables are taught as metaphors, I can’t see much problem with it (not at first blush, anyway).

    But let’s talk metaphor for a moment. “Wine is Christ’s blood, and bread His flesh.” Aside from the strong likelihood that this was lifted straight and shamelessly from the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries (where Persephone was ‘consumed’ as the bread and Dionysus as the wine), I, as a youngster in Greek Orthodox Church, was expected to faithfully accept that the wine and bread (whose taste I strangely miss) had magically BECOME Christ’s flesh and blood. LITERALLY. (I couldn’t — even while liking the ritual.)

    This eucharist business is an example of a metaphor presented as ‘truth’. Is it objectionable? Probably, although I kind of like the beauty of the metaphor (especially in its ancient Persephone/Dionysus origins) enough to forgive it.

    But what about this?

    — “Creation”, if misunderstood as an “artifact” rather than as an eternally unfolding natural universal process, needs a “Creator”, right? The culture in question was highly (perhaps violently) patriarchal – and one of its most important crafts was that of pottery. What’s the metaphor? A Father who “breathes life” into pottery, and calls it ‘Man’.

    The metaphor that is presented as ‘truth’ is none other than the biblical God character itself!

    Now that one I find highly objectionable.

    It would be a big step for religions like Greek Orthodoxy to admit that the eucharistic wine and bread aren’t really divine flesh and blood. (Maybe one of them has, and I don’t know it yet?)

    It would monumental – and extraordinarily helpful to the advance of reason – if these same dogmatic monotheistic religions would admit the simple possibility that their God-character is just another metaphor, based on ancient conjecture set within a specific, parochial socio-cultural context.

    The ancient metaphor of the Potter/Warrior/Father presented as ‘truth’ has cost countless lives through the millennia, and has caused unconscionable suffering – not least in the women whose lives these beliefs have influenced.

    A little simple candor, of the kind Bishop John Shelby Spong has never shirked from, would likely do wonders in this battle against irrational ancient superstition dressed up in clerical garb.

    HEY! Bishop Spong would probably make a GREAT GUEST for the ‘Morality’ show!

  • Bobo

    NICK: Thank you for introducing me to Bishop Spong, he has some really interesting ideas and seems to be a member of a growing trend in American Christianity. Let me try to address a few of your points as concisely as possible:

    “…has cost countless lives through the millennia, and has caused unconscionable suffering” While I would be an idiot to disagree, I feel I must. Rejecting Christianity because of this suffering, or Judaism because of Israel, or Islam because of 9/11, is as ridiculous as rejecting Nietzsche because Hitler was a fan of his work. I can go on… evolution / social Darwinism, the Holocaust / rationalism, the Atom Bomb / physics… My point is that while an idea should be viewed in the context of its consequences, those consequences should not lead us to an outright rejection of the idea. It is true that many horrible things have been done in the name of Christianity, but many amazing things have been done as well.

    On God as Metaphor: You seem to be assuming that all things which we describe through metaphor could be described in a more truthful or accurate way. The example of string theory pasta is certainly a good one for a poorly understood scientific theory, but (at the risk of being cliche) what about love? Billions of people have something to say about love. Each one has described it differently, some use metaphor (love is a flower/flame/ocean/lion…). Some would say that it’s a series of hormonal reactions in your brain, or an evolutionary mechanism to assure socialization of offspring. But I don’t think any of these billions of people would say that any one description or metaphor is the ‘True’ meaning of love. Certain things, most of them having to do with the human condition, simply cannot be discussed except through metaphor. Metaphor is not (as you seemed to be suggesting) an inferior form of communication in all circumstances. Science is Scientific solely because those things which it choses to study can be discussed without metaphor. String theory is, in fact, one thing. Love, on the other hand, is everything which anyone has ever said about it, and more.

    I do not think that God is a metaphor for something. Rather, God is a name for all things which can only be described through metaphor. To bring this back to the show… This nature of God and metaphor is exactly the reason why religion and art go so well together. Plato wanted to kick artists out of the Republic because they traded in metaphors. Is there a more ‘real’ way to discuss Grace than through the music of Bach? Or the pain of God than through the poetry of John Donne? All great religious texts are poetic. Religion and art both deal with parts of our existence which can’t be seen in singular terms.

    One last thing before I go. “I am the one who is I am.” This is not stupid nonsense. This is an incredibly profound statement about the existence of existence. Descartes’ very clear and rational “I think therefor I am” pales in comparison. While it might be easier to understand the Descartes, for me at least the Biblical statement comes much closer to the Truth of existence.

    And if my ongoing conversation with Nick is starting to bore the wider ROS community, please tell us to stop. I hope, however, that others can jump in and add some more perspectives.

  • pryoung

    Camille Paglia: “But a totally secularized society with contempt for religion sinks into materialism and self-absorption and gradually goes slack, without leaving an artistic legacy.”

    Well, what about a deeply (often fanatically) religious society that sinks into materialism and self-absorption? Chris’ windy promo notwithstanding, this is typical Paglia: a posture parading as an idea, a phallic metaphor for added ballast, and little grounding in anything save the author’s bottomless narcissism and need for attention.

    American Protestantism made its peace with consumerism and worldly happiness in the early part of the twentieth century, and the current popularity of churches preaching the “prosperity” gospel is only one example of how religion has largely buttressed materialism in America, not radically questioned it. Historians like Jackson Lears and William Leach talk about this in far more interesting, informed and provocative ways than Paglia will.

    As she does in other instances, Paglia just appropriates a meme of the New Right—that “secular humanism” has been destroying America since the 1960′s—and adds scholarly flourishes to make polemic and posturing seem like maverick public intellectualism. I’m happy for Chris that he can find it all so titillating, and even be moved to denounce “smug liberals in high dudgeon about the Fundamentalist hostility to abortion and gay marriage.”

  • Lumière

    ///..even silly and misleading ones like my made-up-on-the spot spaghetti comparison…\\\

    I thought that was pretty freakin good !

    String theory is pass̩ Рit is Brane Theory now.

    ///…complex symbol system, a metaphysical lens through which we can see the…\\

    Symbols are language based – you can’t see anything with them – only visual perception takes the outside world in directly – language only refers to the other senses

    Bobosays :///Our ability to think, to reflect, to understand Humanity, is the same now as it was for the ‘cavemen,..\\\

    Agreed.

    ////They might not all be correct, but they have a lot to offer.\\\

    One the one hand nothing has changed; on the other they have a lot to offer.

    ???

    Bobo: could you link me to anything on this:

    “Nietzsche because Hitler was a fan of his work.”

    ///And if my ongoing conversation with Nick is starting to bore the wider ROS community, please tell us to stop.\\\

    Keep it up !

    Excellent stuff !

    Metaphor and truth coexist

    Magritte’s

    This is not a pipe

    http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.magritte.com/img/cd_04.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.magritte.com/5_1.cfm%3Fimg%3D04&h=300&w=400&sz=20&tbnid=1MfjaSkRrw6ysM:&tbnh=93&tbnw=124&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dmagritte&start=3&sa=X&oi=images&ct=image&cd=3

  • Lumière

    pryoung :

    I would bet Camille would agree with everything you posted.

    She causes us to think about the power relationships that give society structure. She is simultaneously the center, the catalyst, and the vector that illuminates those relationships.

    She isn’t the oyster (ha!), but the irritant that produces the pearl.

  • Lumière

    Religion, politics, economics, culture, societal rules, etc. are power structures that bring order to the vibrating and oscillating human consciousness.

    The fascinating thing about the religious ethos is that the illuminati could use the metaphoric code to find deeper meaning, while behind the veil of the literal interpretation made by the masses.

    One needs to stratify, or at least bifurcate, human consciousness to see how the diversity of the various power structures work together to create order.

  • Bobo

    Lumiere: Bobo: could you link me to anything on this: “Nietzsche because Hitler was a fan of his work.” I was originally introduced to this concept when I took a high school survey course in philosophy. All that the text said about Nietzsche was that his most famous saying was “God is dead.” …And that he inspired the Nazis. I’ve come to find out through dialogs with various teachers and professors that this is the number one reason why Nietzsche is not taught more in the US. It seems important enough that it warrants a paragraph on Wikipedia’s Nietzsche Overview article. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Nietzsche#Nietzsche.27s_influence_and_reception

    While anyone who read Nietzsche would realize immediately that the whole idea is preposterous, the fact is that the Nazis did indeed co-opt a lot of Nietzsche’s phrases (“Uber-man”, “will to power”, etc.). Hitler himself said on several occasions that he was a fan of Nietzsche, although one of his aides admitted after the war that he didn’t think Hitler had ever read any of Nietzsche’s works. In any case, Nazism has tainted Nietzsche in the minds of many Americans, and it will probably be a long time before any of his works are taught in a public school in this country (although there are other reasons for that too).

    “One the one hand nothing has changed; on the other they have a lot to offer.” Yes, exactly. All I’m saying is that we can learn just as much about human nature from reading the Bible, Plato, or Chaung ‘Tse as we can from reading Foucault, Arendt, or Hegel. Humans haven’t changed, so ancient ideas about humanity are still just as relevant now as they were then.

  • galoot

    As a painter I am puzzled by the quotation from Paglia. She calls herself an atheist, but looks to religion to rejuvenate the arts?

    I’m starting to think that just as you can’t be a little bit pregnant, you can’t be a little bit in favor of religion. Reason v. Unreason, that’s where the battle lines are being drawn – in politics, in art, everywhere.

  • Lumière

    ///Hitler had ever read any of Nietzsche’s works..\\\

    Ok thanks – I was looking for a direct link – I don’t think there was any.

    It is a similar situation to Eichmann misinterpreting Kant.

    ///….ancient ideas about humanity are still just as relevant now as they were then…\\\

    On some levels, yes.

    This was what I meant by ‘stratifying consciousness’: we have a base level provided by ancient thought and we have moved to more complex understandings of motivation from that base level.

  • rc21

    galoot, You don’t have to believe in god in order to see the benefits of religon.

  • Lumière

    galoot

    Good question, perhaps the opener:

    She calls herself an atheist, but looks to religion to rejuvenate the arts?

    This is what is great about Paglia – she will bring three things, seemingly in opposition, together in a structure that makes sense: art, religion, atheism

    My view is Spinozaist, in that I say, spirituality revels itself in the order in which all things exist.

    Art and spirituality can come together in the order/structure found in an artwork.

  • Bobo

    Lumiere: “This was what I meant by ‘stratifying consciousness’: we have a base level provided by ancient thought and we have moved to more complex understandings of motivation from that base level.”

    I think I already agreed with you in an earlier post, although I wasn’t quite as explicit about it: “Even though our knowledge of the world around us has grown (not necessarily improved) throughout the ages, our knowledge of ourselves has remained the same.”

    To clarify my own thoughts, as well as my communication of them, I guess I’m making a distinction between ‘knowledge of ourselves’ (The Humanities, Arts, Religion) and ‘knowledge of the world’ (Science, Math, Social Science, The Study OF Humanity). While many ancient theories in the later category provide base knowledge, over time we have built upon this and improved much of it. This contrasts sharply in my mind with the former category. We have added new things to this field, but instead of growing upwards (building verticaly), we have simply expanded the field (building horizontally).

    I don’t think that anyone who has read Ovid or Chaung ‘Tse or Samuel II could honestly say that literature and poetry has improved over time. It has changed, there are more types and examples, but it has not ‘improved’. I would argue that the wisdom contained in religious texts is of this same character. No, the Bible does not tell us how we should deal with the threat of Nuclear War, or what to think of theories like evolution which contradict its own creation story. But it does offer many stories which reveal secrets of basic living, how to be a human… secrets which most people spend lifetimes trying to figure out. Maybe not secrets, maybe just wisdom. Look at the story of David, or the parables of Jesus, or the accounts of Rome and Corinth in their decadence. All of these stories offer glimpses at what it is to be a human, living on this planet. Yes, many challenges we face today are different than those faced 2000 years ago, but many are exactly the same.

    By the way, I wish that I could offer more examples from Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc… Unfortunately, I haven’t studied any of these religions very extensively yet. But I am working on it. I consider myself a scientist, a rational being, a modern man, etc. This does not change the fact that I have learned many valuable life-lessons from religion. Contemplating God is one of the most beneficial activities I ever engage in. I feel that religion helps me grow as a person. I’m not putting it on a pedestal above all other forms of knowledge. I am saying that it is a form of knowledge which deserves careful study from anyone who wishes to know more about themselves.

    Enough of my rambling and proselytizing, I really don’t mean to preach, I’m just trying to explain what I feel is a minority voice in the ROS community. But please do check out the link to the Chauvet Cave which I posted earlier. It is the perfect example of how little we’ve changed in 30,000 years.

    Thanks everyone.

  • http://del.icio.us/plaintext plaintext

    Atheism is the new religion. Fundamentalism has lobotomized religious practice to that filmy paste applied to ones Mercedes to bring out the shine of consumerism or an opiate to soothe over ones ills while the money changers pocket the tithes.

    Atheism has a much, much more difficult approach to morality. Every advantage is won tooth and nail without the convenience of supernaturalism and under heavy persecution. Much like the early religions.

    Art must exist in a climate of persecution or risk irrelevance, just as any good religion does.

    Lastly, if there is a God, is he sitting up late at night over a cup of tea in a state of anxiety over that which he hath wrought?

  • http://del.icio.us/plaintext plaintext

    That last bit is a reference to Harold Bloom’s Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine – couldn’t get the link to function.

    But one more thing: Is Cormac MacCarthy’s The Road a new world devoid of art or a depiction of art at it’s apex.

    [Warning: not for the squeamish]

    I’ve been meditating on the scene where the man and the boy come upon the abandoned camp of the cannibals and witness the remains of a cooked fetus on a spit. Is this the new Piss Christ? Is Cormac speculating that such things happen in an artistic vacuum or that they epitomize art by evoking that which we shudder to conceive under normal circumstatnces.

  • Nick

    I really should break this post into two installments…

    I

    Bobo, first of all, I love that you brought up love. I’ve written about that before vis-a-vis religion, and will reiterate it below, in my conclusion.

    First though, in response to this, “I do not think that God is a metaphor for something. Rather, God is a name for all things which can only be described through metaphor.”

    Perhaps many things can be described only via metaphor – many things I am unaware of. But how many of these ‘things’ have a measurable existence outside of human imagination? Does anything religion purports to “know the truth of” exist outside of human imagination? Virgin mothers? Souls? Resurrections? Revelations?

    Lumiere (April 2nd, 8:34 AM) asserts that ‘truth’ exists: “Metaphor and truth coexist”.

    How does ‘metaphor exist’ – or, better yet, where does metaphor exist? In nature? Or exclusively within human brains?

    Is it possible to ‘measure’ the existence of metaphor in a human brain? —or is it impossible because thought is not measurably ‘granular’, but a process: a flow of energy within and between the brain’s millions and millions of neuron clusters? If thoughts have no ‘atoms’, but are only flowing patterns of energy, isn’t part of our problem this: the brain-energy-patterns that apprehend the world abstractly are effectively indistinguishable from the patterns responsible for pure, unapologetic imagination?

    If religions purport that the imaginative ‘revelatory’ products of their founders aren’t imaginary but are instead the ‘truth’ (of the universe as it was understood at the time), why should that be any more credible than my silly (and misleading) spaghetti/string theory metaphor?

    If it isn’t possible to measure the putative ‘reality’ of a metaphor, how do we understand a metaphor’s existence? Cognitive scientists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson co-wrote a terrific book, Metaphors We Live By. In its research, they discovered—to their surprise—just how pervasive metaphor is in human thinking. Turns out that even what we consider ‘abstractions’ are metaphors-in-disguise. (Don’t take my word for it: read the book.) Human thought is built of metaphor; abstraction descends from this, and doesn’t stray very far from it either.

    Metaphor is both imaginary and relative: it is a thought-process of comparison. Human thinking manifests in two symbiotic ways: comparison and differentiation. I’ve elsewhere likened scientific thinking to ‘differentiation-on-steroids’ and yet candidly admit that that’s just another metaphor! Even though scientific thought accentuates and thrives on differentiation, it cannot escape metaphor (except, possibly, in mathematics – which I flat-out do not comprehend). Scientific thought uses differentiation and abstraction in its attempt to describe the universe as accurately as possible (given the constraints of our finite intellects).

    Does metaphor have any existence outside the relative?

    Do Plato’s ‘ideal essences’ have any existence outside of the human capacity for imagination?

    Lumiere, being a strong skeptic of the utility of solipsism, I am more than 99% (but not fully 100%) certain that the universe exists. That it’s not just a figment of my imagination. If you and I can agree that the universe exists, and that within it exist many symbiotic phenomena, are they ‘true’?

    What does ‘truth’ mean? Accuracy?

    It seems to me that ‘truth’ is an explicit claim of ‘100% percent accuracy’.

    Is that attainable – especially given the wholesale (a metaphor dressed up as an adjective) pervasiveness in human thought of metaphor—which, again, is imaginary?

    Scientific descriptions strive for 100% accuracy, but no scientist worth his salt (another metaphor) will pretend that any scientific description can achieve it (except, again, possibly the purely mathematical).

    “Truth” claims an objective existence that I simply can’t perceive. Accuracy, on the other hand, is relative – subjective. That, I can appreciate.

    It seems to me that both ‘truth’ and metaphor are illusory in that they are imaginary – just like ‘ideal essences’. I suggest we strive to improve the accuracy of our descriptions, and consign ‘truth’ to the museum housing Plato’s ‘ideal essences.’ Such an admission might seem disappointing, but is it genuinely disappointing to confess that many of our ancient concepts are misleading?

  • Nick

    II

    How many metaphors please one’s palate for poetry, yet are deceptive – inaccurate? For example, my spaghetti & meatballs metaphor suffers from this inaccuracy (at least): the spaghetti (‘cosmic strings’) doesn’t lie physically below the meatballs (matter), but comprises it. (If string theory is even viable, that is.)

    How many religious metaphors, however attractive, might be just as misleading or more?

    If creation isn’t an “artifact” but a perpetually unfolding natural universal process, isn’t the Potter/Warrior/Father god-character a metaphor founded on an inaccurate apprehension of the universe? Why must we finite-brained humans insist that the apparently infinite universe could not have eventuated without some sort of conscious agency? Might that insistence be dramatically inaccurate – and flatly deceptive?

    Here’s a metaphor I’ve loved for decades: the late Alan Watts liked to combat the common (and dreadfully unimaginative) scientific presumption that the universe is ‘dead’ and unintelligent. To this end, he would say, “You can’t get intelligence from an unintelligent universe any more than you can get apples without an apple tree.”

    Intelligence, in other words, is latent in the universe.

    I like to modify that metaphor this way (using my favorite fruit): consciousness is as latent to the universe as cherries are to cherry trees. This however does NOT mean that the universe is ‘made of consciousness’ anymore than cherry trees are ‘made of’ cherries. Instead, the universe is a ‘consciousness-tree’ – a perpetually unfolding growth process whose fruits include (but are probably not limited to) consciousness.

    Question: which of these overly simplistic metaphors seems more accurate?

    1. God created the universe in seven days (strangely making light—and days—before the Sun).

    2. The universe is a ‘consciousness tree’.’

    Not all metaphors are equally accurate. Some—no, make that many—are flatly deceptive.

    Look, I don’t care at all for Richard Dawkins’s strong promotion of scientific reductionism, which, using the silly “selfish-gene” metaphor (assigning agency to molecules!!!), metaphorically (and absurdly) likens growing life-forms to constructed machines. But his critique of the rational failings of religion are largely spot on. That critique of his I will defend.

    Nevertheless, Dawkins assigning agency to molecules is no more plausible—or necessary for comprehension—than humans assigning agency to the infinitude we call the universe. Even ‘universe’ might be misleading – what if it’s a multiverse?

    Back, at last, to love.

    If a presumption of agency isn’t necessary for comprehension of the universe, isn’t such a presumption quite possibly deceptive?

    Likewise, must we ‘believe in God’ to experience love?

    Why must we assign ‘divine’ agency to love? Isn’t it enough to feel it, to enjoy it, and to promote it?

    How can religions promote love? One of Bishop Spong’s book chapters is entitled, “The Meaning of Prayer in a World with No External God”. If Bishop Spong is able to practice and promote Christianity’s message of love without having to believe in an external ‘god’, isn’t ‘god’ a superfluous—and deceptive—concept or metaphor?

    Conclusion:

    If the billions of people attending churches, temples, and mosques took turns telling one another tales of the power of unpersonified love they have experienced in their lives instead of listening to self-righteous preachers moralize over the precepts of ancient, unverifiable mythology, would the world just possibly be a more peaceful – and loving – environment for human existence?

  • galoot

    # rc21 Says:

    April 2nd, 2007 at 10:37 am

    galoot, You don’t have to believe in god in order to see the benefits of religon.

    rc21, you are right, and I can see both benefits and downsides of religion. Daniel Dennett explores this territory with more patience than I can muster – I ultimately get fed up side with Dawkins. (Nick – does he really assign agency to molecules?) I suppose the utilitarian point of view would say, religion has good results, it’s good. But I think I would be patronizing religious people to say, OK, I think you are making a fundamental error in your thinking, but it has some great side effects, so you just keep on believing.

  • Nick

    galoot: “does (Dawkins) really assign agency to molecules?”

    Yes. He proposes that genes dictate biological growth.

    As a corrective, I’ll try to find time to post an excerpt from Steven Rose’s Lifelines that comprehensively demonstrates the intellectual poverty – and outright inaccuracy – of Dawkins’s genetic reductionism. (I might do it elsewhere and post the link to it here.)

    Genes provide developmental maps – but growing organisms switch genes off and on under the influence of environmental conditions. Metaphorically speaking: you needn’t drive every road on your genetic roadmap to complete your developmental journey.

    Genes don’t dictate. They are not agents.

    This metaphor presented as ‘truth’ is causing no end of confusion and worse in human sciences these days.

    I can also recommend, as another book-length counter to reductionism in biology, this: Alas Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology.

    Perhaps the current fascination with life-as-machine isn’t wholly abominable, but it sure is misleading. We aren’t constructed from the outside in: we grow. The two processes are fundamentally different. And so are their dynamics.

  • Potter

    Bobo and Nick- not bored.

    I like Bobo’s I do not think that God is a metaphor for something. Rather, God is a name for all things which can only be described through metaphor. To bring this back to the show… This nature of God and metaphor is exactly the reason why religion and art go so well together. Plato wanted to kick artists out of the Republic because they traded in metaphors. Is there a more ‘real’ way to discuss Grace than through the music of Bach? Or the pain of God than through the poetry of John Donne? All great religious texts are poetic. Religion and art both deal with parts of our existence which can’t be seen in singular terms.

    But I would say “God is a name for things that are described through metaphor” omitting “all” and “only”. That would be a more true statement.

    I just listened to the Paglia/Colorado-CSpan lecture linked above and about 10 minutes before it finishes, the Q& A section, someone gets up to ask Paglia about truth/Truth and she at first does not seem to quite understand how to answer but then she does sort it out in the most simply way.

    ************

    Paglia wants comparative religion and art history to be taught in the schools. I totally totally agree with her on that. Don’t forget Camille Paglia calls herself an atheist…. but at the same time she is not a rebel against religion. She seems to embrace the richness that religion has brought us ( although Nick is of course right about all the rest.).

    I felt very choked by my own religious ( orthodox) Jewish upbringing and found liberation in the study of the history of art ( my major in college) which was tantamount to a comparative religion course at times. I also remember- to go back a little further- that in the public high school we were reading from the King James Version of the Bible- memorizing. This was to cultivate a sense of it as the beautiful and profound literature that it is.

    The support of art by religion and religion by art over the centuries, and not only in western art, has served to soothe and uplift the human spirit without necessarily forcing one to believe the dogma or even ride the metaphors. When I look at for instance the Michelangelo sculpture- say the Pieta- I am in awe, even though I do not believe in the iconography. What am I in awe of? Though science keeps moving the line, ultimately the answers to the great questions we still do not know. (Gauguin asks, “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?)

    Still I disagree with Bobo, though I agree with much else he/she has written here:

    Even though our knowledge of the world around us has grown (not necessarily improved) throughout the ages, our knowledge of ourselves has remained the same.”
To clarify my own thoughts, as well as my communication of them, I guess I’m making a distinction between ‘knowledge of ourselves’ (The Humanities, Arts, Religion) and ‘knowledge of the world’ (Science, Math, Social Science, The Study OF Humanity). While many ancient theories in the later category provide base knowledge, over time we have built upon this and improved much of it. This contrasts sharply in my mind with the former category. We have added new things to this field, but instead of growing upwards (building verticaly), we have simply expanded the field (building horizontally)

    I do not think our knowledge of ourselves has remained the same at all. Perhaps it has moved slowly and unevenly.

    Bobo: All of these stories offer glimpses at what it is to be a human, living on this planet. Yes, many challenges we face today are different than those faced 2000 years ago, but many are exactly the same.

    And these stories remain alive because we find relevance in them, we reinterpret and find deeper meaning according to our modern consciousness. Who knows how they were ( variously) interpreted back then and up through the present?

    Every year at this time, though I am not religious at all,either I hear a new and wonderful interpretation of the Exodus story or I feel that it is very relevant to my own life and connects me as it does Nick: I, as a youngster in Greek Orthodox Church, was expected to faithfully accept that the wine and bread (whose taste I strangely miss)

  • Nick

    plaintext, I enjoyed much of your April 2nd, 12:53 PM – except that I question its first five words.

    I can’t speak for atheists or atheism, which seems to mean “Belief that God doesn’t exist.” I can speak for nontheism (as I understand it), since I class myself as a nontheist/ignostic (not agnostic).

    What’s the difference, you might ask?

    I neither believe nor disbelieve in supernatural entities. Instead, I find no persuasive evidence either way. This is not agnosticism however. Agnostics seem to tacitly await persuasion (one way or the other). I, on the other hand, am not even interested: “ignosticism is defined as ‘finding the question of God’s existence meaningless because it has no verifiable consequences.’”

    —Wikipedia: Ignosticism

    Here’s how it works: I would like to challenge anyone (not plaintext, probably) offended or perturbed by my skepticism over the supernatural to attempt to disprove the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or of the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

    Then, after your attempt, tell me why I should even begin to consider the possibility that any ancient supernatural deity is any more plausible or credible than the FSM or the IPU.

    To save yourself time, have a long look at the Argumentum ad populum entry within Wikipedia’s fine collection of entries on logical fallacies.

    I don’t see why the absence of a belief should necessarily imply that another incompatible belief MUST lurk in the brain of the skeptic. Taking a position (a belief) is NOT the same as failure to perceive the falsifiability of the position.

    Skepticism is not a ‘belief’: it is a demand or request for persuasive evidence. And it is a tacit refusal to surrender one’s credulity should no such evidence be available.

    I don’t see how ignosticism, nontheism (or even atheism) is a ‘religion’ of any stripe. It seems instead to be an absence.

  • http://del.icio.us/plaintext plaintext

    Nick, that ig-, non-, a- theists are a persecuted bunch puts them amongst the religious. Moreover though, there’s a sort of coercion amongst the trad religions that says, “We may not agree but at least we agree that God exists,” however disingenuous. They nevertheless dichotomize themselves from the ig/non/a/thiests – “others.”

    There’s something primal about “otherness.” The cave drawings are what if not histories of conquest, meals won, Gods aussaged.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    Bobo: “But please do check out the link to the Chauvet Cave which I posted earlier. It is the perfect example of how little we’ve changed in 30,000 years”.

    I totally agree. The Chauvet Caves measure up to any art created today. I have used them to argue against the notion, so prevalent in the art world, that the newest latest thing is always breakthrough to something better. There is a Cave Painting (I’m not sure if it is from Chauvet or one of the others) of a running bison that is remarkably similar to Dechamps Nude Descending a Staircase which was considered a big breakthrough at the time. That people went to great trouble, first just to get into those caves, and then there is some evidence that musical instruments were played, these were multi-media extravaganzas that easily rival anything being created today. Nobody knows what these early people were thinking but they lived very close to nature. If you look at the art of contemporary people who have nature based religions you see a similar reverence in the work. I worked in an Art Museum where we had a show of the Art of Native American Women of the Plateau. Some of the work was historic and some contemporary. I spoke with one Native Woman about her work and she said everything she did was a prayer. I think in many cultures art & prayer are synonymous.

    Tibetan Tanka paintings are used as spiritual tools to help unify the practitioner’s consciousness with the deity and the guru. In our culture we are bombarded continually by commercial images because we live in a capitalist system that worships money so that is a prayer too. I think much contemporary Art (with a big A) wrestles with this through movements like Pop Art that deal with or rebel from all the commercialism.

  • Nick

    Plaintext, thanks for the prompt reaction. I can appreciate your sentiment, and would like to respect that, in your personal universe of meaning, non-/a-/ig-theists = the religious.

    I must however respectfully dissent, but not from intellectual imperialism. Allow me please to plead my case:

    I have been recently reminded – to my unhappy exasperation – that people holding strong beliefs seem to suspect skeptics of secretly harboring incompatible alternative beliefs. This just ain’t necessarily so.

    But why am bothering to reiterate this?

    Because I find it highly objectionable to have my openminded skepticism conflated with belief (in its ‘conviction’ sense) and with faith. This sort of conflation is used by believers (of whatever) to deny that skeptics employ reason: they instead accuse skeptics of disingenuous counter-belief.

    And I’m really, really, frickin’ sick and tired of it.

    I resent – strongly – having my a-religiosity conflated with some sort of subversive counter-religiosity. I very much resent having my plauses conflated with convictions.

    I resent being conflated into the multitudes who uncritically surrender their credulity to the solemn assurances and condescending pontifications of sanctimonious Authority.

    I like to think (perhaps mistakenly) that I’m capable of independent, non-dogmatic thought. I do my best (however unsuccessfully) to bring that open-mindedness to ROS. I’d like that to be respected – just as much as I’d like to respect your personal understandings.

    Please don’t conflate me with the religious, or with their habits of thought. Read my prose again (if you can bear it) and ask yourself whether I’m a dogmatic ‘believer’ or simply a discontented and questioning skeptic.

    And please don’t think such distinctions don’t matter. I worry – strongly – that they matter enormously in the current frightening debate between reason and irrational religiosity.

    Thank you for the chance to plea…

  • Nick

    PS: ‘openminded’ doesn’t have to equal ‘gullible’. Openmindeness and skepticism together are the symbiotic patterns of thought repsonsible for the Scientific Method, and all that it has yielded.

    (Although, just to be clear: I’m no scientist. Not smart enough!)

  • Bobo

    Nick: you keep coming back to creationism and patriarchy when you discuss religion. I’m assuming that you have a particular problem with these concepts. Cool, I do too. In fact, I have a lot of problems with a lot of things in most religions. However, your ‘skeptical’ view confuses me a lot. You claim to bring ‘open-mindedness to ROS’, yet in the same paragraph you refer to religious people as “the multitudes who uncritically surrender their credulity to the solemn assurances and condescending pontifications of sanctimonious Authority.” Strip away all the big words, and you’re really just insulting a bunch of people for the crime of not finding the same answers as you.

    You assume that everyone who believes in God has simply never asked the same questions as you. Speaking for myself, I am constantly skeptical, as are most religious people I interact with. Newsflash: we are rational, we are not idiots! You and I are probably asking very similar questions of life, the answers we get are very different. Faith and Blind Faith are not the same thing. One can have faith in something and still doubt it, still examine it, still ask questions of it. You say that you are not a scientist. Well I am. And a large part of the power of science lies in recognizing its limitations. Science provides a wonderful lens through which to view reality. But it is not the only lens. If you can’t see past your own stereotypes of religious people, how can you expect anyone to respect your skepticism?

    Peggysue: I am so glad to find someone else who knows of and has been inspired by Chauvet. One of the most wonderful things about art is that it allows us to feel connected to people across unbelievable expanses of time and space. Religion often gives us this same feeling of connection. It doesn’t surprise me at all that many cultures use art to pray.

    Potter: “omitting “all” and “only”. That would be a more true statement.” Yes, against my better judgment I have made quite a few unqualified absolutist statements. Chalk it up to polemic. But I do agree that most things I’ve said would be a lot closer to the truth if I omitted absolutes. Unfortunately, polemic is a much better conversation started than truth.

    “we reinterpret and find deeper meaning according to our modern consciousness.” Yes, Jesus had nothing to say on the stem-cell debate, and any Christian who poses a religious objection to stem-cell research should read their Bibles again. If they rephrase it as a Moral objection, that’s fine with me. On the other hand, religious texts are not simply blank slates on which we write convenient interpretations. While they are by nature open to interpretation, there are certain themes which these interpretations must circle around. Interpretation of religious stories is not completely relative. Thus, there is more than just revisionist history connecting us with the ancients.

    Thanks everyone, this thread is producing some amazing ideas and beautiful descriptions.

  • Nick

    Bobo: “Strip away all the big words, and you’re really just insulting a bunch of people for the crime of not finding the same answers as you.”

    My words, however harsh they might seem to you, reflect with unfortunate accuracy my personal experiences with the arrogant ‘certainties’ of professional religion. For this reason I am thrilled to have learned that non-dogmatic thinkers like John Shelby Spong actually exist!

    I’m enjoying our conversation, by the way. Apologies for unwittingly (i.e., thoughtlessly) insulting you.

    Perhaps you are philosophically inclined towards Spong’s open-minded understandings of his beliefs. If so, I support you (philosophically).

    Can you give me a descriptive example of how this – “Faith and Blind Faith are not the same thing” – manifests in your typical cognitive experiences?

    Perhaps, to each of us, these terms signify markedly different levels of credulity. Perhaps your ‘faith’ is somehow closer to my ‘opinion‘.

    “a large part of the power of science lies in recognizing its limitations.”

    Agreed – my reservations over biological reductionism rise similarly from this sentiment.

    “Science provides a wonderful lens through which to view reality. But it is not the only lens.”

    In response, allow me to reiterate a couple of questions from my posts above:

    What, exactly, does religion purport to ‘illuminate’?

    How many of these purported ‘realities’ have a measurable existence outside of human imagination? Does anything religion purports to “know the truth of” exist outside of human imagination?

    Virgin mothers? Souls? Resurrections? Revelations?

    Is my suspicion that religion only ‘illuminates’ the wondrous yet non-measurable wellspring of human imagination misguided or short-sighted?

    Thanks in advance.

  • Nick

    Quick PS to Bobo, here’s another Christian bishop whose beliefs I do not share, yet who I nevertheless admire: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlton_Pearson .

    Pearson is now reviled as a heretic simply for coming to the eminently logical conclusion that Hell and Satan can’t possibly exist – because no infinitely loving God could possibly countenance the existence of eternal suffering!

    (Still think my personal account of the arrogance of professional religionists is too harsh? ;-))

  • Nick

    I’m extemporaneously thinking onto ROS in a whimsical stream that’s flowing towards Bobo…

    If I sell insurance, and I suspect that the arcane language of the policy you seek to buy from me might allow a loop-hole that negates the insurer’s duty to pay off any claims, what are my ethical responsibilities?

    Ought I caution you? Ought I investigate the issue?

    How many professional religionists – we’re talking people who earn money, mind you, by promising eternal life – are willing to admit that their product just might not be what they advertise it to be?

    If a professional religionist solicits your money yet won’t live up to the ethical duties expected of any other kind of salesman, is he any different than a snake oil salesman?

    If millions of people are taught to uncritically trust such professional religionists, what does that say about the level of education in our culture?

    Dawkins, in his The God Delusion, writes that his parents didn’t teach him what to think but how to think. No matter how you might feel about Dawkins (and my feelings are decidedly mixed), why should only he (and a few others) seem able to make that sort of claim to non-dogmatic openmindedness?

    How many of us have taken the time to think about how we think, and then take the additional time to apply the hard-earned results to the countless figments of ‘conventional wisdom’ that befog our society?

    Why should religion, of all things, be exempt from this sort of analysis?

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    Nick,

    I confess I haven’t had time to read this whole thread but…. you are not equating ALL religious leaders with a particularly mean strain of intolerant ignorant Christians again are you?

    Good, I didn’t think so.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    “Why should religion, of all things, be exempt from this sort of analysis?”

    Cutting away the illusions and waking up to reality is what Buddhism is about.

    “How many of us have taken the time to think about how we think”

    Sounds like Buddhist mind training.

  • Nick

    Peggy Sue,

    1. Allow me to reiterate (what I’ve consistenly said on ROS from my beginnings here!):

    Religion – so long as it cannot or will not admit to uncertainty – is simply misleading. And perhaps, considering what we’ve learned with acceptable accuracy in recent centuries, it’s even flat-out deceitful.

    It would be monumental – and extraordinarily helpful to the advance of reason – if these same dogmatic monotheistic religions would admit the simple possibility that their God-character is just another metaphor, based on ancient conjecture set within a specific, parochial socio-cultural context.

    A little simple candor, of the kind Bishop John Shelby Spong has never shirked nor shrunk from, would likely do wonders in the battle against irrational ancient superstition dressed up in clerical garb.

    2. I ought, against the likelihood of predictable stereotypical assumptions one might summon on reading my posts, also reiterate that I’m a die-hard fan of much religious art. Especially 18th century Catholic masses. But also Byzantine mosaics, and the countless non-Christian arts (archaic Greek especially) that we can include as ‘religious’.

    But I don’t think it neccesary to glom onto these as the ‘only’ arts worth our time. I’m interested in what arts might eventually arise from a science-based understanding of the universe — that is, if we can ever get the ‘faith’ religionists to admit that their ‘certainties’ are probably, at best, only imaginary.

    3. This afternoon, for the first time in days (weeks?), I could see across the Straits to your islands — and it was utterly beautiful. A few beige cumulus clouds dotted the skies between my shores and yours — and I could even see some of the different tans and ochres of the treeless land on your hilly islands.

    I’m yearning for summer

  • Nick

    Peggy Sue: you’re right (in my opinion) about Buddhism. Despite its many unverifiable beliefs, it is also a discipline and study of consciousness. Neither of the world’s two biggest faiths (Christianity & Islam) can offer anything remotely equivalent.

  • galoot

    “Because I find it highly objectionable to have my openminded skepticism conflated with belief (in its ‘conviction’ sense) and with faith. This sort of conflation is used by believers (of whatever) to deny that skeptics employ reason: they instead accuse skeptics of disingenuous counter-belief.

    And I’m really, really, frickin’ sick and tired of it.”

    Nicely put Nick – I’m also really sick of the “non-believers are just another type of fundamentalist zealot” meme.

  • Bobo

    Carlton Pearson can certainly be admired for trying to decrease the fear/guilt aspect of much modern Christianity. However, I feel that the removal of Hell on these grounds has the effect of oversimplifying one of the most basic and beautiful paradoxes of Christianity. Dante said it best when he read the inscription over the gates of Hell: “I too was created by eternal love.” To reintroduce our previous conversation on love: can hate and suffering be created by love? Of course! It’s called ‘getting dumped.’ Even something like ‘love’, which we talk about every day, is so complex that its own diametric opposite is included in its nature. Is love an artifact of ‘human imagination’? No. While none of us can define love, anyone who has experienced it knows exactly what it is. One could spend a lifetime contemplating it, measuring it, deconstructing it, and not even come close to fully understanding it. Even people who are lucky enough to live most of their lives

    ‘in love’ can be daily surprised by new facets of it… “”What, exactly, does religion purport to ‘illuminate’?” Well, the first time I truly contemplated the idea that Hell was created by eternal love, a great big light-bulb went off in my head. Call it cognitive dissonance or divine epiphany, for me it was certainly illumination. It was a crisp, clean, thoroughly incomplete, yet enlightening observation on the nature of love. Religion cannot ‘know the truth’ of anything, simply because it deals in concepts which (if ‘truth’ even exists for these concepts) have a truth too complex for a human to fully know. But just because we cannot ‘know’ these things, that doesn’t mean we can’t still learn a lot about them.

    As to the example of ‘professional religionists’, well “‘Tis easier for a camel to fit through the head of a needle…” I don’t disagree that there are many preachers (especially within the evangelical and mega-church movements) who are about as corrupt as any human could be. It might surprise you, but most people who devote their lives to religion (nuns, priests, reverends, rabbis, yogis…) are quite poor. If they went into it for the money, well, they chose the wrong profession. Don’t believe me? Try going to any inner-city church in America. Many of these people chose to devote their lives both to God, and to their fellow humans. Many of them are very intelligent, very compassionate, and unbelievably selfless. Try conversing with them. Instead of talking about the standard topics (homosexuality, evolution, etc.), try asking them if they’ve ever questioned their faith or the existence of God. I think you’ll find that they have spent most of their lives examining ‘how’ they think, but also ‘how’ they believe.

    “Why should religion, of all things, be exempt from this sort of analysis?” It should not in any way be exempt! It should be questioned and probed with all the analytical spunk we can muster! Religion is not so fragile that it will fall apart from a few simple questions. Thousands of years of brilliant minds devoted themselves to precisely this form of theology. Here’s the thing: you can’t disprove any of it. The definition of a scientific statement is that it contains a disprovable hypothesis. But that’s just the thing, religion is not scientific! At the end of a long hard day of theological interrogation you will not reach any conclusions, but you will have gained some strange new perspectives.

    So here’s my challenge to all the Atheists, Agnostics, Igtheists, Ignostics, and Skeptics (I might be included in one of these categories, but I won’t tell…):

    1) Grab a copy of the nearest religious text you can find (family Bible/Koran/Torah/Mahabharata should work fine). Don’t open it yet. Just put it in an easily accessible place.

    2) When you go to bed tonight, you will do so as yourself. Ok, now you’ll have to REALLY open your minds up for this part…

    3) When you wake up tomorrow morning, you will believe in God (don’t worry, it will only last for 1 day).

    4) Now open up that religious text and read start reading. Read from the front, the back, random points, whatever. Just read until you feel you found a story you like (in light of your new-found faith of course).

    5) Now analyze with all your liberal-arts-school might! Pull it apart, deconstruct, reconstruct, find symbols, find contemporary geo-political, neo-marxist relevance, compare it to Hamlet, let your mind go as far as it can with this. (But seriously, you have to remember as you’re doing this that you totally believe in God. You are a person of Faith now. These are no longer just stories, they are real. They really happened, and not only that, they’re so important that God him/her/itself wanted you to know about it. So there must be some really cool stuff in there, right?)

    6) Go to bed. When you wake up in the morning, you’ll be back to your good old self. No delusions for you, none at all.

    If any of you try this, I urge you to really try to believe in God for that one day. Seriously. Don’t just pretend, really try. It’s only one day. Just take it on faith that whatever God is, God exists. You can question everything else, but for that one day, leave God untouched. Just accept. If you find yourself completely unable to do this, then just imagine that you believe in God, and try to play-act it from there.

    I think that you’ll be surprised at much you can gain from this exercise. If anyone tries it: Let us know how it goes.

  • Bobo

    Sorry to post again so soon after my giant one, but I simply must. “it is also a discipline and study of consciousness. Neither of the world’s two biggest faiths (Christianity & Islam) can offer anything remotely equivalent. ” –Nick

    Many Christian monasteries, prior to the ‘age of reason’, practiced consciousness altering prayer which would occasionally end in divine visions or sometimes a ‘sexual orgasm sent from God.’ (Benedictines and Dominicans). Also check out the practice of Lectio Divina http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lectio_divina

    As for Islam… One word: Sufism. If that isn’t consciousness-probing, I don’t know what is.

  • Nick

    bobo, you’re great. Really. I mean it. I find myself laughing and clapping with approval in one sentence — and yet shaking my incredulous simpleton’s head the next! I will reply in detail to your excellent (and occasionally maddening) post above later.

    Suffice it to say for now that it’s wonderful and remarkable (even if I can’t buy its entirety).

    Thank you!

  • Nick

    My first stab at Bobo’s provocative and excellent post:

    Aside from the many places where I quietly applauded you, I can’t agree that ‘hell’ is concept with enough redeeming qualities to warrant its retention. It strikes me instead as an imaginary gulag to which moralizing human pontificators can threaten recalcitrant ‘believers’ with eternal banishment. This is exactly one of my biggest beefs with western, fundamentalist ‘faith’ religion: it is, like or not, effectively totalitarian. Hell is its gulag, and Satan its Stalin. (And again: why I therefore appreciate Bishop Spong.)

    If ‘hell’ were admitted by its purveyors to be merely a metaphor for the remorse one feels after “getting dumped” (for previously unperceived ‘failings’), or after getting busted for some sort of societal transgression, I’d have little problem with it (well, okay, maybe somewhat more that ‘a little’).

    Next, I loved this:

    “Religion cannot ‘know the truth’ of anything…”

    …but then felt my jaw drop at this:

    “…simply because it deals in concepts which (if ‘truth’ even exists for these concepts) have a truth too complex for a human to fully know. But just because we cannot ‘know’ these things, that doesn’t mean we can’t still learn a lot about them.”

    Aside from the astute, “(if ‘truth’ even exists for these concepts)”, this, to my simpleton’s mind, seems like the classic, equivocating evasion, “God works in mysterious ways” dressed in fancier garb.

    Which is it? Does religion “know” anything outside of the amazing human capacity for imagination, or not? (See below for an exposition on my own capacity for imagination.)

    What, exactly, are these “truths too complex” that we can supposedly nevertheless “learn about”?

    Tell me please, in your opinion, if they actually exist beyond the human capacity for imagination. (We’ve come together in this thread much too far, Bobo, for me to accept this much evasiveness!)

    Your next paragraph about inner city religion is simply terrific. However, that these people are both sincere and totally laudable does NOT award their supernatural beliefs a free pass. Especially if these beliefs are passed along as ‘truths’ to people who might benefit from fewer shackles on their intellects rather than from more.

    Your next paragraph starts flawlessly (IMHO), but begins to sag (IMHO) at, “Religion is not so fragile that it will fall apart from a few simple questions.” That, I wonder over. It might be accurate – or not. The jury’s out on that one, methinks.

    Next, though: “Thousands of years of brilliant minds devoted themselves to precisely this form of theology.”

    Yes, and here is some of the produce of those ‘brilliant minds’:

    “The (Catholic) pantheon (includes) an army of saints, whose intercessory power makes them, if not demigods, well worth approaching on their own specialist subjects. The Catholic Community Forum helpfully lists 5,120 saints, together with their areas of expertise, which include abdominal pains, abuse victims, anorexia, arms dealers, blacksmiths, broken bones, bomb technicians and bowel disorders, to venture no further than the B’s. And we mustn’t forget the four Choirs of the Angelic Hosts, arrayed in nine orders: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels (heads of all hosts), and just plain old Angels, including our closest friends, the Guardian Angels.” a

    —Dawkins, The God Delusion, pp.34-35

    How much of this is purely imaginary?

    If it’s ALL purely imaginary, what does that imply for the rest of the ‘theology’ of the Church? —That it’s ALL simply MADE UP???

    Is ‘theology’ anything aside from elegant, deceptive fantasia?

    You wrote, “Here’s the thing: you can’t disprove any of it.”

    This is exactly why I challenge anyone to disprove the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or of the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Both are EXACTLY as plausible as any other supernatural entity. Neither can claim an iota of falsifiable evidence — just like any other putative ‘deity’.

    Why should anyone waste a millisecond considering the prospective existence of any of these products of the human mind?

    “The definition of a scientific statement is that it contains a disprovable hypothesis. But that’s just the thing, religion is not scientific!”

    BINGO!!!

    Yet it claimed to be so for centuries!

    Why in the world is it any more credible NOW?

    “At the end of a long hard day of theological interrogation you will not reach any conclusions, but you will have gained some strange new perspectives.”

    Really? What “strange new perspectives”?

    That Catholic ‘theologians’ had a lot of time on their hands in which to daydream, and to commit these daydreams to written doctrine and dogma?

    Lastly, to your terrific challenge:

    I write fiction – fantasy, no less. My characters ALL deal with religion intimately. (The central characters are mostly priestesses.) Which means that I have to deal with religion intimately – in my imagination – precisely as you challenged us to do.

    I’ll be honest: it’s damned fun. I’ve spent hours beyond count imagining the faiths of my characters – and the various challenges to those faiths.

    I can empathize – very directly – with religious believers. “Believe it or not.”

    But that’s ALL in my imagination.

    (Does this explain my immediate propensity to question whether any religious ‘truth’ exists outside of human imagination?)

    When I’m done, I return to this universe: this wondrous, gorgeous infinitude that holds no supernaturalism perceptible to me — nor any need for one.

    JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth and Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea are two of the most stunning worlds I have ever ‘experienced’. They are ‘convincing’ in that both their creators lavished onto them detail upon detail to convey their ‘palpableness’ to their readers.

    Yet does this make them measurable, or otherwise ‘real’?

    No more evasions, Bobo: does anything religion claims to explain exist outside of humankind’s awesomely gifted capacity for imagination?

  • Bobo

    Q: (From Nick) “No more evasions, Bobo: does anything religion claims to explain exist outside of humankind’s awesomely gifted capacity for imagination?”

    A: Yes.

    First I must say that the word ‘explain’ troubles me, but I can’t think of a better one to replace it with. As I discussed before, I feel that Love is one subject which Christianity at least has done a very good job of discussing. Note that ‘good job’ is relative to all other discussions of Love in literature, philosophy, biology, what-have-you… It is by no means a complete discussion, nor can there ever be a complete discussion of Love.

    But you’re asking something different. I could sit here and pump out a laundry list of ‘real world’ topics which various religions have said wise things about. But no, there’s something else here. All literature says wise things about ‘real world’ topics. So what makes Religion different?

    Allow me to begin with the three Middle Eastern Monotheisms, and I’ll try to incorporate some Eastern religion a little bit later. Unfortunately my knowledge of Non-Hindu Polytheisms is very limited, so I will have to leave them out for now. I’m going to start out with a little good-ol-fashioned circular reasoning, so you’ll just have to bear with me and trust that the circle has a tangential ray.

    The three Middle Eastern Monotheisms have one particular story in common. It is the story of Abraham. God told Abraham to kill his son Isaac. Abraham was about to do so when God stayed his hand.

    Q: Do these three religions explain anything which is not pure fantasy and which cannot be explained through non-religious metaphor?

    A: Yes. They answer the question: “Why was Abraham willing to kill Isaac?” The obvious answer here is “because God told him to.”

    Q: But what role does God play in this scenario?

    A: God is a force which overcomes Abraham’s desires, self interest, and individuality.

    Q: But Abraham still had the choice, he still had freedom. He chose to overcome all of his own natural desires, his own self interest, his own individuality. Why would he do this? What did God offer in exchange for this ultimate sacrifice, not only of the child Isaac, but also of Abraham’s own will?

    A: God offered himself. God offered heaven, which is the ultimate form of pure Godliness.

    Q: So God is both the demand and the reward?

    A: Yes. Abraham was willing to give up everything at the behest of God, in exchange for nothing but God.

    Q: That seems completely irrational on Abraham’s part. He’s forsaking the life of his son. He’s forsaking his own will. He might as well forsake all of life and material existence. He might as well just die. What is it about God which could compel a man to destroy himself so completely?

    A: God is immortal. And he shall reign in heaven forever and ever. Abraham is willing to give up all that he is, all that he cares about, for the chance to be a small part, or even a witness of God. It is Abraham’s recognition of his own insignificance and mortality, and his equally profound recognition of God’s unimaginable significance and immortality. He wants to give up on his own life. He wants to be a part of something vast, something universal. Yes, it is completely irrational. But it is also true. Not just for Abraham, but for every human who has ever walked the Earth.

    Q: Who else would do such a thing?

    A: In the Bhagavad Gita, there is a prince named Arjuna. Staring across a battlefield he sees the men on the other side as his brothers. He does not want to kill them. He experiences the natural human revulsion towards war and violence. His will is towards love and tolerance. This is a completely rational stance for a man contemplating war. But then the God Krishna comes down and talks with Arjuna. He convinces Arjuna that no matter what he feels or wants, his Duty must be done. That Arjuna has a duty to his country and family. That Arjuna is playing a part in a sacred prophesy which must be fulfilled. In the end Arjuna is convinced and happily marches off to war.

    Q: Ok, but those are the dogmatic religions, surely Buddhism has nothing like this?

    A: It is the ultimate goal of Buddhism! The Buddhists believe in reincarnation. Well that’s brilliant, you can live forever, who fears death then? But no, the Buddhists wish for escape from everything in life, including even eternal life. They seek the greatness and universality of Nirvana. And only through asceticism, meditation, and transcendence of life can one reach it.

    Q: But those are all still religious examples. They are all works of imagination. How does that explain anything about reality?

    A: Why are people willing to go to war? It is the most irrational thing imaginable. Why do we gladly give up freedom and hard-earned money to our governments? Why do we spend so much time and money on ‘cultural artifacts’ like fine art? Why did so many Germans love Nazism, and so many Russians love the Bolsheviks? Why are we so concerned for a future we will never see? These things and many more are irrational activities. We must overcome our most basic will towards self-preservation to engage in these, and many more. In fact, much of what we do falls into this type of irrationality.

    Q: So why do we do it?

    A: For a higher power. For something which is greater than ourselves, our families, our possessions. It is that same recognition which Abraham had, that recognition of his own insignificance compared with God. We are not only willing, we are happy to kill, to die, to waste our lives away, so long as it is both because of and for a higher power. It is a strange and irrational relationship between an individual human and the higher powers of the world. Most of the time we aren’t forced or coerced by these awesomely potent entities. No, in fact we spend much of our lives seeking them out and trying to make Abraham’s exchange.

    This relationship is crucial to human existence, to the human condition. But where can we learn about the nature of the relationship? We could pick apart every aspect of our lives, searching for higher-powers, and then read political theory for our relationship to government, and read biology for our relationship to the ecosystem, and read…. Well, you get my point.

    Q: But is there one discipline in all of human knowledge which deals explicitly with this subject in all of its varied forms? Does anyone search deeper than the superficial guises of the higher-powers?

    A: Yes. Religion. God is the fundamental higher-power. And what else does religion discuss, except our relationship with God? What does religion explain about our world which is not imagination and cannot be explained by secular literature? It explains the voluntary, irrational, life-forsaking urges which govern so much of our lives.

    Thank you so much, Nick, for this excellent conversation. Lively and stimulating would be a major understatement. It has been my pleasure.

  • Lumière

    B0B0 says:

    Q: So why do we do it?

    A: For a higher power.

    Goethe said: renounce the self or destroy the self

    Nick says:

    ///skeptic of the utility of solipsism prove to \\\

    Perception is reality – without this feature one would constantly be checking in with one’s self and thereby achieve a level of dysfunction.

    Truth exists as a trend, a process, a tendency, an unreachable

    goal –

    Human consciousness is a part of nature = imagination and metaphor are of nature.

    Is air real, or part of my imagination? both?

  • Lumière

    Lectio Divina

    Reading this suggests the chemical formation of a state of mind – many religions have a similar process. Part of what neurobiologists call the ‘physicality of consciousness’.

    “Preparation…a transitional activity that takes one from the normal state of mind…”

  • enhabit

    Lumière Says:

    April 2nd, 2007 at 8:34 am

    “Bobosays :///Our ability to think, to reflect, to understand Humanity, is the same now as it was for the ‘cavemen,..\\\

    Agreed.”

    You guys seem to be disregarding the importance of language on the assembly of thought, and its test. You must admit that our language today is a bit different from our ancestors. Or is this about relativity?

    As for religious education:

    I am constantly amazed at how scripturally illiterate many people can be who then align themselves with an organized religion. I recently heard of some statistics that suggest this is a widespread phenomenon. To then cling to fragments as absolutes!

    My children are receiving Biblical instruction, knowing perfectly well how I feel about the Bible. I do this precisely because so much of our culture springs from it. To read Melville in a state of Biblical ignorance is a lost opportunity. To listen to Warren Hatch babble away without an understanding of it is to lose sight of a great example of satire.

    Like it or not, we live in a Judeo-Christian culture and will continue to do so for a few generations to come.

    As for thruth? Big one! I often point to mathematics, and I am attracted to the scientific method. Just look at what Newton was up against! I have mentioned before on ROS that the very activity that we are engaging in here is a giant step forward (and kinda back). The Athenian stoa has been revived and now circles the globe. Thought must withstand the test of collective scrutiny. This is not to say that the mob is always right, far from it..but one learns so much from response, right or wrong. This is a productive forum.

    As for imagination. You probalbly already know what Einstein said about it but i’ll repeat it any way..that imagination is more important than knowledge. If we credit him with insight, does this mean that knowledge is dependent upon it?

    I once heard that the definition of a punchline is “unexpected yet inevitable”. Is this how we learn as well? Why we laugh?

  • Nick

    My goodness there’s a lot to respond to this morning!

    First, galoot, thanks for backing me up. It means a lot, I promise.

    Next, Lumiere: “Human consciousness is a part of nature = imagination and metaphor are of nature.”

    Agreed. So would be an elephant’s memory. Elephants, we learn, are self-aware: they recognize themselves in mirrors. Are they capable of imagination? I don’t know – but I suspect it, simply because they are self-aware – and they demonstrably mourn their family dead. Now, I’ll grant you that I’m positing a pretty big ‘if’…

    What if the capacity for imagination isn’t limited to humans, but is instead available to other species-variants of this modest little corner of the universe-as-consciousness-tree?

    Does anything imagined therefore have an existence outside of the brain of the imaginer (regardless of species)?

    If imagination and abstraction both co-exist within the same brain, and work symbiotically to create accurate descriptions of the universe which that brain shares with other brains, is it possibly confusing that descriptions of the shared universe can emerge from the same brain nearly simultaneously with descriptions of a ‘solipsistic’ world perceivable only to the speaking brain? (In other words, a world not fully representative of the more fully shared world.) That these descriptions share, by necessity, the same language-concepts and that they might seem to describe the same ‘shared’ world might only deepen the confusion, yes?

    This stream of whimsy now begins to steer towards Bobo (but I’m inviting input from anyone).

    You write of ‘higher power’ as if it is a universal or natural entity known to all us – like the Sun: which even blind people can feel on their skin. What if I don’t share this ‘knowledge’? What if I can’t perceive it? Am I ‘blind’ to it? Or might my apparent numbness to it instead be a result of the sort of “illusion-shedding” Peggy Sue alludes to in her April 3rd, 1:36 AM? (That is, according to the subjective meanings my brain creates.)

    Here’s the briefest caricature I can give:

    Our distant hominid ancestors were “less brawn and more brain”: they used primitive tools and weapons, and had no body armor to speak of. They were particularly vulnerable to mega-faunal predators. Yet they survived, and their descendants are another iteration of our ancestry. How did it happen?

    If one of our ancient ancestors noticed a branch moving overhead or a ripple in the savannah grass to her right, what would be her most survival-effective impulse? To disregard it as merely the wind? Or to take evasive action in the fear that a malevolent animal agency might be responsible for the wagging branch or rippling grass?

    Might this instinctive preemptive presumption of agency have become ever more highly developed as the hominid brain and intellect evolved?

    Is it a mere coincidence that, linguistically, ‘aspiration means both, “audible breath”, and “the act of breathing and especially of breathing”, and “a strong desire to achieve something high or great”. And that ‘inspiration’ similarly means “the drawing of air into the lungs”, and “a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation”, and “an inspiring agent or influence”?

    And that both aspiration and inspiration are cognate with ‘spirit’ ?

    Spirit 1 : “an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms

    2 : a supernatural being or essence: as a capitalized : HOLY SPIRIT b : SOUL 2a c : an often malevolent being that is bodiless but can become visible; specifically : GHOST 2 d : a malevolent being that enters and possesses a human being”

    Doesn’t this all this ‘spir’-cognate-ness imply that ‘air’ = ‘spirit’? And isn’t this a fundamental assignment of ‘spiritual (supernatural)’ agency to moving air?

    Does air, as we understand it today, realistically merit an assignation of supernatural agency? How much ‘spiritualism’ or ‘supernaturalism’ descends from this simple metaphoric inaccuracy by our recent ancestors?

    Humans today assign agency to cars: their headlights and grills become ‘faces’, and their apparent independence of movement only adds to the illusion of agency. We blame cars for failing to start or for breaking down – as if the machines possess agency.

    We do the same with our computers. We call computers ‘thinking machines’, yet these devices can’t cogitate, but only calculate – the actual ‘thinkers’ are none other than the software programmers. And, of course, Dawkins assigns agency to molecular genetic codes – despite the gross over-simplicity of this assignation.

    We assign agency to all manner of non-sentient phenomena, and, on a good day, are aware of this agency-assignation. What about the other days we spend in our all-too-frequent cogitational fogs? (Dawkins, for example, has quietly admitted that his creation of the ‘meme’ was meant as a metaphor for genes-as-agents—and that they don’t actually exist.)

    Is ‘higher power’ another, grander evolutionary iteration of this strong human tendency to assign agency to the unknown provenance of activity or phenomena we seem to perceive in our world? Is ‘higher power’ nothing more than a more elegant euphemism for ‘spirit’?

    Isn’t possible – or even probable – that that ‘higher power’ is metaphor, employing air, misunderstood as ‘real’?

    Bobo, you candidly admitted that your excellent April 3rd, 6:51 AM (and it is REALLY EXCELLENT!) employs circular logic – tautology. To me, the tautology revolves around ‘higher power’ – and cannot escape its gravitational grip.

    What does it imply if some humans don’t seem able to accept the ‘higher power’ premise? Are we ‘blind’ to it? Or aware of it differently? As in: “imaginable, but not evident—plainly or even partially—in the world beyond the human imagination”?

    Boy, I’ve got more to say but this post is already another monster.

    Still, I’ve to add that I’m looking forward to Potter’s take on this thread’s recent evolutions – and I’m hoping read more from many others, too. (Nice to see enhabit here, too.)

    Join in, folks!

  • Tom B

    Interesting how fast folks are to link the entirely distinct matters of faith (acceptance of facts without evidence), gods (supernatural creatures), ethics (internal rules of behavior), law (externally enforced rules of behavior), theology (elaborations of hypotheses), rituals (ceremonies with emotional significance), etc, etc, etc under a single rubric: RELIGION. In many cases, the intricate interlacing of all these disparate elements shows such creative imagination that one could say religion is simply a form of art (conceived of as fascinating tapestry consisting of many threads of human ideas, whims, emotions, etc.). Religious ceremonies are (for me) art. I enjoy watching Shinto wedding ceremonies when I visit Tokyo — though I don’t know (or care) much about Shinto. I miss ‘religion’ if it’s seen as the experiences of incense, High Mass, beeswax candles, red votive lights, and old Italian widows singing wildly out of tune variations of ‘O Salutaris’ were. (Sadly, these have vanished into historical memories.) There are — obviously — religions which do not have gods (Theravada Buddhism), music or art (Wahabbi Islam), theology (animism), religious law (‘Prosperity Gospel’ Protestantism), and so on. Those who speak of ‘religion’ need to understand that what’s so clear to them is very foggy to us who no longer ‘live on the reservation’. ‘Religion’ is interesting in large part because it seems to definite from a distance, but the closer and closer one gets, the more it dissolves into a mist… Sort of like a Seurat’s pointellist ‘Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’.

  • Nick

    TomB: fine post. Allow me in response to point out that religion can include all of the following:

    “acceptance of (putative) ‘facts’ without evidence”

    “(putative) supernatural creatures”

    “internal rules of behavior”

    “externally enforced rules of behavior”

    “elaborations of (conjecture)”

    And, “ceremonies with emotional signifigance”

    And that all of those are notable features of the world’s currently dominant religions, which gives us our working ‘definitions’ of religions.

    Like you, I enjoy relgious rituals — but enjoyment doesn’t have to imply credulity.

    I like your equation of religion with art. But ought these often exquisite arts be taken literally, or metaphorically?

  • Potter

    I am a bit behind on this discussion;

    Nick Said: How many religious metaphors, however attractive, might be just as misleading or more?

    Nick also said: “If a presumption of agency isn’t necessary for comprehension of the universe, isn’t such a presumption quite possibly deceptive?”

    But If there is a strong desire or need to comprehend the universe and nothing scientific to fill that psychological yearning or need, then comes agency/imagination to fill the gap. Imagination and metaphor is for anyone who is unable to leave it at “I/we just do not know”, or unable to find meaning, or even fears meaninglessness. Those are not easy states to balance on though life.

    Reinterpreting (ancient) religion in the light of scientific truth ( in order to accept it) means letting go.

    Nick said: If the billions of people attending churches, temples, and mosques took turns telling one another tales of the power of unpersonified love they have experienced in their lives instead of listening to self-righteous preachers moralize over the precepts of ancient, unverifiable mythology, would the world just possibly be a more peaceful – and loving – environment for human existence?

    We don’t know. This is not a question that can be answered and even if it could be (scientifically?), what if the answer would be “no” as easily as “yes”? The point is billions attend churches, billions believe. It’s a fact, and it may even come down to biology.

    Bobo said: “Religion is not so fragile that it will fall apart from a few simple questions.”

    Nick said: That, I wonder over. It might be accurate – or not. The jury’s out on that one, methinks.

    Imho religious belief falls apart from a few simple questions that when answered are not believable any longer by the questioner. In other words religion falls apart when the believer can no longer believe; the believer (or potential believer) then never either buys the ticket, or simply gets off the train.

    Religion is usually instilled at such a young age that letting go is more than a rational decision, but an emotional one as well. Some however find ways to make religion work for them to stay connected- to their humanity, to the past, to each other –a big thing.

    Nick says: How much of this is purely imaginary?
If it’s ALL purely imaginary, what does that imply for the rest of the ‘theology’ of the Church? —That it’s ALL simply MADE UP???…….

    …..Why should anyone waste a millisecond considering the prospective existence of any of these products of the human mind?

    For various reasons: possibly b/c it serves a psychological need, possibly because is connects you to (br)others, helps one meditate or reflect upon the present human condition and through time, EVEN IF you do not buy it as truth or use it as metaphor. In other words, because it serves, fills in a huge gap that science cannot: we are here and we do not know why, or what for, or how.

    And also possibly because there is a beauty to the human imagination, metaphors and the works of art that spring from or reflect that. ( Tom B.)

    Nick to Bobo:does anything religion claims to explain exist outside of humankind’s awesomely gifted capacity for imagination?

    That does not make sense. If something exists beyond our capacity to imagine it – we cannot concieve of it- the question does not make sense. But anyway religion explains the human condition very well- while also giving a way to deal with it, neither which you have to buy- which I don’t- but at times I do feel, to be honest, the poorer for it at times.

  • Tom B

    Nick: I certainly agree that enjoyment of religious ritual has nothing to do with faith/credulity. I’m not so sure that our working definitions of religions should be limited to the world’s CURRENTLY DOMINANT religions (emphases mine), but most discussions quickly devolve into quibbling about what realities a given label/word does or does not attach to… so let’s leave that one hanging…. Should arts be ‘taken literally or metaphorically?’ It seems to me that art exists (though I don’t advise touching a Cezanne if one visits the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art!). In one sense, art is just as literal as a brick wall or a lamp post, which also exist as material objects. In another sense, objects have metaphorical existences (not to mention symbolic existences)… These exist inside our skulls. And what exists inside our heads is real — but it’s real just like patterns of on/off switches in a computer memory: the PATTERNS are real, and these patterns can resemble others, or evoke memories of others, etc. It always strikes me as odd when people deny that God or Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny exist. Of course they do — within people’s heads as images, memories, or patterns. The question is not, do our gods exist, but do they exist anywhere outside our heads…. Obviously this question is NOT a central religious issue for everyone (technically it’s a matter of epistemology http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_perception ). And I’m surprised that no one has yet mentioned William James’ ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience’ in this thread. I’m both amused and fascinated by the sight of Japanese temple grounds having enormous trees adorned with thousands of scraps of papers, carefully folded and tied to hundreds of twigs. Each bears the wishes of the writer. And the Japanese — renowned for their very secular society — find no problem with this. The usual explanation (often by students facing tough exams) is that since they’re not sure if spririts exist, nothing is lost by invoking their assistance at exam time. If the spirits don’t exist, so what? And if they do (and have ‘powers’), it never hurts to have a spirit giving you a hand in the exam room. It’s hard to argue with this hard-headed approach to religion…. :-)

  • Nick

    Potter: great post, as usual. I like your cut-to-the-quick incisiveness. I can accept – or decline to take a position – on several of your responses. Except for the last one, which probably betrays poor writing on my part.

    Let me try it again:

    Humans can imagine. This isn’t a ‘belief’ but a three-word descriptive verbalization of a perception like this: The Lord of the Rings and Ursula LeGuin’s many fantasies are brilliant testimonials to the human capacity to imagine people, places, and milieus with no credible existence.

    What else can humans imagine?

    What demarks the border between ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’?

    Perceptibility?

    Is one realm—the natural—tangible to most normally functioning humans?

    Are both?

    If not, does one realm more likely reside in the imaginations of humans, since it is simply not available to all humans?

    I also need to re-ask a question to Bobo:

    Can you give me a descriptive example of how this – “Faith and Blind Faith are not the same thing” – manifests in your cognitive experiences? Perhaps, to each of us, these terms mean signify markedly different levels of credulity. Perhaps your ‘faith’ is somehow closer to my ‘opinion’.

    I reiterate the question because I feel I need a better understanding of how your mind handles relative levels of credulity.

    Thanks in advance.

  • Nick

    Sorry, a correction:

    If not, does one realm more likely reside in the imaginations of humans, since it is simply not credibly perceptible to all humans?

    Also: TomB, good stuff again.

    This — The question is not, do our gods exist, but do they exist anywhere outside our heads — nicely and consisely illuminates the point I’ve been stumbling to make.

    Thanks!

  • Lumière

    Nick says{Does anything imagined therefore have an existence outside of the brain of the imaginer (regardless of species)?

    Einstein imagined all kinds of things that are proving true –

  • Nick

    Good point, Lumiere (5:21 PM) (and although I resist the assumption of ‘truth’, since to me ‘truth’ implies ’100% descriptive accuracy’–which Einstein himself might well have resisted).

    See my couple of posts above–including the correction–for a better articulation of what the hell I’ve been stumbling to say.

  • Lumière

    One of the last things on BOBO’s list: Q: So why do we do it?

    A: For a higher power.

    Secularly Goethe said: renounce the self or destroy the self

    What matters is your relationship to something outside of yourself – not whether God exists or is real or is part of nature, but your relationship to God.

    I don’t like to use the word God – I use the word spirituality, which I define as a sense/feeling of connection with the order of things.

    There is a higher order and I have a relationship within or to that order.

    Does it exist, is it real, is it part of nature, can I imagine it ?

    Yes

    And as an added bonus, I can imagine there are parts yet to be revealed that I can’t now imagine.

    For example,

    Brane theory as a way to explain gravity was completely new to me, but being familiar with optics (the metaphor ) it made sense.

  • Nick

    And yet…(extemporaneously riffing off of Tom B’s latest):

    What if Tolkien were taken literally? What if a vocal and politically powerful minority strived to force ‘Numenorean’ morality onto the rest of us?

    What if this same minority believed that ‘the Elves’ would—and could only—return to earthly manifestation once England conquered the whole of Europe?

    At what point does belief in (unacknowledged) imagination become a dangerous nuisance?

  • enhabit

    oh man this is good everyone..wish i had more time..i’ll just have to let this stuff marinate a bit.

    einstein’s use of imagination can exploit intuition and experience to find a solution. for example..the artificial gravity one.. an elevator in space must accelerate in order to simulate gravity or your body will catch up, be at the same speed, and appear weightless. a perfectly valid mathematical equation can be derived from this.

    these elements are and are not within our sphere of experience and yet we can accept them, understand them, translate them.

    just to restate the obvious from above….what is imagined exists outside the brain if it is shared. a signing ape imagines the banana, finds the icon or sign and shares it with another being in the hopes of seeing it produced. another signing life form recognises the icon or sign and may or may not produce the desired banana but both lifeforms have shared the ideal nonexistant banana, within their respective brains of course.

  • enhabit

    at that point nick!

  • enhabit

    my last post refered to nick 5:53

  • enhabit

    but about 5:55

    does iconography count?

  • enhabit

    as a designer, i find that the best ideas, even unique ones, seem as though they are already out there…they are found not made.

    can logic be independent of the brain. something can make perfect sense without our ever recognising it..or are we in the realm of that dreaded unattended falling tree making no sound thing again.

  • Nick

    Lumiere wrote, “There is a higher order and I have a relationship within or to that order.”

    Lumiere, by now it can’t be anything less than blatantly obvious that I’m something of a simpleton. I will therefore shamelessly ask a perhaps seemingly silly question after a terse preamble:

    My mind recognizes the phrase ‘higher order’, but finds it meaningless. Can you please define it for me, while using this criteria (stolen from Tom B): “does it exist anywhere outside our heads” – keeping in mind that “our heads” is plural. Thus, “existing outside” means anywhere aside from within human brains.

    Thanks.

  • Lumière

    Are you asking:

    Does existence exist?

    Of course not !

  • Lumière

    Going back to BOBO’s cave example. If I read it correctly, the epiphany was that the animals depicted were not an all important food source – they were animals that represented a force or power greater than the cave dwellers.

    Did the ‘God chemical’ surface in their brains as they gazed onto them?

    How important is it to survival to imagine and recognize a power greater than yourself?

    I can imagine them deifying the animals depicted – they were made spiritual, as a way to accept a higher power into their order of things.

  • Nick

    Me (5:53 PM): At what point does belief in (unacknowledged) imagination become a dangerous nuisance?

    enhabit (5:56 PM): at that point nick!

    New question: what can we do about it?

    Is demonstrating the provenance of the belief (the imagination) the only ethical option?

  • enhabit

    structure and order exists without our saying so..we just name it

  • enhabit

    when we recognise it that is

  • Bobo

    Nick: ///I also need to re-ask a question to Bobo:

    Can you give me a descriptive example of how this – “Faith and Blind Faith are not the same thing” – manifests in your cognitive experiences? Perhaps, to each of us, these terms mean signify markedly different levels of credulity. Perhaps your ‘faith’ is somehow closer to my ‘opinion’.///

    Let me use two examples to illustrate my distinction between Faith and Blind Faith.

    1) Have you ever seen a political speech that just blew you away? One that lifted the entire crowd up and sent pins and needles through your whole body. You experience waves of ecstasy running through not just yourself, but through everyone around you. You are connected and become one. It feels glorious.

    Blind Faith: “It feels good, so I go with it. I am one with the crowd, so why fight it. If the crowd becomes a mob, so much the better. Then we will be a potent force and others will join us! We will grow and go on and this feeling never has to end!”

    Faith: “We are all one, but I am still me. This is amazing, but why is it so amazing? I must think carefully on this. Do I want to keep going with this? Am I willing to go where this crowd might take me? Am I willing to let go?” The previous could easily be said by a skeptic as well. The faith aspect is when, at a certain point, you decide that ‘this amazing experience’ is happening for some reason which you don’t yet, and might never know. It’s when you decide to shelve your objections for a period of time in order to see where this awesome force takes you.

    2) The simple experience of waking up next to a lover, looking over at them, and experiencing a moment of pure joy.

    Blind Faith: “I love this person. This love is something which is bigger than me, and bigger than my lover, and bigger than the two of us together. This love must be divine, and I must not let anyone or anything get in its way.”

    Faith: “I love this person. I don’t know what love is, but I know that I’m experiencing it. Maybe it’s just a chemical reaction in my brain. Maybe it’s just a Freudian Infantile instinct to give up my ego. Maybe this love is a destructive one. Maybe this is not good for me or for my lover. Maybe this joy is too good.” Again we see the similarities with skepticism. But again we also see that faith allows a person to be aware of all of these divergent thoughts, and to also be aware of their relative truth or merit, and to still decide to shelve them at some point. Faith is the ability to ‘place faith’ in something other than yourself. A person with faith, in this situation, will continue to experience the pure joy of love, and continue to seek it out, because they recognize that there is more to that feeling than just a feeling. It’s not just biology, or psychology, or any other semi-convincing arguments about why we love. There is something else there. So a person of faith decides to go with it for a while, to give up a certain amount of individual will.

    I hope this helped. I hope you can also see how this type of faith can be applied to something ‘irrational’ like God. I can be a rational person and still put a certain amount of faith in an irrational thing. That’s what faith is. I question it constantly, but that doesn’t dampen my faith. If anything, it often makes it stronger.

  • Lumière

    ////….these elements are and are not within our sphere of experience and yet we can accept them, understand them, translate them.\\\

    ….they exist relationally

  • enhabit

    so i repeat can something be rational or logical without our recognition? of course. it does not require us in order to be…like branes, assuming they exist outside our brains..they were there as a conclusion to a mathematical investigation..even before that was done..that is why we take them seriously..even if we only recogise it as an abstraction..they were found. that falling tree still moves the air, violently, this is a fact. no sound was produced because no ear was present.

  • enhabit

    a better thought experiment…someone traces a spherical form with their finger in a perfect vacuum. did that space exist before?..absolutely, it was simply undefined in human terms.

    i would suggest that certain concepts have an existence of their own..like zero.

    btw if you were witness to the questions and disputes that i have been fielding from the children during all this you might think that i was doing pretty well here.

  • enhabit

    so for what its worth..my answer to the question

    Nick says{Does anything imagined therefore have an existence outside of the brain of the imaginer (regardless of species)?

    yes..two ways

    one can imagine and then find..the discovery was already there to be made.

    or two cultures can independently find zero and recognise its significance in similar ways without ever meeting…like arabs and mayans. because the concept has an undeniable essential truth to it.

  • jazzman

    Nick Says: Perhaps many things can be described only via metaphor – many things I am unaware of. But how many of these ‘things’ have a measurable existence outside of human imagination? Does anything religion purports to “know the truth of” exist outside of human imagination? Virgin mothers? Souls? Resurrections? Revelations?

    Nothing (true or false) in physical reality exists outside of one’s imagination. Everything is created in one’s mind in response to what one believes is apprehended (observed – Quantum Mechanics states that the observer creates the observed) thru the senses. When ones’ senses no longer “observe” then for that person, physical reality no longer exists.

    How does ‘metaphor exist’ – or, better yet, where does metaphor exist? In nature? Or exclusively within human brains? Is it possible to ‘measure’ the existence of metaphor in a human brain? —or is it impossible because thought is not measurably ‘granular’, but a process: a flow of energy within and between the brain’s millions and millions of neuron clusters? If thoughts have no ‘atoms’, but are only flowing patterns of energy, isn’t part of our problem this: the brain-energy-patterns that apprehend the world abstractly are effectively indistinguishable from the patterns responsible for pure, unapologetic imagination? Lumiere, being a strong skeptic of the utility of solipsism, I am more than 99% (but not fully 100%) certain that the universe exists. That it’s not just a figment of my imagination. If you and I can agree that the universe exists, and that within it exist many symbiotic phenomena, are they ‘true’?

    Metaphor as all other abstractions exist in the mind (not brains – the brain is like a TV receiver which translates the mind’s transmissions into reality) thoughts are composed of energy (wave-like or particle-like depending on how they are observed) and the energy patterns that are ideas and imagination are all pure mental energy. As I stated above the universe doesn’t exist outside of one’s idea construct that comprises the universe and all its denizens symbiotic (cooperative) or others. BTW enhabit If a tree falls in the forest and there is no observer, there is no tree and no forest and no sound. (QM) and if a finger permeates a vacuum, it isn’t a vacuum and until it is observed it doesn’t exist except as a concept.

  • jazzman

    Anent Bishop Spong:

    Nick says: If Bishop Spong is able to practice and promote Christianity’s message of love without having to believe in an external ‘god’, isn’t ‘god’ a superfluous—and deceptive—concept or metaphor?

    Here’s a quote from Bishop Spong: I think God is real. I meet God primarily through the person Jesus of Nazareth… I believe in life after death because I believe it’s real, and I believe God is eternal, and because I am in a living relationship with that eternal God. And because God is eternal and because I am in a relationship with that God, then I believe I will share in God’s eternity. And I don’t want to paint pictures any more than that because I don’t know and neither does anybody else. I simply trust that. I live with God in this life, I will trust God when my life comes to an end, and I think that means that I will live. And God is the reason because God is eternal. I will share in God’s eternity.

    Nick: My words, however harsh they might seem to you, reflect with unfortunate accuracy my personal experiences with the arrogant ‘certainties’ of professional religion. For this reason I am thrilled to have learned that non-dogmatic thinkers like John Shelby Spong actually exist!

    You may believe that the Bishop is non-dogmatic as you believe yourself to be but it would be an errant belief. While he promotes religious humanism (his critics would say secular humanism) and has reasoned away much of the less than ideal religious dogma (and should be commended for his stance on many of the churches red (heretical) herrings), he still is quite dogmatic in many of his beliefs, Darwinism, Freudianism, (William James is rolling over in his grave) the existence of God and His emissary, Jesus to name just a few.

  • enhabit

    so therefore the big bang didn’t actually happen until an observer arrived?

  • enhabit

    so now we are getting somewhere! the big bang needed an observer so it created some!

  • Lumière

    where does metaphor exist? In nature?

    Metaphor as all other abstractions exist in the mind

    mind = nature = metaphor

    existence does not exist = true

  • jazzman

    Nick says: I have been recently reminded – to my unhappy exasperation – that people holding strong beliefs seem to suspect skeptics of secretly harboring incompatible alternative beliefs. This just ain’t necessarily so. But why am bothering to reiterate this? Because I find it highly objectionable to have my openminded skepticism conflated with belief (in its ‘conviction’ sense) and with faith. This sort of conflation is used by believers (of whatever) to deny that skeptics employ reason: they instead accuse skeptics of counter-belief. And I’m really, really, frickin’ sick and tired of it.

    You believe you are an open minded skeptic, you hold that belief to be a conviction. You have faith that that conviction is true. Perhaps your beliefs aren’t incompatible alternatives but illusory products of your imagination derived by reason which is filtered through the lens of your belief system.

    Just because skeptics employ reason (reason is a system of logic, and logic is highly variable from belief system to belief system), doesn’t mean the object of skepticism is invalid, the reasoning may be invalid, the counter-belief (again a belief) may or may not be disingenuous many so-called skeptics play the devil’s advocate for their own reasons.

    If you’re sick and tired having your skepticism conflated with belief (which it is) so much that you parse the term belief into sub-categorical definitions instead of the common meaning i.e., Something thought to be true. then get some medicine and go to bed because skepticism & belief will always be conjoined.

    I resent – strongly – having my a-religiosity conflated with some sort of subversive counter-religiosity. I very much resent having my plauses conflated with convictions.

    If your zealous (some might believe subversive as you (have written) would welcome the absence of religion) counter-religiosity (well documented here at ROS and elsewhere) isn’t conflation fodder, I don’t know what is

    I resent being conflated into the multitudes who uncritically surrender their credulity to the solemn assurances and condescending pontifications of sanctimonious Authority. I like to think (perhaps mistakenly) that I’m capable of independent, non-dogmatic thought. I do my best (however unsuccessfully) to bring that open-mindedness to ROS. I’d like that to be respected – just as much as I’d like to respect your personal understandings.

    Incredulity is a religion (BTW credulity means gullibility) and in your case religiously observed, dogmatically clung to so only that which is by your lights proveable or tautological is valid (which is the Religion of Realism [Critical, Direct, Epistemological, Philosophical, Scientific and Naïve]) thereby missing the unseen essence/beauty of the many “more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (WS)

    Peace

  • Lumière

    “because I am in a relationship with”

    the relationship is real, is where Bishop Spong could have stopped

  • jazzman

    enhabit Says: so now we are getting somewhere! the big bang needed an observer so it created some! That is known as the Strong Anthropic Principle. However the big bang never happened – see Eric Lerner’s website.

  • enhabit

    our senses limit our consciousness..therefore our understanding of existence is flawed and corrupted by our consciousness. can we not exist to a being that is outside of our understanding of space and time?

  • Nick

    I think I’m suddenly losing interest. I strongly resnt people putting words into my (electronic) mouth.

    See you later, guys…

  • enhabit

    okay so we’ll alter our terms….”big bang” will now be refered to as “disputable origin of universe defined for convenience of discussion” or the “dooudfcod” theory.

  • Lumière

    Nick,

    I think I answered your question.

  • enhabit

    sorry to see nick go..he’s a positive and welcome force around here.

  • http://del.icio.us/plaintext plaintext

    Amen.

  • Lumière

    da Nickinator will be back…

  • enhabit

    the Strong Anthropic Principle doesn’t distill quite that far.

    but i do like the added layer to freud’s onion.

    the universe couldn’t exist without observers so it created some..

    those observers needed a god, so they created one…

    good thing that unobserved falling tree doesn’t care..

    following nick…

  • Lumière

    Ok,

    does the refrigerator light stay on?

    I can hear Chris then asking:

    and how do we know that?

  • Lumière

    “The route to a renaissance of the American fine arts lies through religion… Great art can be made out of love for religion, as well as rebellion against it.”

    Camille Paglia

    I really wonder where she is going with the above.

  • enhabit

    because that little tab on the door pushes the switch..

    had to peek Lumière..

    “fine arts” used to be a term used in reference to traditional or conventional arts. so a “fine arts” program tended to follow a pre-bauhausean type curriculum. one can get into quite a discussion on de chirico (not american) and hopper (american) in the context of spiritualism. can that word substitute for religion here Lumière? religion is such a loaded term. i think they were more after a zen wavelength.

    i wonder if she is implying that an american renaissance will come out of middle america?

  • enhabit

    back under the refrigerator i go..

  • Lumière

    Because, you know, feminism’s main problem for the last twenty years has been that it is incapable of appreciating art, okay? There is no aesthetics in feminism. All there is, is a social agenda. Art is made a servant to a prefab social agenda. So what I’m doing is allowing feminism to take aesthetics into it, and also psychology.(Vamps & Tramps p. 246-247)

    hmmmmmm…..

  • Lumière

    ///context of spiritualism\\\

    Her thoughts are so radically interwoven it is difficult to guess. Probably not spiritualism or she would have used that word. Nature too is a loaded word for Paglia. I think she will take Classical approach – back in time: “renaissance of the American fine arts”

    That would mean she doesn’t understand that the historical narrative was about visual thinking. More importantly she doesn’t understand that it had more time to run.

  • Lumière

    an incredible ride – working in the studio today/mind spinning.re-reading the beginning of the thread to be sure-

    uh huh, it’s all still there….

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    Wow… I wish I had more time to spend with this thread. I just spent the past week Gonpa sitting (hanging out at a Buddhist retreat center while the caretaker was gone). I took my ipod and my watercolors and painted for hours and hours. Being in a place of contemplation feels very conducive to art making to me. I am a feminist & a treehugging leftist and as much as I do respect some “message” artists (Sherman Alexie, Holly Near, Barbara Kruger) I do not like to use my art to “sell”. Joseph Campbell addresses this in a talk about art, about how using it to sell something (anything, a car or an idea) is prostitution. That said we are all existing in time and are working in relation to the context of our surroundings. In times past I don’t think people’s lives were so fragmented. “Art” and “religion” were not just something we practiced on Sundays but were un-named as such because they were integral parts of our lives. I don’t think we considered thanking the landscape for providing our food as religion but simply as good manners.

    OK Lumiere, What painting am I thinking of that has a very radical heavy feminist message, is not only Catholic but biblical and is undeniably an incredibly fabulous work of great Art?

  • Nick

    On second thought, Lumiere was right. I have to post at least once more. (And probably lots…)

    Luckily, as you’ll soon see, my apparent dismay was all a big misunderstanding – based on an imaginary hypothetical fiction.

    First, however, a preface…

    Blogging here, it seems to me, should be at least a couple of things, and ideally more than just those. The hosts ask us to respect one another, and, lately (although I haven’t read some threads that I’ve heard have hosted some unfortunate acrimony), it seems that we do respect one another. Respect begins with cordiality, but, if it is to be sustained over time, requires something more: a “good faith” attempt to understand the viewpoints we converse with – even if we find we must not only dissent and disagree with those viewpoints – but dissent and disagree spiritedly.

    For example, I am enjoying my exchange with Bobo – whose views I am often unable to share – but I profoundly respect his(?) efforts and intellect. Even while disagreeing with him(?) on certain vital points, I admire what I read under the Bobo-byline.

    So, we begin with respect and under an implicit ‘contract’ to try our very best to understand one another.

    Next, we strive to not merely ‘troll’ these threads but also to offer at least a few insights of our own in ‘payment’ for the many, many insights we glean. (And we glean them even while disagreeing—or agreeing—with the contributors we read.)

    This is ROS at its best: respectful and insightful. A potpourri of often wildly varying perspectives and views.

    It’s enough to addict you, ain’t it?

    It’s not always ‘at its best’ however. Some contributors are more interesting in preaching than conversing – and hey – we ALL do it at least SOME of the time. It’s not a ‘sin’. But preachy posts must be tempered with plenty convivial conversational posts, lest the readership grow weary of the relentless machine-gunned streams of pontifications. Yes?

    One way to gauge the conversational/pontificational ratio of any given contributor is to look for the English symbol of curiosity: ‘?’.

    A dearth of this symbol – especially over a long body of contributions by one contributor – can often serve as a warning.

    ‘?’ can be used purely rhetorically, or as an indicator of genuine curiosity – or very, very often, as an indeterminate mixture of both genuine curiosity and rhetorical intent.

    ‘?’ is good!

    ‘?’ can often indicate a genuine attempt to learn not what others think of topic, but how they came into that thinking – it can ask not “What” but “How do you think?”

    ‘?’ in short, can imply respect, and a respectful “good faith” attempt to widen one’s own patterns of thinking. (Even if not wholly successfully.)

    Now, as promised, it’s time to go fictional (remember that I write the stuff)…but I must post it on a blog of my own, because it’s much too tangential—and fictitious—for this wonderful venue called ROS.

    It’s here: A Purely Hypothetical Cautionary Tale for ROS Users

  • nother

    Considering that I view a lot of this stuff through my groovy ROSe-colored glasses, I’d like to make a connection to a recent ROS show.

    During The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema program, Chris asked the philosopher Slavoj Zizek about the art of film. Zizek responded that “film was the art of the 20th century…if you want to know understand what did it mean in the 20th century to be a human subject.”

    I watched professor Paglia’s C-SPAN speech and she comes down pretty hard on contemporary film, saying there is a “banal pumping out of media in both TV and movies.”

    I can think of many recent movies, both popular and art-house that have a religious or spiritual element. For instance, I know that “Children of Men” was an ROS fav, and that has a spiritual theme.

    So that’s all, just want to make sure film gets it’s props.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    Amen brother Nick and a big howdy from across the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

  • nother

    Nice blogging Nick. “?” is the sign for curious, I love that.

    Nice to have ya back from Gonpa sitting Peggysue, I gots to try that some time.

    Are you going to show the paintings on your website?

  • Potter

    Losing Nick here would be a great loss indeed…and I don’t mind saying so even if he inflates from it and posts even longer screeds. But I want to thank him for mentioning Alan Watts which set me on an adventure to find this wonderful transcribed lecture ( with many mispellings) that Watts gave on KSAN radio San Francisco – I can’t say when- The Nature of Consciousness which I think pertains to the conversation here.

  • patsyb

    Too bad you didn’t catch — can you still? — Michel Onfray, speaking this afternoon at MIT. Just published The Atheist Manifesto in tranlsation from French. He’d be excellent facing Chris and C. Paglia.

  • Potter

    Nick- I am not sure this is an answer, maybe just a thought: If you take Ursula LeGuin’s train ride, you ride her imagination so to speak, you are( presumably) enjoying it along the way and it is getting you somewhere. So you are sharing in her fantasy- as all of her readers do. In a religion one shares along with others in an exponentially more intricate deep and more broadly relevant and perhaps a very plausible or believable fantasy or myth, the creation of many minds ( their additions and subtractions). PLUS (an important bonus you can personalize it – to make it meaningful ( no one can control your thinking).

    The question of natural/supernatural or belief vs truth or real versus fantasy is immaterial in this realm.

    So in your arguments aren’t you defining religion-the truths derived from religion ( for instance love in scientific terms?

    People who are getting something important from religion or from the supernatural are not interested in arguing about it in scientific terms (and it’s is futile imo). There are scientists deeply involved in their fields who manage to separate their beliefs from their field of inquiry- they sort of flip a switch.

    I am with Enhabit who says: just to restate the obvious from above….what is imagined exists outside the brain if it is shared. a signing ape imagines the banana, finds the icon or sign and shares it with another being in the hopes of seeing it produced. another signing life form recognises the icon or sign and may or may not produce the desired banana but both lifeforms have shared the ideal nonexistant banana, within their respective brains of course

  • Lumière

    very radical heavy feminist message:

    Judith Beheading Holofernes ?

  • enhabit

    ecstacy of st. teresa? just kidding.

    master of flemalle’s triptich – “the merode altarpiece” aka “the annunciation” circa 1425 (pre-renaisance)

    mary is deep in study..no less than two books..joseph is working with wood in another room.

  • Lumière

    Nick

    Wanted to stop existing for 8 hours last night, but lay awake thinking-off about existence.

    The process involves maintaining certain relationships:

    Imagination = Mind = nature

    The tautological answer, which you will not accept, is that your imagination exists in nature.

    I guess, what you want to know is whether that which is imagined, exists outside of your imagination in nature (if it is in fact real). That’s the stuff of a Twilight Zone episode.

    One can not know the answer b/c one can not know all of nature.

    In the case of Einstein it worked out and it WAS fiction when he imagined it. The difference might be that he was deriving his imagination by understanding and linking relationships, as in a mathematical formulae.

  • Lumière

    Of greater interest to me is the use of the grid in visual arts.

    It doesn’t exist as a visual object in nature, but it exists as a formulae – intersecting parallel lines forming right angles

    So it exists, but why use it in visual art if it is not part of visual thinking?

  • enhabit

    does perspective exist or is it a mathematical representation of a human perseption?

  • enhabit

    perception?

  • enhabit

    sorry lumiere just thinking aloud please go on

  • enhabit

    iconography can be, in the context of a common cultural experience..common ground within which a conversation may be had…perspective can be a human common ground expanding the reach the of the conversation into the cross-cultural. what’s next?

    cubism tried to be next, some say failed, but was it a preview of the multi-view presentaion sometimes static, sometimes dynamic that we are bombarded with today? is this a manipulation, conscious or otherwise of cultural imperialism?

    what’s next?

  • enhabit

    does camille want us to go back to an iconographic based art language…its still alive and well but the new religion behind it is consumerism..i think that you made a connection here lumiere.

  • Lumière

    The unanswerable situation arises when you don’t accept a tautological argument.

    Galileo screwed the pooch when he assumed that the human mind is not of nature – that was completely false.

    Basically anything you imagine is then in nature – perception is the taking in directly of the outside world.

    An anisotropism is a corollary to perception, what you see is not what you get, but if you maintain the relationship of mind/nature – it is nonetheless real.

  • Lumière

    an iconographic based art language

    Hmmmm… she is perhaps going to be an art dilettante.

  • enhabit

    hopper, deeply spiritual, has very spare use of iconography in his work..to the point that admirers feel compelled to insert marilyn et al into the lunch counter.

    this celebrity obsessed culture still needs to have its cathedral walls covered with our famous individuals.

    i recall that warhol drives you nuts lumiere. i am late to that table myself, but i am learning to appreciate in him what repulses me. as with arendt, the mirror that he holds up to us, if we are alert to its content is not pleasant. at least it isn’t to me. but unless we turn to what chases us..face it, name it, we are doomed to forever be chased by it. renounce the self or destroy the self.

  • enhabit

    Lumière 9:56 am

    “an iconographic based art language

    Hmmmm… she is perhaps going to be an art dilettante.”

    or is she concsciously attempting to turn consumerism around.

    (wow i didn’t know that about galileo..a surprise and a disapointment..but he was a proto-scientist, if not a complete one, breaking new ground and suffering its prejudices)

  • enhabit

    and i think you already consider her to be an art “dilettante”. painful word by the way, seems to imply that art is only either for experts or other artists.

  • Lumière

    Noun

    Singular

    dilettante

    Plural

    dilettantes or dilettanti

    dilettante (plural dilettantes or dilettanti)

    1. A person who enjoys the arts.

  • Lumière

    Perhaps Galileo had a proof of his assertion. The proof must be riddled with errors, as it was ‘form fitted’ to achieve his desired result: objectivity.

  • enhabit

    as for religion (the fully loaded use of the term, as opposed to spiritualism)…

    i don’t see any way to go back there. extremist elements have dismembered that one quite succesfully. buy defending it they have destroyed it.

    perhaps something wonderful will arise from the ashes..or perhaps someone who is a “true believer” will unleash armageddon just to prove a point.

  • Lumière

    enhabit Says: what chases us..face it, name it

    ///”To name is to know, to know is to control.” The west’s quest for form, for control of environment.\\\

    Camille Paglia -Sexual Personae

  • enhabit

    The NEW OXFORD

    AMERICAN Dictionary

    dil·et·tante /‹diliŠtänt/

    *N. (pl. dilettanti /-tÃŽ/ or

    dilettantes ) a person who

    cultivates an area of interest,

    such as the arts, without real

    commitment or knowledge: (as

    adj.) a dilettante approach to

    science.

    archaic a person with an

    amateur interest in the arts.

    DERIVATIVES:

    dil·et·tan·tish ADJ.

    dil·et·tant·ism /-‹tizm/ N.

    ORIGIN: mid 18th cent.: from

    Italian, ‘person loving the arts,’

    from dilettare ‘to delight,’ from

    Latin delectare.

    i have always heard it used as a pejorative term. as though experts are the only ones who can participate.

  • enhabit

    one can know that one is a crack addict without having any control of the situation whatsoever. better to know though.

  • Lumière

    Just to be clear about Andy – it is not personal, what he did was beyond the frame and thereby antithetical to me. I wouldn’t cross a street to look at his work.

    The work can be satisfactorily viewed as a jpeg

  • enhabit

    two forms of “environmental control”

    the english landscape tradition – emphasis on the sublime placement of the individual in nature, however contrived.

    the french landscape tradition – imposition of order upon the landscape to augment its beauty and celebrate man’s intellect.

    they have a great deal in common..and are dramaitically different. one attempts to obscure the hand of man..the other celebrates it…both are into control.

    and then there’s japanese landscape tradition..but we’re talking west here…you know this just drove me nuts in school..only the asian teachers knew didly abourt eastern traditions..merely mentioned in years of theory classes..as though the 18th century guys knew nothing of it…wait a minute, they were crazy about it!

  • enhabit

    no rooms filled with soup cans for you!

  • enhabit

    looking forward to peggysue’s revelation.

    got another one i mentioned on another thread..not biblical though

    UCCELLO, Paolo

    Saint George and the Dragon

    c. 1455-60

    Tempera on canvas

    56.5 x 74 cm

    National Gallery, London

    she’s got the dragon on a leash! the situation is under control and the male still steps in to slay the foe..taking all the credit. what is her concern here? hard to tell, maybe she liked the beast.

  • enhabit

    thanx for the stimulating conversation lumiere..back to my other writing i go…

  • enhabit

    i’ll check in from time to time though

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    Lumiere: Of course. That was way too easy – Though in a kinder gentler way it also could have been Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party (referencing the Last Supper).

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    Dang, wish I wasn’t dashing off to work this morning. This is a great thread. I watched Art & Religion last night. LOVE HER! (though I’m also a big fan of Gloria S). I’ve often wondered if fanatical modernists (who think if you are not working abstract it can only be because you have not been “saved” yet and you are a lesser evolved being still worshiping the idols of representationalism) if they are not the inheritance of Calvanism.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    by the way my own work is mostly abstract – good Protestant girl that I am.

  • Nick

    Lumiere, Potter, (enhabit & Bobo too, at least)

    Let my pose my question from a different angle:

    Yes, human imagination is a part of nature. No argument there – and it’s why I posited the ‘if’ about non-human capacity for imagination. This isn’t the problem.

    If, as Tom B, illuminates, gods ‘exist’ in billions of human brains – but a very large number of these humans insist that the god in their (subjective) mind exists outside of the mind in a sort of ‘objective truth’, and that all the rest of us must order our lives around this ‘truth’ and the ‘instructions’ of this ‘truth’, what the hell are the rest of us to do?

    This is the question that I can’t escape. It’s the question that drives me to post here a lot of the time.

    And it’s a question that many of the answers on this thread simply fail to take into account.

    Can anyone demonstrate an iota of evidence confirming the putative existence of gods outside of human minds?

    If not, can we at the very least quit the pretence that our lives should be affected by this irrational faith?

  • enhabit

    nick:

    that’s the point isn’t it..are we forcing others to accept that forcing one’s beliefs on anyone should be unethical? oh man these data loops can hurt.

    is the scientific method the best we’ve got..i THINK so but MUST everyone?

    humanity needs a concensus on this one but how? in the mean time, my life is still affected by fundementalists whether i like it or not..and i don’t.

    life itself has a kind of spirit..but that’s heartsight and not scientifically verifiable..i can delight in it nonetheless.

  • nother

    Camille Paglia empowered me to come out of the Madonna fan closet. I heard the professor unabashedly praise the big M one night, and a light went on in my head…you mean I’m allowed to like Madonna! That’s not to say I blare some “Material Girl” on the way to the game with my buddies – but I wouldn’t deny it if they asked me.

    By laying that revelation on me, the bigger lesson she taught me was to think outside the intellectual box…to be self-reliant when it comes to my tastes…screw what I’m supposed to like or dislike, embrace what I actually do. le gai savoir!

  • enhabit

    history has come up with ethical solutions to conundrums. the mounted and armoured knight was a force to be reckoned with and most commonfolk were without such an ability until the crossbow..chivalry became necessary.

    nuclear weapons required M.A.D. scary but it did work for a while.

    the founding fathers did try to keep religion formally out of politics…..but…..

  • Nick

    enhabit, what if this: Proselytism — can be likened to this: Attractive nuisance Doctrine?

    Chew on it for a while…

    Free speech is fine. But are dangerous nuisances? At what point do beleifs in the ‘instructions’ from the ‘supernatural’ to colonize the minds of all other humans (or to eliminate them should they resist) cross that line?

  • enhabit

    The NEW OXFORD

    AMERICAN Dictionary

    eth·ic /ŠeJik/

    *N. (in sing.) a set of moral

    principles, esp. ones relating to

    or affirming a specified group,

    field, OR FORM OF CONDUCT: the

    puritan ethic was being replaced

    by the hedonist ethic.

    *ADJ. rare of or relating to moral

    principles or the branch of

    knowledge dealing with these.

    ORIGIN: late Middle English

    (denoting ethics or moral

    philosophy; also used

    attributively): from Old French

    éthique, from Latin ethice, from

    Greek (hÃŽ) ÃŽthikÃŽ (tekhnÃŽ)

    ‘(the science of) morals,’ based

    on ÃŽthos (see ethos).

    e·thos /ŠÎJäs/

    *N. the characteristic spirit of a

    culture, era, or community as

    manifested in its beliefs and

    aspirations: a challenge to the

    ethos of the 1960s.

    ORIGIN: mid 19th cent.: from

    modern Latin, from Greek

    Îthos ‘nature, disposition,’

    (plural) ‘customs.’

  • enhabit

    nick:(are you pissed off at me or something its hard to get your tone?)

    At what point do beleifs in the ‘instructions’ from the ’supernatural’ to colonize the minds of all other humans (or to eliminate them should they resist) cross that line?

    again..at that point.

    de·lu·sion /diŠl¤En/

    *N. an idiosyncratic belief or

    impression that is firmly

    maintained despite being

    contradicted by what is

    generally accepted as reality or

    rational argument, typically a

    symptom of mental disorder:

    the delusion of being watched.

    the action of deluding

    someone or the state of being

    deluded: what a capacity

    television has for delusion.

    PHRASES:

    delusions of grandeur a

    false impression of one’s own

    importance.

    DERIVATIVES:

    de·lu·sion·al /-Enl/ ADJ.

    ORIGIN: late Middle English (in

    the sense ‘act of deluding or of

    being deluded’): from late Latin

    delusio(n-), from the verb

    deludere (see delude).

  • enhabit

    de·lude /diŠl¤d/

    *V. (trans.) impose a misleading

    belief upon (someone); deceive;

    fool: too many theorists have

    deluded the public| (as adj.)

    (deluded) the poor deluded

    creature.

    DERIVATIVES:

    de·lud·ed·ly ADV.

    de·lud·er N.

    ORIGIN: late Middle English:

    from Latin deludere ‘to mock,’

    from de- (with pejorative force)

    + ludere ‘to play.’

  • enhabit

    “to play with pejorative force”

    incredible!

  • Nick

    enhabit: “nick:(are you pissed off at me or something its hard to get your tone?)”

    HECK NO!

    You’re one of this site’s nicest and most open voices!

    If my tone seems confusing, it’s because I’m just lost in these awful questions. My tone, I suppose, reflects that. Apologies for any misunderstandings.

    (I like your contributions of definitions too.) Thanks!
    :-)

  • Nick

    Oh! Maybe it was the ‘chew on it’ phrase. Sorry. I meant that it’s probably unconventional — or even shocking — to compare proselytizing with attractive nuisances; and thus it might need time to digest my suggestion that they just might be comparable.

    Sorry, enhabit! It wasn’t meant in any rude way!

  • enhabit

    well we’re all a little jumpy after last night..the tone got a little dark.

  • Nick

    Well, it can often be awfully hard to sense attitude through these all little letter-symbols. Sometimes you think you’ve got it nailed — only to find that you’ve “imposed a deception upon” yourself! ;-)

  • Bobo

    Nick: “and that all the rest of us must order our lives around this ‘truth’ and the ‘instructions’ of this ‘truth’”

    Not all religion requires trying to convert other people. I consider myself religious, but I certainly don’t judge people based on this, and I definitely don’t try to convert them in any way. If people ask me about my beliefs, or I want to talk about them in a forum like this, I won’t hold back. However, I do have kind of an instinctual, gut level revulsion towards the kind of hateful proselytizing that many religious people engage in. I would never try to tell someone that they ‘should’ believe something. I can only say ‘it works for me, give it a try if you want to, but if not, that’s cool too.’ And really, that’s they way a lot of religious people feel. Unfortunately, the entire geography of religious dialog has been pulled towards evangelism (probably because they seem to never shut up about it). But I want to be clear that converting other people is not an inherent aspect of religion.

  • enhabit

    femnism had at times a similar path..some assumed that the movement spoke for or intended to speak for ALL women

    some “christians” do the same.

    both cases can stomp on their own progress

  • herbert browne

    Lumiere: “This was what I meant by ‘stratifying consciousness’: we have a base level provided by ancient thought and we have moved to more complex understandings of motivation from that base level.”

    I think I already agreed with you in an earlier post, although I wasn’t quite as explicit about it: “Even though our knowledge of the world around us has grown (not necessarily improved) throughout the ages, our knowledge of ourselves has remained the same.”(bobo?)

    Does evolution (if it exists) move too slowly, or with too much subtlety, to “measure”, as an affect upon the human mind?

    Re (lumiere): “mind = nature = metaphor

    existence does not exist = true”-

    I don’t know the math terms, but your second equation, posed differently, could be a ‘true’ one- IF you set it up as “nonexistence exists = true” (ie it works from the standpoint of “addition”, but not from “subtraction”- and you get a different outcome).

    Back to the “evolution” thang… it appears to have been “event-driven” in the past… by cataclysmic aftermath, or response to changes on the earth that altered potential habitat. Does the advent of a human population in the increasing billions, an attendant loss of biodiversity [as dominating humans select for their (our- sorry) preferences], our resource-altering behavior, and our increasing average physical size constitute likely grounds for discernable evolution-driven outcomes? Will they affect “The Kingdom of Heaven” (ie the human mind)?

    Oh… and do I have to thank Camille Paglia for this thread? For my money, this is the best thing that she has Ever produced! The “Nick/Bobo dialogues” are worth revisiting… and there are sparkles aplenty (TomB, Lumiere, enhabit, peggysue, Potter, plaintext… even “didactic coyote” jazzman) throughout this thread, for me… We are so funny- the “science-driven secular humanists” looking for the “god particles”, and the “faith-inspired spiritual communities” anticipating Armageddon (& its ‘uplifting’ aftermath)- we look for Ourselves everywhere… and- there We Are, by golly! ^..^

  • Nick

    For the Show:

    enhabit (April 3rd, 1:25 PM):

    (quote)

    My children are receiving Biblical instruction, knowing perfectly well how I feel about the Bible. I do this precisely because so much of our culture springs from it. To read Melville in a state of Biblical ignorance is a lost opportunity. To listen to Warren Hatch babble away without an understanding of it is to lose sight of a great example of satire.

    Like it or not, we live in a Judeo-Christian culture and will continue to do so for a few generations to come.

    (quote)

    Richard Dawkins, cast as an “inveterate foe” of religion, is, seemingly paradoxically, an advocate for the teaching of comparative religion in public education – for the same reasons enhabit cites.

    I’m inclined to agree – but I worry about it too. Wouldn’t it awfully easy for a teacher to imply that one of the compared religions is ‘more accurate’ than the others?

    For example, I recall from my own education the precept that the ancient polytheisms ‘erred’ in perceiving multiple gods, and that it was a matter of time (and ‘revelation’) that we would come to the ‘knowledge’ that there’s only “one God”.

    Thus, I’m wondering what safeguards Paglia would prescribe to ensure that comparative religion class doesn’t simply become a venue for implicit proselytizing.

    (In the meantime, I’d love to read enhabit’s and Bobo’s thoughts on this issue.)

  • enhabit

    catholic school comparative religion got me into buddhism and taoism. very good and knowledgeable instruction btw. a lot of christian clerics are big fans of buddhism in my experience.

  • Bobo

    On religion and art:

    Let’s say, hypothetically, that I want to start a Marxist Political Discussion Group (MPDG). I want MPDG to be a forum where people open up and produce some really beautiful new ideas. I want to walk away from every meeting with a sense of wonder and glory, that kind of buzz you can catch from a really good conversation.

    How can I ensure that this will happen? Well, one good starting point is to make sure that everyone has read some certain key books. Marx, of course, maybe some basic economics and socio-political theory. Hegel would be good, you get the idea… I want people to have the same basic understanding of these things so that we don’t spend all our time getting bogged down in explanations of things we already know. If we can assume a certain level of basic understanding, it allows us to reach higher in our aims. We can just use certain key words as stand-ins for very large and complicated concepts (like class, revolution, labor, etc.). Being able to use a common set of symbolic language lets us use those symbols in new and interesting ways, thus manipulating many large concepts at once. We can also use this to create some really cool cognitive dissonance and even to destabilize the foundations which we are using for the discussion itself.

    Now apply this to religion and art. If you are an artist, trying to tap into something which is fundamentally human… something beyond politics, commercialism, biology… trying to tap into beauty itself, trying to inspire everyone who experiences your art… If you are trying to do this, religion is a great place to start. It gives you that shared set of symbols. And these symbols are specific to the themes of human nature which you are trying to address. You can use these symbols any way you like, you can even undermine them if you wish. But using them allows you to do more. You don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel. Faulkner was able to entitle his book “Absalom, Absalom!” He didn’t have to explain it. He had already captured all of the complex beauty and sorrow of David holding the son he had helped kill. Two words, and the stage is set.

    These symbols are powerful, and when used correctly, they can produce art which goes beyond simple beauty. They allow us to play with the most complex parts of human nature as though we were playing a game of marbles. We can throw them around and see how they collide, see what breaks, see what shines. Religious symbols give artists the power access the deepest aspects of human nature without having to explain anything. Where they go from there is up to them. Note: religious art does not at all have to support religion.

  • enhabit

    maybe i’m just lucky

  • enhabit

    oops i leapfrogged sorry

  • Nick

    enhabit, I just read your 3:12 PM.

    I’m not sure the comparison between feminism and Christianity is fair. Feminism advocates that women should have equal rights – a ‘level playing field’. In this level field, women can CHOOSE to remain in the ‘traditional roles’. Or not.

    Christian proselytizing is fundamentally different: it seeks to persuade people not about the ‘rights’ of others but of the ‘truth’ of a dense matrix of unverifiable, unfalsifiable propositions.

    One movement advocates that we widen our horizons to perceive our fellow human beings as our equals. Beings that co-exist with men in the natural, shared world.

    The other movement seeks to persuade us that another ‘world’ exists, and that our credulity and behavior in the natural world will affect our putative ‘fate’ in the putative ‘supernatural’ world.

    The twinned phrases ‘faith-based reasoning’ and ‘reality-based reasoning’ are oversimplifications of this distinction – but the distinction is largely accurate.

  • Nick

    imho, anyway! :-)

  • Bobo

    enhabit: “catholic school comparative religion got me into buddhism and taoism.”

    yes, I’ve had some similar experiences. For example: Taoism –> Secular Democracy –> Quakers –> Episcopalians –> Catholics –> Dominicans –> Sufis

    (Just for a small slice of my own religious journey)

  • enhabit

    you misunderstand the comparison nick..

    many women (E.R.A. era) resented what they perceived as femnism postioning itself as voice for all women..this may or may not have been the case but it did seem that way at times…it became counterproductive, and ultimately radicalized the movement further away from the center that it sought.

    the same is true for some of the more vocal “christian” voices..many many christians resent the assumption that these voices speak for all christians..which they most certainly do not…with similar results.

    the very term “christian” has come to make a lot of people cringe as a result.

  • Nick

    Thanks for the corrective, enhabit. And you can count me in with the cringers cited in the last sentence of your post. This despite my admiration for much of the Sermon on the Mount! The central Christian message!

  • enhabit

    it’s unbeleivable to me how little of the new testement contains quotes from the man himself. the gospel of thomas (one of the tossed gospels of course) focused on this but was rejected from the nt.

  • Bobo

    Whew… If we’re getting into the gospels, I just want to quickly throw something in here.

    A lot of people criticize Christians for being absolutist in their concept of Truth. One of the most beautiful and incredible things about Christianity, to me, is that despite the centuries of ‘corrections’ made to the Bible, there are still four gospels. The story of Jesus was never unified. There is no one story of Jesus. No one even knows what his last words are. There’s four different versions of it! And my favorite: “my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?!” The fact that despite 2000 years of institutionalization, this still remains in the Bible is incredible. Christians can’t really talk about who Jesus ‘truly’ was, because the Bible doesn’t tell us. The Bible gives us four different versions, sometimes contradictory, but all supposedly true.

  • enhabit

    i don’t want to get too far off track but it is really interesting..there is a legendary common text from which all gospels have been thought to draw…it’s called the “Q”.

    and to thomas..he shakes things up, his account of the sermon on the mount disturbs some people.

    http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/nhl_thomas.htm

    and back to camille

  • enhabit

    on religion and art: so much of religious art is seductive..the wise are wary of seduction. heck the entire baroque era was like some massive special effects event to dazzle those restless people away from the reformation.

    is a common iconographic language really all that she is getting at? or is she attempting to redirect madison avenue?

  • soundstorm

    I Think the Feminism as a movement has highley borrowed from the Christian

    fundamentalists. The idea that sex is bad and all morality can be relegated to

    this taboo is the main idea and utility of Christianity for our civilization. A civilization so bent on war that countering the need for war is taboo. A civlization bent on the distruction of the world enviroment and it’s flora and fana. A civilization that is, and will continue to over populate mindlessly. This civilazation needs a moral system that makes them moral and will not get in the way. I think our socity was on the verge of becoming more secular in the early seventies after Vietnam and the Feminists came to power with thair shaired view that male sexualtiy is disturbed

    some how. Unwittingly by their constant attacks on men they reinforced this simple system of morality and the horror of sex. Hence today you still can here the Evangelicals talking about allmost seeing Janet’s nipple and the Horror of it all.

    As John Dewy sugested in his book on human nature this is an artificial morality or mondane moral system.

  • enhabit

    feminists were seen marching down the street with placards about clitoral awareness though soundstorm. this was one of the movement’s pillars. (insert laugh track here) sounds funny today but they were pretty militant about it.

  • Bobo

    enahbit: “heck the entire baroque era was like some massive special effects event to dazzle those restless people away from the reformation.” I’m gunna have to (at least partially) disagree on this one.

    I think a lot of Baroque art contained many things which would be very shocking to Christians today, and even Christians back then. The glamor and over-done-edness of the whole era stands in stark contrast to the cold, puritanical movements going on in protestant northern Europe. Baroque, in a large part, can be read as passion. It was cheesy sometimes, yes, but there was also a lot of heart in it. I picture it almost like a European Bollywood. Love it or hate it from an aesthetic standpoint, you can’t help enjoying it if you let yourself.

    Also, a lot of Christian Iconography of the time was VERY oversexualized. What does that say?

  • enhabit

    definetly seductive

  • enhabit

    i think the vatican took the leash off

  • jazzman

    Bobo Quotes: “I am the one who is I am”

    Bobo, have you considered the possibility that this statement was intended to be literal, i.e., that not only Jesus but each of us is God (I AM)?

    Emerson believed that he was “I am part or parcel of God”. From a scientific standpoint the omnipresence of God would indicate that he is in each subatomic particle (ad infinitum), and as each of us is comprised of subatomic particles we must be totally composed of God, as well as ALL THAT IS.

    So might it be each of us is God’s expression in human form and the “higher power” is we, co-creators of the phenomenon called reality? Is the “still small voice”, the feeling of oneness with the ALL, transcendence and “religious experience” a manifestation of the part of God which is we, communicating messages to our mundane selves from our ideal selves?

    BTW I see you are from VT, I grew up in Vermont received my religious indoctrination there at the hands of the UCC.

    enhabit says: My children are receiving Biblical instruction, knowing perfectly well how I feel about the Bible.

    I did not allow my children to be exposed to formal religion until they reached adulthood and were able to make their own critical decisions as to the beliefs presented and not have to undo early childhood inculcation (which is extremely difficult,) and I believe they were well served. They are extremely tolerant and have never caused me or society any problems.

    herbert browne says: even “didactic coyote” jazzman I readily agree to being didactic as I have little time (and only a work computer) to articulate my points. I wish to present alternate views to the quotidian, of which I have many and must choose among a plethora of posts to respond.

    While my views are presented in a assertive, pedagogical, or declarative style (I use an expository rather than conversational tone for brevity unless I an having an individual conversation with a poster [which I occasionally do (Lumière/Potter/Allison) although not recently]) they are MY opinions in which I believe but may or may not be shared by science, CW or others.

    The “coyote” part I choose to construe as the Aboriginal Americans do i.e., “trickster” because I enjoy employing tricks of language to illustrate and illuminate. When I challenge or rebut others’ statements (picking lice eggs as it were) and present my reasons as to why I believe they are incorrect or less than ideal in a didactic manner it sometimes engenders animosity. I bear no one animosity and accept responsibility jointly for any I incur. If I am believed to be incorrect in my declarations, I welcome the challenge and am happy to explain why I believe as I do.

    Nick believes that I pick on his statements unfairly to the exclusions of others. It is because he’s so prolific and makes lots of statements that beg to be challenged, I rise to the occasion, therefore I will let his statements be fodder for others and resist the urge to confront his beliefs.

    Peace to ALL,

    Jazzman

  • Bobo

    Jazzman: “have you considered the possibility that this statement was intended to be literal, i.e., that not only Jesus but each of us is God (I AM)?”

    Yes, I have certainly considered this possibility, as well as many others. One nice thing about the irrefutability of most religiously-grounded statements is that one can embrace many interpretations simultaneously. This is one of those I have embraced from time to time.

    As far as Vermont goes, while I live in the Great State of Vermont currently, I received quite a bit of my religious education in the Deep South (LA, MS) on the several occasions I have had to live and visit there. It’s amazing how much your perspective on religion can change when everyone around you is very religious. All of a sudden, it isn’t just the crazies who talk about God (New England). Everyone talks about God, from the extreme liberals to the extreme conservatives, from the guy digging food out of a dumpster, to the woman donating millions of dollars to clean up the environment.

    Anyway, the show’s about to start. It’s been a real and unconditional pleasure sharing this dialog with all of you (special thanks to Nick), I look forward to seeing you all in past and future blags.

  • Lumière

    Where’s the art part?

    She’s siding with Nick….

  • readcamp

    I am a parent of 3, oldest 18, youngest 12, all virulently anti-religion, like me. I lament a lack of spirituality, in them and in our culture. Perhaps I have shortchanged them. But at what point does religious education become religious indoctrination? How can a child distinguish between beliefs of his teachers and inculcation? I look forward to the time when I can have a meaningful conversation with my children about the great mysteries of life, without early resort to religious “answers”, but with respect of the profundity of the questions. I may be dreaming…

  • Lumière

    Alan Watts reference, nature, vastness in art

  • wrenhunter

    I am underwhelmed. So CP is saying “Religion is interesting, and has been culturally important … but I’m an atheist”? I guess in her academic world, she’s practically a zealot — but from here she seems not far removed from Dennett et al.

    What about personal spiritual EXPERIENCE — and to go a step further, since this now so often means wishy-washy New Age “I believe something or other” — what about spiritual experience within a real tradition?

  • jsallen

    (whoops, I also submitted this on a different thread, but maybe the wrong one. So, maybe this gets read twice…)

    On tonight’s program, born-again Christian Christopher Lydon put down Unitarianism for acknowledging at most one God, and then almost immediately, atheist Camille Paglia urged instruction of young people in world religions. The contradictions would be laughable except that, may I point out, Unitarian-Universalist Sunday schools teach respect for all religions and also teach comparative religion. In one of my junior high school years, my class visited churches of many denominations and a Jewish temple, after studying their history and observances with a book called “The Church Across the Street. The next year, we studied world religions, reading a companion volume. (At the time, there were too few of their followers in our community for use to attend services, or we would have done that too). This was a highly valuable experience, one that is also rather unusual if not unique with this denomination.

  • rlong

    I, also an athiest and appreciator of the role of religion in past art and culture, believe that religion once served a purpose–explaining things that could not be readily explained and convincing society that all will be OK. Now, however, we realize that there are explanations for all things (even if we will never know what many of them are!), and religion is still serving simply to soothe people into praying and thinking all will be OK. THIS is why conservative talk radio is so successful–it is the exact same thing! Progressive radio, however, prefers to deal (somewhat) with reality, which is quite ugly and maybe not too hopeful all of the time.

    Robert

  • Lumière

    jsallen

    excellent point

  • sa

    to put it very simply, those of us who were children of the sixties saw the vast majority of our comrades sell out to materialism. that was our folly and it resonates everywhere in society today. we are responsible. we sold out.

  • enhabit

    go sa

  • sharkey

    I have an issue with Ms. Paglia claiming that tolerance has contributed to the corruption and downfall of cultures. The 20th century Nazis were most intolerant and fell in relatively short order due to tolerant societies rising to challenge.

  • greeenmtn

    I enjoyed hearing Ms. Paglia, a voice that is in tune with how I look at the world. One issue I wanted to jump through the airwaves and challenge her on is the idea that kids today have nothing. As much as Jimmy Hendrix and the rest were great in the 60s, the depth and breadth of what kids have access to online is unparalleled. Granted there is plenty of crap, but there is also greater choice, freedom, and access knowledge. So to say that kids have nothing today is simply ignorant. The internet is a great place to become self taught! Loved her.

  • katemcshane

    Who knew? I thought I would hate her. I’ve never read her or listened to her before. I agreed with her. I am a feminist, former Catholic in the 50′s and 60′s, interested in Eastern philosophies but not interested in joining any religious group, secretly thrilled all day long by nature and the world in general, interested in going my own way, always have been, and I believe in God because of experiences I’ve had inside myself — but what I know as God is also what I know in nature and art. It was a really good discussion. She’s right about the danger of having the religious right as the only place to learn about religion and God. Just before the show, I was reading a column on Truthdig.com written by Chris Hedges about the similarities between the religious right’s and Hitler’s hypermasculinity and persecution of homosexuals. It reminded me of Margaret Atwood’s HANDMAID’S TALE. I’m still having a little trouble breathing.

  • Bobo

    Wow,

    This show has more comments than any show since Banality of Evil (p.1). Maybe there should be a follow up. Or maybe we’ll see that the upcoming Morality Show (519 comments!) will bring Banality of Evil together with this thread in some interesting ways.

  • pryoung

    You’re right, Sharkey, that claim that Paglia made about tolerance is great illustration of her command of history. It was only in moving away from the religious intolerance and brutally divisive sectarian warfare of the 17th century that European nation-states were able to consolidate themselves and become more formidable in Europe and the world. The tolerance of the 17th century Netherlands made it a world center of commerce, and the tolerance of the 18th century Enlightenment made France the world center of ideas and later political power. Would America ever have become a preeminent nation without immigration and (however compromised at times) toleration?

    But hey, why waste time over such niceties when there are amoral post-structuralists and humorless feminists to bash?

  • http://breathlikethewind.org newcombvt

    I found CP both wonderful and annoying. Wonderful for what she was saying, for her vision, and annoying for the way she said it, for the lack of space. The non-stop torrent of words and reflects a mind that is chock full of concepts which cut her off from direct experience of the vast wonder of the universe.

    I wish that she had taken LSD back when everyone else did, or meditate, say, a 10 day Zen sesshin. Camilia, get thee to a zendo.

  • pryoung

    For someone who so decries the assumption that people are passive and powerless, and who is actually herself a teacher of young people. Paglia has a strangely condescending view of students. She seems to see them as empty receptacles for what their teachers bring to them, rather than as individuals produced by a different history than she was, and ones already significantly formed by the time they reach college.

    I wholly agree with her that students are often devoid of a larger sense of spiritual (or I would add political) vocation, to their great misfortune. But she can’t understand that this posture of non-belief may be a sensible adaptation to the conditions of the world in which they find themselves. In a globally integrated world, and one in which one is socialized from the earliest age into a consumer role, deeply-ingrained beliefs seem a hindrance to the mobility that is necessary to function and prosper. If one wants to challenge non-belief in these students, one has to first understand how and why non-belief really makes sense for them in real ways. It’s a classically cantankerous old professor move to just lapse into grousing about “these kids today”.

    The idea that this is all the fault of some postmodern or poststructuralist professoriat is just polemical nonsense. It will win you “amens” from Chris Lydon and some scattered plaudits on this board, but professors are really bit players (alas) in the formation of values in America. Capitalism is a tad more influential, I would say.

    As SA says above, Paglia and her fellow boomer-narcissists might want to have a look at themselves. How not to snicker at Paglia’s complaints about the self-absorption and spiritual impoverishment of youth, when she begins nearly every sentence with “I’ or “Me”, ceaselessly references herself and her own work, and makes every intellectual problem out to be a sort of drama involving Camille Paglia in the heroic role? Where do today’s youth get their self-absorption from? Couldn’t be their parents, could it? No, it must be the fault of Michel Foucault.

  • Bobo

    Whatever the source of the self absorption of today’s youth, it’s a problem that a whole generation is going to have to deal with. Attacking Paglia for being a hypocrite is not going to change that fact. And I kind of like the use of ‘I statements’. Would you rather she just say IMHO over and over again?

  • pryoung

    Maybe she could reference other people’s work or ideas from time to time, like scholars tend to do. Or maybe she could resist the temptation to reduce opposing positions to a few stock grotesesque caricatures that she feels comfortable dismissing without ever really engaging any matters of substantive disagreement. That’s just basic intellectual integrity, which she seems to abandon when she takes up the role of polemicist.

    I think she’s better than that, or at least could be better than that. I greatly admire Paglia for venturing out from academia into public space, and for raising the questions she does. I also don’t at all disagree with her larger point about the need for deeper questioning and concern as the basis of any enduring culture. I’m also very much a person of faith. But I can’t abide the careless and scattershot way in which she assigns blame for deeper problems to perceived enemies, all in order to “stir the pot” and keep the Camille Paglia brand alive. She basically fuels existing public prejudices (against feminism, against academia) as a way of marking off her own identity. It’s intellectually dishonest and unneccesary, but you and others love her for it.

    No, not a hypocrite. A charlatan.

  • Lumière

    regret

  • plnewman

    Getting God, god, gods, angles, sprites, gobblens, nokondisi, etc. out of my thinking does not leave me with a need to stand slack jawed and twittering at the mystery of the universe. I’m fully motivated to be a caring and just human (as much as I’m able) with the rational powers that have so far evolved in the human brain. I don’t know how much of the physical reality in which we are embedded that brain can eventually comprehend, but not knowing that does not make me love THE MYSTERY more than rationality, nor does it leave me berefet of means to act rationally in the world.

  • Wesley Beltz

    As much as Paglia attempts to deny it I feel she is an irrelevant Boomer who has lost touch with what’s really going on.

    She bemoans the sort of nihilistic void that exists when the current generation idolizes such celebrities as Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan in comparison to the heroes of her generation such as Keith Richards and Jimmy Hendrix. I think this is completely ridiculous in that she seems to be making assumptions on what young people are actually paying attention to based solely on what the mainstream media is forcing on them. If she looked at websites like The Superficial she would realize that these figures are the butt of our jokes, not our heroes. Seeing as she is so out of touch, she might be surprised to learn that in an era that has few noteworthy artistic figures in the media a sizable portion of my generation does look back to the past at the likes of Hendrix and Richards.

    My other problem is her understanding of art in general. She seems to think that in order to be in awe of an artistic achievement it must be one of astounding beauty that can have no ideological pretense. This is completely bogus. I’m sure her assumption was made as some violent counter-reaction to the conceptual art movement of the 70′s. If she were to pay attention to artists working today (which I doubt she does as her list of artists seemed to stop at Pablo Picasso) she would understand that many great artists have produced for their viewer an experience that is both moving and intellectually challenging.

    Furthermore, her wanting to separate ideology from art makes no sense if she wants to claim for her generation Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards as artistic figures of great merit. Undoubtedly they were talented, but to say their work was separate from any kind of ideological pretense (especially during the 60′s) is extremely myopic.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    nother: OK if you are going to confess… just so you know you are not alone … back in the late 80s I lived off the grid in a hippie house out in the woods very natural organic ect you get the picture… but I did have a boom box and sometimes late at night when no one was around I’d get out my Madonna cassette tapes and entrertain the racoons.

    enhabit: my take on St George & the Dragon is that the female is linked to wild nature represented by the dragon which St George is vanquishing (stabbing in the eye!). The cave behind her is the womb of the Earth. But what is that roiling black & white tumult behind St George? And what do you make of the weird pattering in the vegetation?

    Nick: Don’t underestimate the scope and breadth of the human mind. This is ALL your imagination.; )

  • Nick

    Peggy Sue: the Greek Orthodox church of my childhood was none other than that of St. George. It featured a luridly grotesque painting on one wall illustrating the scene you describe above. While sitting in the pew each Sunday, I (all of six years old) imagined the dragon reversing its (her!) predicament and eating that meanie George — and then doing the same to the pontificating priest, his lieutenant the deacon, and then the altar boys to boot!

    How’s that for imagination? ;-)

  • Nick

    It’s also worth mentioning that my six-year-old’s imagination was fueled not by the sort of cinematic animal predation available these days on basic cable — but by Looney Tunes.

    What’s up, Doc???!!!

  • Bobo

    pryoung: “It’s intellectually dishonest and unneccesary, but you and others love her for it.”

    Whoa… Hold on just one sec. Just because I was defending her does not mean I support everything she says. I agree with your points, I was simply trying to point out that some of her ideas might have merit, regardless of who said them.

    I also think (and I’m not accusing you of this) that judging a person based on a 45 minute radio show is a little unfair. I don’t have any idea what I would do were I asked to condense my life’s work into a space like that. Let alone the fact that she’s not giving a lecture, she’s being interviewed, and thus can’t really control where the conversation goes.

    I’m trying to defend this particular show and guest because I feel that the discussion of this topic amongst the ROS community went really far and touched on a lot of things. We also had about 4 days to do it. We delved pretty deep into these ideas, and I think, having done that, we expect the guest to go further than we did. Unfortunately, she has to start from scratch (to catch-up all the listeners who don’t read the blog), and she only has 45 minutes to explain herself.

    I’m not saying that I love her, or even necessarily like her, but whether directly or indirectly, she did inspire some cool stuff in the community. I think this is very similar to the show on Hanah Arendt. The community conversation was so good that we held the guests to an impossible standard. I didn’t particularly enjoy that show, but I loved the discussion. However, I can see how a listener at home might have loved that show and this one, and gotten a lot out of them, and maybe even been inspired to join the conversation.

    So there’s some of my thoughts. I know I’ve been a bit overactive on this thread, but the conversation and ideas and other people have gotten me really charged up. Thanks again everyone.

  • http://del.icio.us/plaintext plaintext

    Before I heard the show and read most of the thread, I had this ecstatic impression that there might be something better than, to paraphrase Miles Davis, “Don’t stop doin’ what you’re doin.’” But maybe that’s all there really is.

  • Nick

    “sneering, snide secular humanists”???

    Yeah, that’s caricature all right…

    (Show’s finally airing out here in Pacific Coast Land)

  • Nick

    What a mix of brilliance and rudeness!

  • Nick

    Perhaps instead of ‘rude’, I should use, “crudely intolerant” or “unsympathetic”.

    Amazing how I can agree with her, disagree (strongly) and yet agree again, before the given breathless sentence even concludes.

  • Nick

    re talk radio (extemporaneously while listening):

    perhaps conservative radio draws many more listeners simply because ‘The Right’ is a whole host of viewpoints requiring belief — and therefore requiring perpetual reinforcement via daily helpings of indoctrination — while ‘the left’ (ever since the demise of Marxist dogma) is pragmatic and more openminded.

    I’m a progressive who never feels any NEED to listen to Ed Schultz or Air America. Instead, I keep my radio tuned to NPR (& PRI) for a wider perspective.

    I don’t need dogma. Does ‘the Right’?

    I’m not certain — but very much suspect it…

  • Bobo

    Just to throw in a bit more contemporary relevance. This article just appeared on CNN.com, and while I make no claims as to the intellectual or journalistic integrity of that organization, it certainly provides a window into how ‘the rest’ of America is thinking. http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/03/collins.commentary/index.html

    It’s an interview with a leading scientist on the Human Genome Project about his Christian faith. It is, of course, too short and too simplistic, but he makes some nice points. Enjoy.

  • Nick

    Keith Richards is quite possibly my all time favorite guitarist.

    He is in no way one of my ‘idols’. (whatever that means)

  • Nick

    Bobo, you rock.

  • Nick

    If I had to ‘idolize’ a musician, it would much more likely be, Erika Wennerstrom,

    Shirley Manson, or even (going waaaaay back), Duke Ellington.

    Love Keef & Jimi. Don’t “idolize” ‘em.

    They don’t warrant it.

    And I’m a ‘boomer’ too.

    Oh, Mozart might be worth a noticeable personal memorial too…

  • Nick

    Good grief! She’s hilarious and just plain MEAN at the same time!

    No wonder she’s a great interview!

  • Bobo

    Thanks Nick,

    Personally it was the Augustine reference that jumped out at me. Augustine was one of those theologists I was talking about earlier. He was more what I had in mind when I said ‘brilliant minds’, not so much the Saint of Anorexia, no matter how profound that disease might be. (April 3rd, 2-4am)

  • Atheist

    I’m not sure Ms. Paglia is making sense, calling for a return to religion but not to the austere, terrible, capricious, downright dysfunctional god of the Abrahamic religions. Those religions, despite her claims to the contrary, are founded upon and given life by that personage. It is the fear of god, or the sense of being a country club buddy of His, that motivates Christianity. That sense of fear or being in His hip pocket that motivates all Abrahamic extremists.

    This belief in an all-powerful imaginary friend is worthy of any condescension, alarm, sneering, that might result.

    What we need isn’t religion and the medieval beauty thereof, what we need is to figure out the practical function that wonder, awe, and joy serve. We’ve a pretty good idea of what fear and lust are for, let’s expand our knowledge.

    One more thing. Ms. Paglia, and a number of other lefty personalities, would be much easier to listen to if they didn’t stutter so much. They too often talk with the rhythm and continuity of someone shaving: short, overlapping verbal strokes. And stop to breathe once in a while.

  • Nick

    Great conclusion!

    Brendan, can we have her penultimate sentence (and maybe the last one too) over again in a blue box at the top of this thread?

    Thanks!

    This has been an unforgettable chapter in ROS. Both the thread and the wild hour itself.

    Good interview, Chris!

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    Wow… the show just ended on the West Coast – for someone who values image over word CP sure is rushing torrent of verbiage who seems take the “holding more than one opposing thought” thing for a wild ride. Exhilarating!

  • Nick

    Wow. “Atheist“, your first three paragraphs (12:58 AM) knock me out. (Your fourth one ain’t far off the mark either.)

    Well, hang on: on second thought — I’m not real sure about that second paragraph. People vastly more intelligent than me are quite obviously fully capable of holding beliefs (in general) and beliefs in the supernatural (specifically) despite knowing full well that none of these beliefs are evidence-based.

    I once did, but no longer, consider this a failure of intellect: the ‘abstract’ intellect and pure imagination function not only consecutively within any given human brain but simultaneously. Realizing this explains (like nothing else I can imagine) how human brains can assimilate, create, and retain incompatible, irrational beliefs and evidence-based plauses simultaneously, without prompting any internal ‘crashes’.

    Perhaps it’s better to simply accept this conundrum — and to ask the ‘believers’ to offer persuasive–and non-tautological–evidence for their beliefs? To ask for this in response to their demand that the rest of us order our lives according to the precepts of their unverifiable, unfalsifiable faiths?

    Wouldn’t that be more effective than condescending insults to their intellects?

    Again: I loved the rest of your post. It rocks.

  • Nick

    1. Okay Bobo, one last question (or request, I suppose):

    You have alluded that you are a religious believer. I take it (with lots but not 100% certainty) that you are not however an imperialist sort of believer. (And boy do I respect you for it.)

    You are, nevertheless to me, part of a community of belief that includes many humans dedicated to colonizing minds like mine with their variants of the religious beliefs you share with them.

    I have a favor to ask: please, as a responsible, non-imperialist believer, please use your writing talents to express to your co-religionists that their beliefs aren’t applicable to many or most of the rest of us.

    Express, please, alongside your faith, a sense of less-than-100% certainty.

    I would ask the same of anyone else. (Luckily for me, admission of uncertainty is already ‘built into’ science.)

    2. Lastly (and unrelated to Bobo), I have a new off-site post to offer:

    Belief: Strictly Black or White?

  • herbert browne

    newcombvt, pryoung, Wesley Beltz, amen to you… explaining other people’s “highs” aren’t enough… & dismissing the quality of modern music/ performance art, while ignoring the effects of consumer culture indoctrination doesn’t impress me as intellectual honesty might. I found many comparisons in her experiences that matched mine (as katemcshane did also)- the stifling Catholicism of childhood, etc. Someone implied that “mindful breathing” might be a boon to CP; and I heartily concur. Bobo’s generous nature (a cultivated quality, to read the explication of “Faith” of the “non-Blind” variety) gives CP credit for playing “catch-up” with the thrust of this thread (in 45 minutes), but I’m far more inclined to give her credit as a “jumping-in” promulgator (and, to some extent, an unknowing one) only. Segments of this thread will be going along with me for a good deal longer than my recollections of the interview, believe me!

    ^..^

  • David Weinstein

    What professor Paglia lacked in coherence of thoguht in this conversation was more than compensated by the certainty of her opinions. Ergo the length of this thread.

    While I am all for passion from intellectuals, I do not subscribe to the self-flagellation of the boomers. Ms. Paglia opined about the “ruin our generation has created in terms of education and spirituality.” I attended UC Berkeley in the early 1970′s. Our teachning assistants were freshly off the university protest lines against the Vietnam War, the bombing of Cambodia and many of the outrages of the Johnson and Noxon administrations. Our professors had integrated the lessons of the Free Speech Movement. What did the ethos that came out of the 1960 ‘s mean for a Berkeley undergraduate, majoring, in all things, French literature? We were encouraged to integrate intellectual rigor and creativity in our approach to our studies, in our papers.

    When I look back on my eduaction at Berkeley, I think this appraoch to education reached a very high level, a high point in eduation in the humanities. I’m sure the case could be made for the sciences and arts as well. Today I see the see the students coming into the same univiersity with greater preparation and choice of programs and majors. But they complain of being “maxed out” and “stressed out.” The pressure is so great that they cannot savour this wonderful life]edicational opportunity, have less of an opportunity, it seems to me to grow as human beings under this pressure.

    As for art in general, there was an explosion of creativity in the 1960′s, with the risk-taking, and passion for exploration and innovation that are the foundation fo all grest art. Take as one example, the iconic band of the Beatles. They were spiritual. And whimsical, and melodic, and touched the hearts and midns of an entire generation. For poetry and mysticism you have Dylan. And I could name another ten sngers or bands.

    No, I would say the degradation of education came later along with the stifling of spirituality. But, you know, all things go in cycles. There will be another explosion of creativity, other high points in education in new ways. I am hoping once this country completely wakes up gives George Bush and his nefarious cronies the swift kick in the behind they need and gets on to solving some of the great problems he and his cronies caused or ignored, there will be a better time in terms of education, art and spirituality. Or at least more of and a grater appreciation common decency, humanity and wisdom. In any case, don’t blame it on the boomers.

  • Bobo

    Nick: as this is not entirely the right forum to discuss such matters, I guess I’ll have to ask you to take it on faith (hehe) that I’m already working on fulfilling your request. Whether it’s a little light conversation with a respectful yet misguided believer, or an all out confrontation where I put my life on the line (not kidding) to fight against intolerant fanatics from the religious right, I assure you that I don’t let my faith get in the way of my morality. We all have to make it through this life somehow, I’m figuring things out as much as everyone else, so why should I assume that I can tell anyone else how to live?

    It’s been a blast. Hope the trolls get bored with you soon. (Try exposing them to sunlight… hey, it worked for Bilbo)

  • enhabit

    wow!

    there was plenty to disagree with in detail, but i am with her spirit of shaking things up. the pace of her output! like deliberately starting an avalanche and having it start more! two points.

    agree: jung is more than worthwhile.

    disagree: today’s youth..whatever may or may not be true generally, there is a corner of today’s youth that is highly socially aware and ready to get to work..they reject materialism, even cars. i look forward to seeing the fruits of their labors.

  • Potter

    Thank you Dave Weinstein just above….

    Newcombvt above said: I wish that she had taken LSD back when everyone else did, or meditate, say, a 10 day Zen sesshin. Camilia, get thee to a zendo.

    Yes but- I was amazed at how well she did with the buzz she got off of it though….

    I thoroughly enjoyed Camille Paglia- her lecture- her columns and last night which will get a second listen…I do not feel at all threatened by anything she says nor any of her inconsistancies or incongruencies– she can stir my pot anytime. On the things that are most important to me she is right on the mark…

  • katemcshane

    I haven’t been a part of this discussion and I don’t even have time to read most of it, but — what she’s talking about in this society is a denial of the spirit, which you see in many churches/religions, as well. The nun she described was not only ignorant and badly educated, she had been taught by other nuns and priests that the practice of Catholicism was a rigid one, that any freedom of thought threatened “the faith.” As a kid at that time, I doubt I ever met more than one or two people in the Catholic Church who knew anything (truly)about faith. And Catholics weren’t alone there. At the risk of offending many people, Western Religion generally has ruined “faith” or “God” for people by going for authority, power and control. Camille can call herself an athiest, but what she recognizes in nature is God — or another name for God. Chris brings up Emerson all the time to say that you look inside yourself. That’s what CP liked in what she heard about buddhism and hinduism. In nature, in all true art, the spirit is alive. There is no spirit alive in the christian right, but if it’s not allowed anywhere else in the culture, people will look for it there. People don’t have any idea how to find it in themselves. The value placed in this culture on obedience to authority and the economic trend that marginalizes more and more people strengthens the undertow toward fascism.

  • enhabit

    i can’t believe that i am about to do this…

    as the product of two catholic high schools, and a radical one at that, i must take issue with this rigid and intellectually incestuous catholic educator stereotype. to be sure they exist..however, that church, an institution that i reject, has some highly disciplined and scholarly orders and i have known really brilliant people that have taken the vow. this is the environment where i was introduced (mentioned above) to the buddha, and taoism, faiths that were taught with enthusiasm, even passion. please be careful with the broad brushing.

    katemcshane, you may not have intended it that way but others have and i felt that i needed to say something. otherwise, you got it!

  • enhabit

    peggysue:

    that panel is funky isn’t it? my memory was that she was crying..maybe there’s another one out there..my notes on the subject are long gone.

    take another look at the triptich altar piece that i sited..two books..only a scholar or someone of means would even have one book back then. the piece is loaded with symbols. rembrandt painted a similar scene with a reading mary rocking jesus in a cradle while joseph wittles away in the background..possible homage? same part of the world more or less.

    i really appreciate how domestic the flemish could get..if you want i’ll find it, there’s a scene with toddler jesus in a walker! he’s wandering around saying “i am your solace”. mary is weaving in this one, oh well.

  • enhabit

    jazzman:

    my kids will learn the bible, just as they will be exposed to buddhist sctripture, lao tsu, confuscious, plato’s dialologues, and they will learn it while they are young in my house. they will be taught to question and not blindly accept but find relevance in all of it. they will learn that aristotle for all his reputation is full of holes.

    the other day my ten year old asked me if there would be christians without the resurrection…DYNAMITE!

  • katemcshane

    enhabit — If I assumed that there weren’t “highly disciplined and scholarly orders”, I’d be an idiot. I am writing about a working class experience in the most conservative diocese in the country in the 1950′s and 1960′s. To suggest that most people in Catholic parishes, generally poor and working class, at that time were taught by scholarly individuals would be ludicrous, just as it would be to suggest that most kids in public schools in large cities are exposed to a scholarly education. From what I can see, the ruling powers of the Catholic Church (with the exception of the relatively brief influence of Pope John XXIII) during my lifetime would be classified as right wing. The right wing has never been known to empower the people, so education is not a priority. They promote ignorance. I was one of those radical Catholic (nuns) and I was too threatening to them by the time I was 21. I had to leave that church in order to think freely, and so did every other really intelligent (ex) nun and priest I knew. Liberation theology in Latin America works for the people (from what I’ve heard), but the image of the last Pope shaking his finger into Ernesto Cardenal’s face in Nicaragua is typical of what I’ve seen. I have a friend, a poet, who is still Catholic — he’s about 20 years younger than I — a member of The Voice of the Faithful. He reminds me of the people I knew in the late 1960′s. He’s committed, but they lost my generation.

  • enhabit

    whoa now katemcshane! you’re preaching to the choir here. one of my catholic schools was absolutely working class btw. i am no apologist for the pope there is a lot of exploitation there. just wanted to clarify a point.

  • enhabit

    for others appearantly

  • Atheist

    Nick (1:30am)

    Thank you for the feedback. I think we can refine our point of disagreement though.

    You’re right that it is a mark of intelligence to be able to hold contradictory thoughts without one’s head exploding, but it only makes sense to do so so long as there is insufficient evidence to disprove either thought. Five thousand years ago to believe the earth was a table supported on the backs of four elephants and simultaneously think the earth was a ball of matter orbiting a star would prove that sort of intelligence. Today, in the face of evidence that is actually ‘known’ only to a few, it indicates a malfunctioning thought process.

    We’ve had five thousand years to look at the God of Abraham with his suspiciously human foibles, to compare the legends and tales associated with him with those of other major and minor religions, to look at what we know of the evolution of the religions in the world today, and to add to all this what we know of human nature. Put it all together and it makes no sense to believe in any of the traditional gods.

    I can be an atheist and believe we don’t know everything. I can believe there are things unexplained, and perhaps unexplainable. I can believe in higher intelligences. I can’t believe in a master puppet master with the personality of an abusive spouse/parent. I certainly can no longer accept that believing in such a person would bring beauty and joy and deeper meaning to my life.

    I expect this thread is about tapped out. Thanks again for your comment. It was good trading with you.

  • Lumière

    Paglia is a Rorschach test: every one takes away something different – it gives her a huge base: proponents and opponents.

    She is an egoist and I don’t know why that is bad – it just ‘is’ for her. What you hear is someone whose thoughts are so centric that they are not only ideas, but they are an entelechy: the way in which she achieves the essence of her full embodiment

    My take aways:

    Vastness – this was a key concept for me. It goes back in the thread to the last things on BOBO’s list: Q: So why do we do it? A: For a higher power.

    Secularly Goethe said: renounce the self or destroy the self

    There were many refrences to childhood, in particular, talk of the land in upstate New York and the Hudson River School (the second generation Hudson River School were called the Luminists)

    Nature & light are vast.

    Generations – this was a reactionary attitude the old have towards the young and kind of surprising.

    Goethe said: do we then live if others live; he said it in reference to the maintenance of one’s position against the next generation.

    There was a palpable sense of insecurity in her comments.

    Nature – this is a loaded word for her: nature = feminine

    Order focuses perception, but it is not about control. I find a know/control POV very stultifying – not an artistic POV.

    Jung – I think this was a reference to the unconscious – also a search for deeper meaning (I think neurobiology will rip the covers off the unconscious soon, so we can spend more time contemplating the more important FSM)

    Keith Richards & Jimi Hendrix – seriously, they aren’t in the same category of musicianship. Can someone tell me who Keith Richards has influenced? The reference lacked the ability to differentiate. She was quick to point out she didn’t do drugs – I think she feels she missed an experience of the sixties. IMO, youth isn’t a time to think, it is a time for the young sensorium to experience life.

    I think the subtext of her talk may have been regret. I think she is saying that she had wished she had attached herself to the vastness of something greater than herself – something that would have been sustainable at age 60.

    I think the proof is mostly found in her comments regarding the past, specifically comments about her students.

    Good luck to her and all who love her.

  • enhabit

    ” every one takes away something different – it gives her a huge base: proponents and opponents.”

    how biblical lumiere

  • http://www.holisticforgeworks.com RR Anderson

    If you want to look for a real criminal you’ll find the guy who spray painted “Andy Warhol sucks a big one” on the hood of my car!

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    enhabit: I looked Uccello’s St. George up on the internet, I couldn’t tell if she was crying.

    But wouldn’t you be crying if your pet dragon (or your own wild nature) were being stabbed in the eye!

    http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/u/uccello/6various/5dragon1.html

    Thank you for bringing my attention to this amazing piece.

    CP is so wild she not only gives us permission to confess a secret appreciation of Madonna but she actually calls herself “New Age”, a broad and murky term that in my world anyway is most often said with a derisive sneer. But “New Age” can mean anything from yoga, astrology and aromatherapy to fire-walking, automatic writing or Tai Chi. You might think you hate “New Age” music. I suggested you might be surprised what you find in that section. Usually its spacey techno stuff but it could be Celtic Harp or Japanese Flute. What is strange about “New Age” is that it often refers to some ancient tradition or practice. It’s popular to hate “New Age” but it is such an unwieldy term it can barely be defined.

    As for CP and LSD… she sounds to me like she just took a ol’ hit of orange sunshine; )

  • Lumière

    I think Andy Goldsworthy summed up New Age in Rivers and Tides, when he said:

    I can’t believe I’m alive!

  • jazzman

    enhabit Says: my kids will learn the bible, just as they will be exposed to buddhist sctripture, lao tsu, confuscious, plato’s dialologues, and they will learn it while they are young in my house.

    I exposed my children to the tenets of Absolute Morality and did not censor exposure to any philosophy that they discover at school or the library or from peers (a next to impossible task even if I wanted to.) I only disallowed participation in organized Religious events (Church, Sunday school, Camp etc.) because authoritarian inculcation (especially w/regard to undifferentiating minds depending upon age and experience) is easily absorbed and difficult to discharge.

  • tbrucia

    Interesting comment by Paglia: ‘Greco-Roman paganism was hedonistic, self-centered, empty. It had nothing to offer, and Christianity had everything.’ My argument with Christianity is PRECISELY that it is hedonistic, self-centered, and empty! Everything is centered on individual ‘salvation’ (saving one’s soul and getting into heaven), hedonism (being eternally happy with God in heaven), showing off in front of other Christians of own’s own ‘social set’ every Sunday, wasting time repeating formulaic ‘prayers’, and rejecting the rational content of civilization in search of imaginary myths, beings, etc — and ignoring the incredible gift of a marvelous universe laid out before us. When I look at Christianity, I see an empty shell which has nothing to offer, except promises of Armageddon, and holy writings excusing slavery, expounding the virtues of stoning, glorifying suffering, and advocating resignation. Admittedly contemporary POP culture is hedonistic, self-centered, and empty, and the mass media have little to offer as far as ‘a way out’ — but religion is not the answer! It seems to me that there is a vast breadbasket of inspiration, meaning, and content (not to mention context) available in literally millions of books. And if one reaches out, see films like ‘Children of Paradise,’ or ‘Ran’, or ‘The Namesake’, or even the Starwars films for non-religious sources…. Paglia is seeking an ocean in a mud puddle when she looks to religion for answers.

  • enhabit

    njal’s saga

  • gregbillock

    I was irritated by Ms. Paglia: enough to decide to leave a comment. Then I read all of yours and find mostly what I found lacking in what she had so say has been pointed out.

    Mostly I was struck by the irony: she’s so trapped in the ivory-tower side of an academia she professes to disdain. And the youth have nothing?! Yeah, like your parents thought Jimi Hendrix was totally down. Whatever. Usually I like curmudgeons, but ones who got there by basically not listening for the last twenty years aren’t the same.

    Back to my global warming “fetish.” Damn.

  • http://moontravellerherald.blogspot.com/ Jack Vaughan

    Interesting thesis for sure. Although with contradiction, in my opinion {“I dont believe in god but I want to nurture the metaphysikal.”} But a certain impression emerged: Paglia sort of had the rap of an amphetamine head from Lower East Side circa 1970. I believe she didnt do drugs. Should stay away from Starbucks too. Slow down!

  • Nick

    tbrucia (8:46 AM, April 6th): Brilliant.

    That same adjective applies (imho) to many, many other posts in these reaches of the thread. The vast majority of these posts, in fact, in this part of the thread less populated by my own byline.

    Thank you very much for the insights.

    (And thank you ROS for offering this forum wherein I can find so many other insightful perspectives.)

  • lbertaux

    I listened to the podcast of CP’s appearance on opensource this morning and was quite surprised by the lack of coherency in the thinking expressed. I cant recall a guest who had so undisciplined a mind! An aetheist who predicts the lack of religion is portending the demise of America/Western Europe because like Imperil Rome and Greece before we have devolved into a godless, secular society….put who reveres the religousness of nature, the vast mystery of the drumilins? Better screening please! This was not up snuff.

  • EricPA

    I think this is the first time I ever shut off ROS in mid-stream. I haven’t read all the comments here but it appears my reservations (to put it mildly) have been well expressed. I do agree with much of what she says. Too bad she appears to more interested in self-promotion than the ideas themselves.

  • pj

    By happy “shuffle” coincidence, I heard podcasts of the Zizek show and this one in sequence. What a kickin’ combo. It was like, how do I put a frame on what I just heard from Zizek (Fiennes couldn’t quite compete)? And lo and behold. As an aside, I could listen to Zizek pronounce English words all day, in the same way I could listen to Andrei Codrescu: just for the aural pleasure of it. As for Paglia, it is possible that her rate of spoken words per minute is inversely proportional to her own certainty of what she has turned into, in which case she would be even more appealing than she already is.

  • farouet

    My apologies for not being here within minutes or hours of the broadcast.

    I’m back after what seems to be a geological era in terms of blog entries – 2 days! Doing my best to skim long, thoughtful ideas, I can’t say that I will address any specific question raised or not repeat points that others have made.

    Here goes:

    1) Science/Religion issue. There really should be none, and if there is blame for contention, it lies with fundamentalists who want to reduce all knowledge into formulas they can derive from what they consider holy writings. It’s the same fallacy more rational people follow when they look for ‘original intent’ in Constitutional matters: strict construction of any kind makes a fetish of the phrase. If you’re running a marathon you shouldn’t have to be made to breathe through a straw.

    Science is primarily a method with hypothetical outreach that asks to be tested empirically. Religion is traditional beliefs, behaviors, texts, calendar, lifeways. The two do not have to act at cross purposes.

    2) Art/Religion issue. Paglia sees what surely must be so here. No one is creating art that is inspired by Microsoft (unless you count advertising design). Art comes from some source inside human motivation that no one has pinned down well. It’s a deep source, whatever it is, so it shares a sense of depth with religion, also a submariner in those waters. Now, she would argue that ‘pop’ expression is current form that partakes in imagery whose curves, colors, relationships, rhythms, pitches, repetitions and so on goes back to earlier times when indeed those formal attributes were specifically tied to religious motifs (from the deep water). This all makes sense to me.

    3) Paglia herself as an issue. Whether she’s a scholar of first rank or not is for the profession to decide. She’s had that fight with some of her colleagues for years. That she’s clearly a terrific teacher is plainly evident. Would that all higher education were this electric and connected and overarching. I don’t care if she has to thrust her personality on her audience to tear through the academic gauze that surrounds higher education. I, too, saw her do that CNN broadcast, and she was nimble and interesting. I’ve seen her live, too, about 15 years ago. She filled the room, witty, fast-speaking, and on point.

    4) Religion, period, as an issue. You know, to equate fundamentalist or even just ‘orthodox’ devotion with the religious impulse is doing it a disservice. It’s like saying any given legal code book, read aloud, represents the spirit of the law. The problem with religion – and its greatness – is that it wants to love that which we want to find encompassingly lovable.

    And that’s too big. We can’t stop wanting the immersion, the grasp, the embrace, the way, the light, the totality of It. But it’s too big.

    It’s also something that won’t disappear simply because we are rational beings or because we may have the good luck to become even more rational beings. It won’t disappear if we stop war and learn to become brothers all of us and sisters. God seems to be an ‘instinct’ – it comes with the territory.

  • http://www.radioopensource.org/user/sidewalker sidewalker

    Can someone (Nother, Nick, Potter, etc.) explain to me about this guest. I had never heard of her before and seemed out of my cultural depths listening to this show. Did I missing something. It seemed I just listened to a long confusing rant from someone who just likes to hear herself talk. If I go back and listen again, what should I key into?

  • Potter

    Hello Sidewalker!- maybe you just need to relax more when you listen. She shoots out in so many directions almost at once that you don’t know what happened to you when she’s over. I listened to the show three times already. My first reaction is above- then on the other thread more reaction- more critical- started coming out. I had made some notes- things were going by so fast….. a lot of contradiction and inconsistancy but also much stirring up- food for thought. I listened to the CSPAN lecture and Q&A prior and read both of the recent columns in Salon. I have to say I enjoy her and am thankful for her. But this time I did begin to see her a little differently- more fallible- less of a goddess or Cassandra… and more anxious than just on the surface a reflection of the culture perhaps. Still we could use six months to discuss all that she brings up.

    See my post ( and others) here:

    http://www.radioopensource.org/paglia-post-game-cultural-nothingness/

  • katemcshane

    enhabit — I’m sorry I overreacted. It was just a bad morning for me. And, I don’t know, every time I think I’m over the Catholic Church, I realize how much pain I still feel. I didn’t mean to take it out on you. I don’t know what happened. I’m really sorry. I hope you see this.

    Kate

  • enhabit

    gotcha kate – beautiful

    they’ve got a lot to answer for

  • rc21

    RR Anderson, Your April 5th post is still making me laugh. Excellent.

  • Matthew C

    Thank you for a great show. Atheism has had a great run: For the last half-century, it has been completely morally acceptable to partake in no religion. This is very unusual, looking back in history. The question that has always bothered me is ‘to what end?’ Atheists have had an opportunity to set up a moral and spiritual framework, based on no specific religion, but they have produced so little, instead choosing to suppress other organized, spiritual frameworks. I believe it is inevitable that some fundamentalist movement will gain back political favor, just as it has been during most of the world’s history. With so little moral and spiritual framework created by atheistic leaders, the pendulum will indeed swing far back to the religious fundamentalism when that shift arrives. When people feel the foundation of their lives has been removed, and they no longer have the luxury of wealth, then, I suspect, we will see a great movement back to the time-tested structure of organized religion. Atheism has simply not set up anything to accommodate this real human need. It is my sincere hope that they can do so before it is too late, because I worry we are headed toward another 600 year Dark Age.

  • rc21

    Yeah but it’s more fun being an atheist. No body to answer to.

  • hurley

    CP talks up a metaphysical perspective, then refers to herself how many hundreds of times within the hour? I lost count. The universe she claims we’ve lost touch with would seem to be Camille Paglia, in the interim since it “made the scene in 1990.” I’ve been away and have only listened to half the show so far, but have yet to hear anything from her mouth — and it’s practically all from her mouth — but narcissistic cant. Would that Chris could get a word in, but he can’t.

  • Lumière

    Cant is insincere speech, similar to hypocrisy. The difference between the two is sometimes explained thus: the hypocrite is entirely cynical and doesn’t even believe the snake oil he or she is expounding; while the speaker of cant does have conceptual faith in what he or she says—but won’t actually be practicing what he or she is preaching.

  • plnelson

    Bobo says Our ability to think, to reflect, to understand Humanity, is the same now as it was for the ‘cavemen’.

    Bobo is wrong. We have VASTLY greater understanding of neuroscience than we had then. We understand a great deal about memory, pattern recognition, auditory processing, the connections in the brain between different sensory apparatus, the connections between high-brain (neocortex processing) and motor functions, the role neurotransmitters play in appetitive behavior, etc. Not to mention the similarities between us and other species.

    It is true that we don’t have a “grand unified field theory” of human personality but many of the pieces are starting to fall into place and more and more of the jigsaw puzzle is being solved more and more rapidly.

    Bobo is playing a dangerous game that has been played and lost before by religionists: it’s called “The God of the Gaps. It consists of declaring God to be in all the things science cannot explain (i.e., the gaps in scientific knowledge). The trouble is that those gaps get smaller every day. If that’s where you place your god then your god gets smaller every day. A wiser religionist would devise a god that does not depend on someone else’s ignorance for His sustenance.

  • Nick

    I’m tryin’ hard to take a sabbatical, but PLN‘s post above prompted me to check Wikipedia, and…Eureka!

    For the curious:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_Gaps

  • Potter

    I am reading the first of the extra-credit recommendation above- a longish essay, Cults and Cosmic Consciousness: Religious Vision in the American 1960′s and I find it to be excellent; it really shows Paglia’s breadth and scholarship and originality. Her writing is not nearly as frenetic as her speech. She puts that whole period into historical perspective. I have read and heard personal accounts and have my own experience but this is different. I have responses and criticisms here and there but on the whole the perspective/articulation is very much appreciated.

  • hurley

    Lumière: Thanks for the usage note, but I was well aware of the sense I intended with the word that I used.

    The American Heritage Dictionary defines cant thus: Monotonous talk filled with platitudes.

    Exactly what I had in mind.

    Rude of me though to rubbish Paglia when others here think so highly of her — I really was looking forward to the interview. I’ll put it down to different wavelengths and leave it at that.

  • Lumière

    hurley,

    It was a new word for me – since I was looking it up, I posted the def for others, incase they didn’t know it.

    I was disappoint too – my expectations were too high – I was expecting her to unify things – provide structure.

  • hurley

    Lumière: Thanks again for your def — it did after all send me scurrying back to what I thought I meant to say, however cramped and small-minded it may have been.

    It strikes me that Chris is looking for fellow Transcendentalists, and thinks to have found one in CP. I think he’s in error — her strident testimonials to Nature rang particularly false — but it seems an error in the direction of that scarcely credible notion nowadays, hope. Any modern transcendentalists you might recommend?

  • http://artotems.com/default.aspx altartifacts

    Ah, very refreshing. She is someone who is passionate about her concerns about our society and willing to express it. My respect for her has done nothing but grow from the hearing of this interview.

    I share her concern about American culture and religion. I’m a Democrat who finds himself lost on the left at this point. Left wing philosophy has “left” behind the elements of life that express a sense of greater being within it. Throwing out all religion has left our “side” bereft of mystery, awe, and myth. It was inevitable that the Fundamentalists would step in to fill the void left by this selfish bankrupt philosophy of life.

    Her references to Carl Jung were right on target. He has always scared the “intelligentsia” because he saw the power and necessity of religion and myth in our lives and was at the same time a non-believer.

    Here is my Video comment: http://artotems.com/dreams.aspx

    Soldier On Camille!

  • herbert browne

    Thanks to Potter for reiterating the link to “Cults & Cosmic Consciousness:..” which seemed like somerthing I owed to the subject to explore. I began with a chapter about which I have some experiential (& a little historical) knowledge- chapter 7- and found it provocatively spotty on the “history” side, and dreadfully “broad-brushed”- in quite judgemental pronouncements (with no real statistical or elaborative back-up)- on the more or less “eyewitness” front (her views of the 60s). She begins with a smirky disclaimer with a self-aggrandizing tone, about her “onlooker-only” status re drugs, because ..”I am a product of Mediterranean wine culture, where intoxicants are integrated with cuisine..” Oh, yeah? Well, did she consider the possible comparative analogy of “Holy Communion” and drug use (since she does delve into its ‘shamanic’ connections, later)? As historical references we get the cute apocryphals from the English Romantics (or “High Romantics”, as she dubs them)- “The association of drugs with the avant-garde began with British High Romanticism. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s great “mystery” poems of the 1790s..” (plus De Quincey). So this was It, ie the Primary drugging of the “avant-garde” (or this Particular” avant-garde?) What about the waves of rye ergot “poisonings” and the putative effect on, say, Hieronymous Bosch, 200+ years earlier? (There’s even a chemical connection here, to LSD research, which goes unmentioned.)

    But how about this: ..”Aspiring beyond materialism and conformity, young people manufactured their own martyrdom. They pushed their nervous systems to the limit, until social forms seemed to dissolve. What they saw was sublime-the High Romantic vision of creative nature, its vast energies twisting and turning along a continuum from the brain to the stars. That cosmic consciousness is precisely what is lacking in too many of today’s writers and academics, especially followers of poststructuralism and postmodernism, cynical systems that are blind to nature..”- a fabulous conjectural essay that simultaneously damns (with faint praise) the misguided youth of the 60s, while just flat-out damns her post-(whatever) contemporaries in academia. Nothing real here, at all… “High Romantic visions of creative nature” included. She also (here & elsewhere) implies that Everybody got stoned in the 60s. Bull… and teen abuse of alcohol most likely contributed to more “martyrdom” than the entire panoply of illicit drug use- especially during the 60s.

    My take on her writing in this piece is that her ear is good (and when something particularly noteworthy flies out of her face she remembers it). I’m joining hurley’s judgement of her presentation… and see a pretty clear congruency between her speech & her thoughts on paper.

    Just a note- it was the disclaimer at the bottom of the piece- after much blank space- that got a laugh out of me, to wit: “Arion is a member of The Council of Editors of Learned Journals”- sweet! ^..^

  • Potter

    Herbert Browne: Oddly, the analysis sounds defensive if you wanted to be fair, owed it to the subject. The bit about Arion at the end … included.

    Where does she say everyone got stoned in the 60′s? And On the history side of the subject- she was quite thorough in fact if you read the whole piece- she starts with ancient history. If you consider the perspective- not just chapter 7-

    But I don’t want to argue over this-It may just be that she just turns some off not on.

    Anyone else give that essay a fairer fuller reading? I’d be interested. Hurley?

  • herbert browne

    Potter, she wasn’t explicit… she was mostly hyperbolic (if that’s a fair term). How about this: ? Or this: ? How many dope smokers make “great cultural disasters of American history..”? Or what “massive drug taking” is required to “redefine the culture” and “set the stage for the decade’s religious vision”? Was Pope John XXIII’s papacy just a blip, in the face of this “massiveness”? Did it affect “Liberation theology” in the next decade?.. or the stampede of the kibbutzim?.. or cost us a victory in VietNam? Was it Drugs that emptied black churches, and filled the inner cities of America with Muslim converts? Was I there? Were you? This isn’t history… histrionics, maybe- great to get attention in a classroom, maybe… but, Scholarship? hmmm… ^..^

  • herbert browne

    ps I’ll read the whole thing, Potter… just thought I’d get the best sense of the piece by examining a small part with which I might be familiar. She may have a point about the flaunting of traditional sexual mores… but the “Drug” responsible for a great deal of That was a one-sided, daily protocol involving a Pill- which had as powerful an effect as the loudest, raunchiest Rock ‘n roll… ^..^

  • Potter

    Wow HB- do you suppose you can read fairly, with all due respect to you, after that? Are you open to any insight? Or do you find nothing but “histrionics”?

    Re your post of 3:06, here is Paglia:

    The massive drug taking in the sixties, promoted by arts leaders and pop stars, redefined the culture and set the stage for the decade’s religious vision. But shamanistic drug taking in tribal societies took place within small communities unified by a coherent belief system. Hippies and college students casually sampling hallucinogens were relative strangers and brought with them a mélange of private turmoils and family psychodramas. What they shared was a yearning humanitarianism-and rock music, which urged the liberation of sexual desire. Sex was portrayed as a revolutionary agent: the establishment, like the walls of Jericho, would fall before eros unbound. This overestimation of sex-the faith that sexual energy freed of social controls is inherently benign-was one reason for the dissipation of the authentic spiritual discoveries made by the sixties generation.

    Obviously it is a point of view and please insert that in into a survery that spans hundreds of years in a relatively short space, not a book. What kind of specifics are you looking for? This does not have everything in it for sure.I find enough insight from her telling though. There might be others who would tell the sweep of things differently but I know of no other exposition like it. Do you have one that you can recommend?

    I do think it unfair to drop in on one part and become highly critical in the name of “owing it to the subject” whether you mean Paglia herself or that which she describes. Some of, if not much of this thread is about Paglia- compalining about her self-aggrandizement which I find little of ( not to be confused with interjections about her own personal experience- that is not self-aggrandizement- nor necessarily promoting a book to be released). She is entertaining no doubt and says what she believes, sometimes contradictory ( self-promotion?)

    Re Chapter 7- The community here in Roxbury that I lived in for a short while in the late 60′s are still there after all these years, successful, one big family, lots of kids, kids with kids now, with parts elsewhere. We were “hard core ” then, much more sober, idealistic, experimental and radical yet traditional -” dropped out of Harvard, MIT, Brandeis, etc into” Emerson,Thoreau, Astrrology, made music, wrote, published ( which Paglia says was lacking- she misses the writing in the underground papers entirely).

  • Potter

    Forgot to say regarding Chapter7- for the most part though, Paglia is right on.

  • Potter

    Forgot also- sober yes but also used LSD carefully- of course smoked pot but no “speed” and heroine ( around then) was frowned on as a real downer. As well- in the area of the arts- some were into photography and then film. We were going to save the world- then arrived at the realization that we needed to save ourselves.

    Sorry for the typos- and please excuse my pushback- I obviously am not threatened or turned off by Paglia.

  • hurley

    I wouldn’t have read the essay for anyone else, Potter. So far, I’m with herbertbrowne (btw, the implication — if that’s what it is — that he’s threatened by Paglia surprises me, coming from you). I’ll look at it again, more closely. In the meantime, I think your admiration for her somewhat misplaced, at least insofar as I find you much the better writer (and that’s not to damn you with faint praise).

  • hurley

    Potter says:

    Obviously it is a point of view and please insert that in into a survery that spans hundreds of years in a relatively short space, not a book. What kind of specifics are you looking for? This does not have everything in it for sure.I find enough insight from her telling though. There might be others who would tell the sweep of things differently but I know of no other exposition like it. Do you have one that you can recommend?

    In Eric Mottram’s selected essays, Blood on the Nash Ambassador, there’s an absolutely eerie examination of the killings at Altamont that sets them vividly in the Dionysian context Paglia refers to. I’d quote it but no longer have a copy. You can find one here:

    http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Nash-Ambassador-Investigations-American/dp/0091823641/ref=sr_1_10/102-6832164-8772966?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1176301929&sr=8-10

    Anyone here have a line on it?

  • enhabit

    you will all find this relevant and surprizing

    http://www.glumbert.com/media/dawkinsbishop

  • Potter

    Thanks Hurley.

  • herbert browne

    (from Potter) ..”think it unfair to drop in on one part and become highly critical in the name of “owing it to the subject” whether you mean Paglia herself or that which she describes..”-

    I mean “that which she describes”, my friend… I have no animosity toward Paglia, beyond the feeling that she’s joining a great chorus of “demonizers” of 60s culture as it involved drugs (& in particular, those drugs that were taken specifically to alter awareness, whether “consciousness” was “expanded”, or “contracted”); and that, since, like you, I have some familiarity in the realm of personal experience, while she allegedly has none, that I’d take her judgements to task, based upon my own. It has also been my experience that every “news story” with which I had some actual observation or involvement, has never been in 100% agreement with my experience of the event. While the differences have generally been small, it has helped nourish an appreciation on my part what a range of perceptions and conclusions can be drawn from a single event- and how the signifigance of details can be weighted, in an individual’s judgement.

    Let’s have another look at this: ..””Aspiring beyond materialism and conformity, young people manufactured their own martyrdom..”-

    There is no qualifying number of “young people”. In a count of all my first cousins (nearly all, technically baby boomers- 1943-1958), less than 20% took LSD (10 of 52)… and 1 of the 4 who have died. If I were to parse the line from Paglia, I might say that “those who wanted more than the comfort & prosperity of post-WWII America, and for whom the customs and traditions of the culture were insufficiently stimulating, pursued a chemical suicide of their own devising, in protest against those cultural strictures.” Now, if we examine HOW MANY of the children of the 60s went this route, and, of that number, HOW MANY lives (& minds) were shattered, as a result- AND compared that number to, say, the victims of the war in VietNam (both willing & unwilling “martyrs”)- AND a “control group” of victims of, say, all those who died as a result of drug deaths attributable to mistakes of hospital employees and the consequences of the illegible handwriting of physicians being badly translated by pharmacists, which group will show the greatest number of casualties? (You notice I brought in Nothing about the ravages of drunk drivers… a scourge of which I was a part, once- mea culpa.) How many of the “antiestablishment drug martyrs” are, happily (or, in my own case, divinely discontented) living fulfilling lives today? By my lights, the “60s drug culture” has given us far more pluses than minuses… especially in a heightened appreciation of what we, people, and all other living things, have in common.

    Paglia’s conjecture about the disparities between shamanic drug use and that of the white middle class in the 60s, certainly misses that point… if I’m reading this as she meant it to be understood.

    So, culturally, how “different” were “hippies” and “college students”? In the 60s, both were predominately white & middle class- like their parents (& professors)- spoke a common language, had watched the same TV shows growing up, etc. Where’s the disjunct? Further, I’d challenge the “shared rock music” assertion (although not the exposure). As far as cultural differences, the first one that really hit me (a Western freshman on the SE Coast, in 1961) was my first foray into the Student Union- where all the the students were variations on White, and all the cafeteria help was Black. As a hippy & a college dropout, myself, I’m comfortable with my recollections of those times. While I wouldn’t deny either the “yearning humanitarianism” or the “sexual desire” associated with that time in my life, the drugs were not the “primary motivator” for those urges… and neither was rock ‘n roll. I think the main mover was endocrine secretions… nothing new, there…

    I guess I’m coming to a similar conclusion as that expressed by pryoung, at the top of this thread: ..” Paglia just appropriates a meme of the New Right—that “secular humanism” has been destroying America since the 1960’s—and adds scholarly flourishes to make polemic and posturing seem like maverick public intellectualism..”- (but I’ll keep reading…) ^..^

  • Potter

    Herbert Browne- Paglia does not have no experience. She has her own, like you, like me. BTW Did you read the article or are you still speaking about chapter 7? I think it best and fair start at the beginning, though you seem to have made up your mind. I will quit here on that.

    No question each member of the counter-culture had a different experience- there is no one telling.

    In my view, drugs were used to help change consciousness, to “blow” the mind as Paglia reminds, ( as the music did ) and in a sense used religiously by some, but also self-destructively by others. There was much ego-destruction going on. I can’t imagine that some kids I ran into that were on amphetamines or heroine are still alive or, if they are, well- but who knows. Drugs were not a motivator- but an aid… up or down – depending where you were inclined to head. Taking a particular drug could be or was part of an initiation into the culture, the community. It was not a drug culture per se imo ( not all about drugs), though drugs were definitely a part of it. Drugs did bring about states of mind that were hard to arrive at quickly- and of course these states would leave just as quickly because the real inner work needed to be done. It did help break through and give vision. I disagree with Paglia that all is lost as I have said ( many moved inward to save themselves) but some – too many-got lost or destroyed by it.

    The quest for impossible stats reminds me too much of the “Women at War” thread. I do not want to go there.

    HG says (quoting pryoung?) : Paglia just appropriates a meme of the New Right—that “secular humanism” has been destroying America since the 1960’s—and adds scholarly flourishes to make polemic and posturing seem like maverick public intellectualism.

    I can’t find that quote nor that sentiment. The pryoung quote I find is:

    Camille Paglia: “But a totally secularized society with contempt for religion sinks into materialism and self-absorption and gradually goes slack, without leaving an artistic legacy.”

    That is not the same. Paglia did say that both Right and Left have important criticisms.

    ToHurley- Mottram’s book ( he is English and from that POV) seems tangential to this, the scope not on this subject, though he apparently uses the Dionysian analogy in his thesis. I have not read the book and there are no reviews or ratings on it at your link. Elsewhere this book is mentioned in passing not in direct connection with what we are speaking of here. I did come across an interesting piece, perhaps more relevant, in the hunt-it mentions Mottram in passing.

    ‘Go to the forest and move’: 1960s American Rock Music as Electronic Pastoral by David Ingram, Brunel University

    Enhabit- thank you for the link to Dawkins interview with the Bishop.

  • Potter

    Hurley- I ordered Mottram -for one cent plus postage-used… interesting you can buy the paperback for $40 or a penny.

  • Lumière

    herbert browne Says: “news story” with which I had some actual observation or involvement, has never been in 100% agreement with my experience of the event.

    Once a newspaper touches a story, the facts are lost forever, even to the protagonists. – Norman Mailer

  • hurley

    Great, Potter. Flattered you picked up on the suggestion — people rarely do. Look forward to hearing your thoughts. Sorry not to get back to you on Paglia — I don’t have a computer, so have to slot in on my girlfriend’s when I can.

  • herbert browne

    A penny a pound… I may have to get one, meself- what a bargain!

    OK… I’ve been throught the “Cults & Cosmic” brew (haha) a couple of times… and find, in the conclusion, a plug for her curriculum, circa 1990, to do with comparative religions examined as cultural artifacts- and an examination of the Sacred Texts (essentially a “back to basics” approach) with art history & archaeology thrown (throne?) in… and I’m wondering (since she never brought it up) if she’d like to borrow my audio tape series of Joseph Campbell lectures. She’s All Over the place- right to the end- contradictory as ever- producing a sense of appreciation for “New Age” modalities in one paragraph , and then sic’ing her Big Dog, Science, (recovering from its wounds at the hands of the post-structural loonies) on the New Agers & their “mumbo jumbo”. The opening sentence to the Conclusion bears repeating, over & over again- and mayber should be inscribed over the doorway to every Humanities lecture hall in N. America… just priceless! If you could make a broom that sweeps as broadly as hers, you’d need, maybe, one per continent. I considered going through again and copying out every cannonade of hers… the whole thing… and see if there were some underlying profundity there- if it could be read like poetry, maybe- or if it would make the perfect dialog for a character at the edge of the stage in a play, “The 60s- Front to Back”- a “Stage Manager” type. Maybe I will, too… after I get some sleep (& weed the garden, tomorrow- first things first).

    She covered the modern “cults” & new sects & reorganized faiths pretty well, but I was surprised that no mention was made of Soka Gakkai Buddhism, which continues to have a pretty good-sized following in the U.S. (and made itself known to me in the late 60s).

    Potter, I wasn’t saying that she “had no experience- period”… that’s just silly. I was referring to her disclaimer about drugs (principally hallucinogens)… and the two of us allowing to have had some experience in that dept. That’s all…

    As for Paglia, I find her as entertaining as Alice found the Red Queen- a whackin’ delight- as long as it’s not My head that she wants to cut off… and it isn’t, because I’M not promulgating post-modern, post-structuralism anywhere at all… not at all… no way… OK? chow ^..^

  • plnelson

    I’M not promulgating post-modern, post-structuralism anywhere at all… not at all… no way… OK? chow ^..^

    BTW, it’s spelled “ciao

  • hurley

    pinelson says:

    BTW, it’s spelled “ciao“

    Ma dai. Many Italians sign off their e-mails and SMS just as herbertbrowne did. “Chow mein” especially popular.

  • hurley

    Potter: A friend writes:

    I read Paglia, and overcame some of my prejudices against her. I can’t think with or about, and have no opinions about, such large generalizations, & have no idea whether or not the New Age or anything else engaged with the structures, functions and meanings of the enduring substrate of society and culture. I sense it as decorative more than structural. I wouldn’t argue with her about details–she is shallow about Suzuki, where I know something, so maybe she is as shallow about stuff I know nothing about. She’s covering my life-time, but I didn’t recognize much of my experience, but maybe I repress with false consciousness, bad faith, inauthenticity, and my other charms I plead guilty to. My interest is in logic–the logic which can’t prevent this dimension of religious or spiritual thinking, but which at the same time can’t control what it must allow–can’t offer criteria for thought within non-material and even idealist realms. The transcendentals cannot be eliminated, or even refuted; the immanences are insufficient and do not exclude or obviate the transcendentals. Christianity in its uncanny wisdom has the transcendental unknowable God enter the world in the persona of a man, Jesus, who will, uncannily for a god, suffer & die: Wholly God, Wholly Man, is Wholly Transcendental, Wholly Immanent. Wow!! Oh that Incarnation!! That doubling is impregnable & irrefutable. I am typing in the dark, so before I go turn on a light, a mention of the problem for the materialist, yet the opportunity for the spiritualist: transcendentals are predicable of each other, so if you affirm one transcendental term, as I think you must, then you have no grounds for and no method for preventing a slide into and fusion with other transcendentals.

  • http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/ Steven Augustine

    As someone wrote to/about Ms. Paglia on another comment thread under the amusing pseudonym of Ann Ominous, with the heading “Pander-Mania”:

    “At the Popeye’s drive-through (where I was ordering Cajun wings), I blurted in agitation to the window lady, “Anna Nicole Smith just dropped dead — tell everyone!” — which she promptly did. The staff inside (all African-American) were startled and incredulous.”

    —And then the minimum-wage-earning, grease-stained, bottom-feeding, disenfranchised, reviled, ridiculed, uneducated and unwelcome members of America’s congenital slavery-spawned underclass were so moved by your boundary-crossing gesture of pop-swill solidarity that they sang a gospel song of transcendance and redemption for the dead fat drug-saturated talent-free redneck cock-sucking white lady, right?

    “…it was Sean Hannity’s lively show that tipped me off to the Code Pink video with Hillary. And Rush Limbaugh, who fathered the radio boom, features Paul Shanklin’s brilliant parodies — such as his recent, full-throated version of Lerner and Loew’s song ‘They Call the Wind Maria’ (pronounced ‘Mar-eye-ah’), which became John Kerry singing ‘They Call the U.S. Pariah.’ I was in stitches.”

    —Because you’re so fair-mindedly non-partisanly above it all that you aren’t *nauseated* by the very voices of the venal, creepy, napalm-smooth cheerleaders of a slime-drenched cannibal/vampire junta responsible not only for hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths but also for the Stalinist zeitgeist of modern American ‘life’, and debasement of the notions of truth, freedom of speech and justice in the West, meanwhile destabilizing doomsday flashpoints around the planet and inspiring a virulent anti-American bloodlust in the middle east it will take centuries to neutralize, right?

    “Though I am a professed atheist, I have been arguing for 20 years that the study of world religions should be basic to the university core curriculum.”

    —Because none of us sane, enlightenment-tutored agnostics have been through enough of a hideous flaming shitstorm of life-hating, pleasure-damning, terroristic onslaughts and cultural fallout from zealots of every possible nutjob Darwin-denying, woman-stoning, infidel-decapitating, child-shooting, nigger-hanging, abortion-clinic-bombing stripe for the past sixty years so we need it all rubbed in our faces as an institutionally-validated view of reality, right?

    You’re so COOL, you out-of-touch, phony, desperate-for-attention (and relevance) pseudo-intellectual yuppie muff-munching harpy shill!

    (Is *that* what you wanted to hear?)

  • plnelson

    I just wanted to say that I thought Steven Augustine’s post was so well-written and such an interesting, entertaining and provocative piece of political poetry or maybe agit-prop that I hope they don’t take it down despite some of the language and imagery he employed, and despite the fact that I hardly agree with word in it.

  • Potter

    FYI–Steven Augustine did not write that- it’s by Ann Ominous, a Salon letter, (and should have been as a complete quote, re Paglia’s first return column “Camille’s Back”. I read it as extreme sarcasm (because of the last line) and I agree with the point. That’s how I prefer to read it- but I may be wrong. Thanks to the poster SA in any case.

  • http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/ Steven Augustine

    Potter:

    Ann and I are *very* close…”she” allows me to take credit for this one. Okay?

  • http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/ Steven Augustine

    PS I agree with your reading of it.

    PPS Perhaps you’ve enjoyed my work as “Humbled Humbert”, “Natural Lee,” and one or two others in the Salon comment threads as well…

  • Potter

    Steven- okay- (wink wink) so why didn’t you post as Ann Ominous/ Anyway I am relieved that my interpretation is not only mine.

    I just don’t understand the animus that Paglia evokes, mostly from males I notice. I could be wrong about that observation. Any ideas? I think it’s rather irrational. It’s not based on her ideas… not really. The complaints about her are about her persona and that she is not original in what she is saying( which I disagree about). Also- and this is true- she is contradictory or inconsistant. ( I can live with that…) I don’t need her to be consistant. Stimulating, thought provoking is enough. She has her head stuck in pop culture and she has thoughts about it and I don’t.

  • tbrucia

    I couldn’t initially place why I intensely disliked Paglia on ROS, but it finally hit me. First was her incessant use of the word I, I, I, I, I… (I only wish I had the time to count how many times she used the first person singular in the course of the show.) Another thing that was immensely distracting was her inability to get through sentences without stammering. I’d read a bit of what she’d written, and was very disappointed to hear her speaking — not what I’d expected. Third, and last, was her use of those tired labels: patriarchy, progressive, conservative, etc. Paglia (and Kurt Vonnegut’s death) prompted me to look up the following passage from Cat’s Cradle: “Hazel’s obsession with Hoosiers around the world was a textbook example of a false karass… a textbook example of what Bokonon calls a granfalloon. Other examples of granfalloons are the Communist party, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the General Electric Company, the International Order of Odd Fellows — and any nation, anytime, anywhere. As Bokonon invites us to sing along with him: If you wish to study a granfalloon, Just remove the skin of a toy balloon.” — I suppose I could admit Paglia provoked thoughts in my head, but most were hostile ones about her — her obvious obsession given her unremitting use of the personal pronoun.

  • http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/ Steven Augustine

    Potter:

    “I just don’t understand the animus that Paglia evokes…”

    Well, I think Paglia chose the wrong cultural moment to indulge in her non-partisanship schtick, for one thing; while Dems vs Reps is a false dichotomy (both sides are now phenomena of the right), the battle to rescue democratic principles (and life on earth itself) is very much Left vs Right, since the Right have proven themselves to be a shockingly destructive force. Flamboyant displays of “open mindedness” are not at the moment appreciated if being “open minded” means taking certain figures from the for-all-intents-and-purposes “evil” Right seriously. Ditto with “religion”, that source of so very little 21st century good and so very much blood and misery.

    I think some academics are able to handle a brief dip in the limelight (Sontag springs to mind) relatively well, while others are somewhat deranged by it. Not being French, I’m not sure if BHL’s taste of pop has had the affect on him that it seems to have had on Paglia (she sometimes seems to betray the bizarre fear that teenage boys will find her irrelevant; *of course* they’ve never heard of her) but I wouldn’t be surprised.

  • http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/ Steven Augustine

    “Flamboyant displays of “open mindedness” are not at the moment appreciated if being “open minded” means taking certain figures from the for-all-intents-and-purposes “evil” Right seriously…”

    Better clarify. By “taking [them]…seriously” I mean *giving their worldviews equal time or consideration*. Certainly, these figures from the Right have to be taken as seriously as one would take a loaded gun or a rabid pitbull.

  • Potter

    Tbrucia- you make my point. It’s all about her style, her delivery.

    The “I”s don’t bother me. She does have a stuttery staccato delivery-not really stuttering..does not bother me either. The excessive labeling did catch my attention. BUT as Steven sort of points out she is equal-opportunity in her criticism-she is trying to negotiate -to bring opposing views closer. At the moment we are stuck in these categories- she accepts them and goes from there. The alternative is to deny they exist.

    Maybe Steven is right, this may be the wrong cultural moment for this “schtick” – OR maybe it is exactly the right one.

    There are almost 700 responses to her cirst column at Salon.com BTW!

  • plnelson

    I just don’t understand the animus that Paglia evokes, mostly from males I notice.

    I haven’t noticed this. Most of the complaints I’ve seen about her seem to come from feminists.

    For the record, I’m male and I’m a Paglia fan. One thing I like about her is that, just like her, I am spiritually aligned with liberals and progressives on most things but I also reserve most of my criticism for them. Like Paglia I’m an iconoclast.

    I also agree with her on religion – I’m not the least bit religious but as an artist I recognize the value it has in stimulating an artistic appreciation for the ineffable, a sense of awe and wonder. My major artistic influences are the late Renaissance and Baroque, EVEN when my subject happens to be a female nude with piercings.

    Another thing I like about her is that she recognizes and respects the power of the erotic and the sexual as the animating force that it is in art and culture. It’s probably on that count that she has taken the most flack, especially from feminists and conservatives.

  • lptrixiemale

    So the web is like a glacier flattening the traditional process of making art? unavoidable perhaps. Is the lament because CP may be dead before she can enjoy whatever good result may come of it? Perhaps she should retire to upstate New York and enjoy the beauty created in the midst of the Caveman’s suffering?

    Credit to Ibertaux for giving a more concrete comment than I am able to.

  • pmalkus

    This was the worst show I’ve heard on Open Source! Many of the contributors above have expressed the nature of my disappointment: unsupported arguments, incoherent rationales, trivializing of opposing views, and grotesque self-aggrandizing. Some interesting ideas were brought up, but none were discussed in the depth or with the intellectual honesty I’ve come to expect from Open Source.

  • Nick

    I just moments ago listened to a half-hour dialogue on BBC radio between an ‘interviewer’ (if that isn’t an utterly preposterous term for him) and an articulate defender of monotheistic religion (Judaism, in this instance).

    Not one of the interviewee’s replies weren’t variants on the ‘God works in mysterious ways’ evasion. Not one. No matter how beautufully phrased and disguised.

    When the hell are we going to call this eternally predictable ruse what it is — a sham — instead of thanking the interviewees for their time???

  • rc21

    Camille must be pretty cool if she is drawing criticism from both the right and the left. I say rock on Camille.

  • Potter

    Finally we agree RC21.

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