The Impact of 9/11 on Religion and Philosophy: The Day that Changed Everything? by Matthew J. Morgan (Palgrave Macmillan) As we approached the twenty-first century, many looked to the new millennium with great hopes and expectations for better times ahead. I often spoke of the twenty-first century as the century for Islam and Muslims. An exercise by an Italian-American in Mediterranean hyperbole? Well perhaps a bit, but I believed that the West was in a period of transition. For most Westerners who had had little interest or knowledge of Islam and Muslims and thus post-Iran viewed them through the lens of revolutionary Iran, the tide was turning. Americans and Europeans, policy-makers, journalists, the media, and the public had now been exposed to information about Islam and the Muslim world for two decades through books, magazine articles, school curricula, the media, and Internet. Moreover, American Muslims (indigenous and immigrant or descendants of immigrants) were increasingly far more visible in the public square.
And then 9/11 occurred; a staff member of our Center called me and asked me whether I had my television on. I did not. Why were we all, nonexperts and experts, the White House and the Congress, the State Department, and the CIA caught off guard, blindsided? Muslim extremism and terrorism were on the screens of many but few believed that terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden would and could mount an attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center Towers. A member of the Center's Academic Advisory Council at our annual meeting said that the Center had achieved exponentially more than had ever been expected but then added, "Regrettably, 9/11 may have set us back 20 years."
In the aftermath of September 11, President George Walker Bush emphasized that America was waging a war against global terrorism, not against Islam. However, the continued acts of a terrorist minority, coupled with statements by preachers of hate (Muslim and Christian) as well as anti-Muslim talk show hosts and political commentators have obscured our understanding of the second largest of the world's religions and of the mainstream Muslim majority. The result is reflected in a recent USA Today/Gallup Poll, which found that substantial minorities of Americans admitted to negative feelings or prejudice against Muslims and favor heightened security measures with Muslims to help prevent terrorism. Forty-four percent said Muslims
are too extreme in their religious beliefs. Nearly one-quarter of Americans, 22 percent, said they would not want a Muslim as a neighbor; fewer than half believe U.S. Muslims are loyal to the United States.
If many Americans saw a war against global terrorism, many in the Muslim world saw a war against Islam and Muslims. Policy-makers and the public have been caught in the midst of a battle of experts and pseudo-experts with diametrically opposed positions. Most analyses had a missing piece, asking questions such as: How do Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia view the West? Is there a blind hatred of our way of life? While plenty of experts were willing to tell us what "they" think, fear, hope, and desire, absent was hard data on the voices of the silent Muslim majority of mainstream Muslims.
Fortunately polling in recent years by PEW, Zogby, Gallup, and others has helped to address these issues. Data from the most comprehensive and systematic poll, Gallup's World Poll, which covered more than 35 countries with some 50,000 one-on-one interviews, representing the voices of 1 billion Muslims counters much of the conventional wisdom. Many Muslims, from North Africa to Southeast Asia, while having significant grievances, also said that what they most admired about America, after technology and scientific advancement, were its value system, hard work, liberty, freedom of choice, rule of law, fair political systems, and gender equality. Overwhelming majorities in every Muslim country polled support freedom of speech and majorities in virtually every country also felt women should have the same legal rights as men.'
The response to the impact of global terrorism has raised profound political, philosophical, theological, and legal questions. What is the relationship of religion to terrorism? Do the realities of the twenty-first century render traditional doctrines of Just War theory, standards of international law, what constitutes war crimes regarding civil liberties, and the use of torture in interrogations now obsolete in an age of global terrorism and asymmetric warfare? Critics charged that George W. Bush's administration had ushered in a period of "moral exceptionalism" side-stepping the prohibition of torture in interrogations (Abu Ghraib, Haditha, Guantanamo, renditioning of prisoners for interrogation to nations whose standards are "more flexible") and circumscribing civil liberties in its use and misuse of antiterrorism legislation and policies.
The net result is a world in which accepted norms in moral philosophy, theology, law, and international relations have been challenged if not turned on their heads. This volume plays an important role, raising and addressing many of the questions and issues that are critical to an assessment of what went wrong as well as what went right and to reflect the diversity of opinions that exists within disciplines and among scholars.
That 9/11 has entered the lexicon of American life as a date from which we recoil yet remember in detail is unsurprising. September 11 will
ongoingly bear or carry the meaning for living Americans that Pearl Harbor did for my parents' generation. It will linger in memory. But how do we remember; indeed, how are we remembering and explaining now?
In my book, Just War against Terror, I describe my own experience attending church the first Sunday after 9/11. On the most generous interpretation, the minister was too stunned and shocked to come to grips with what had happened. A less generous and likely more accurate interpretation is that contemporary Christians are frequently enough denuded of the appropriate categories with which to come to grips with horrific events if those events are perpetrated by human beings. Theologically, the language of "evil" and even "sin" has receded, supplanted by syndromes, or making mistakes, or falling short, or being misled. This is one aspect of the impact of 9/11 on religion or, more accurately, this is a dimension of contemporary American religion, in its mainstream Protestant varieties and, to a great extent within Catholicism, too, that came to light in the harsh glare of the mass murder of nearly 3,000 of our fellow citizens.
What happened is this: the minister began by saying words along these lines: "I know this has been a terrible week." A long pause. Then these words: "But that is no reason for us to give up on our own individual dreams and possibilities." Part of me thought, "This cannot be happening. The ruins of the World Trade Center still smoldering, the burned and broken and corroded bodies of the dead mingling with jet fuel, toxins, ash, the jagged ruins of airplanes, offices, and lives. And he [the minister] has no way to talk about this?" We were all hungry for some way to put things into perspective, to express our horror and our anger, but to think of a "Christian" way to respond—if, indeed, one believed there was such a thing as a distinctively Christian way where such matters are concerned.
Yet another feature of the present moment emerged in scholarly and polemical explanations for 9/11. There was the "we had it coming" polemic, as if anybody has a violent death of that sort "coming." ("Chickens coming home to roost" is a variant on this theme). Some expressed a kind of
preemptive condemnation of the American response, whatever it might turn out to be. Given the overheated rhetoric and ideology of our time, this should likely not surprise us.
Perhaps more surprising was the paucity of keen scholarly and even journalistic analysis from many quarters. For decades, those of us trained in the "human sciences"—in my own case, political science—had been told either that religion was on its way out as the forces of modernization took over or that religion might remain because it had a utilitarian functional purpose. On these functionalist accounts, religion was a prop for social stability and might reasonably be encouraged thereby: it served a particular function. Yet a third possibility was to see "religion" as a superstructural feature layered on top of the "real thing," the substructure of economics (for Marxists) or political power games or some other "real" thing by contrast to the ephemera of religion. Religion was "window dressing," a way to dress up events such as 9/11 as something other than what they really were deep down. Such "explanations" sent many social scientists into the "why 9/11" ambience with rusty explanatory swords. (With apologies to Dietrich Bonhoeffer.)
Religion, for them, always meant "something else"—it gestured, it did not explain.' So there existed a vacuum, an emptiness, at the heart of much commentary. Where were the Reinhold Niebuhrs or Paul Tillichs when we needed them so desperately? Niebuhr certainly had no problem characterizing the nature of the evil of Nazism. One of his best-known essays from the World War II era aimed at preventing the triumph of an "intolerable tyranny." Tillich, who broadcast 100 sermons into National Socialist Germany (in German) over Radio Free Europe, spoke of evil, the anti-Christ, wickedness, sin—all the powerful, strong words that alone seemed appropriate. Today, however, we are frequently enjoined not to draw upon these potent terms; they are too judgmental by far. Despite the fact that America confronted a foe offering a religious justification for the intentional, direct killing of innocents (those in no position to defend`themselves); expressing contempt for women as unclean (Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 killers, indicated in his "last will and testament" that no "woman" or other "unclean person" should be permitted to visit his grave); denouncing America because of tolerance of homosexuality; labeling all Christians and Jews "infidels" to be joined by Muslims who disagreed with their murderous ideology, we are told not to speak of political evil. Why not? To name things accurately does not, whether directly or indirectly, mean one assumes one's own purity or sinlessness. That is one major issue in contention, surely.
At least as important is taking the radical jihadists at their word. If they offer a religious justification for what they are doing and how they are doing it, should we not take them seriously rather than to believe that we are so clever we can discern what their "real" purposes and motives are. This "window dressing" view will die hard, to the extent it expires at all. Why does it enjoy such currency? In order to understand one would need to examine critically the "terms of modernity," so to speak, the tacit "deal" that liberal constitutional societies struck many years ago now. That "deal," roughly, holds that public life is properly denuded of religion, if not altogether at least in its dominant features and aspects. Religion forms a part of our "private" lives and we are urged not to allow the private to leak into the public. If we do, we will have violated modernity's operative terms.
Religion and politics are on separate tracks that may, from time to time, intersect. Most of the time this is for ill. Once in a while, good is served. (Here the most common case in point is Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference as the spearhead of the American civil rights revolution of the 1960s). It follows perforce that we are ill-equipped to see "religion" in public events as the "real thing" rather than a gesture toward, or a mask hiding, something else. If we have learned anything from the harsh lesson of 9/11 it should surely be that.
Let us assume one has accepted Osama bin Laden's "reasons" and those of other radical jihadists: they are religious. Whether radical Islamists are reflecting aspects of Islam faithfully or in a highly distorted manner is another debate. For now, we will just assume that, yes, religious motives drove the murderers. It does not follow that the country attacked should or must, in turn, offer religious reasons for its response, a kind of theological tit for tat. It has been official Christian doctrine for centuries, whatever the denomination or orientation, that coerced conversion is wrong and unacceptable—faith must be free, not forced; that committing mass murder as part of a strategy to kill as many of the infidels as possible means one is a mass murderer, not a bearer of any authentic Christian message; that in a legitimate war, every effort must be made to distinguish combatants from noncombatants, for noncombatants cannot be the direct, intended target of attack knowing, as we do, that in time of war noncombatants will inevitably fall into harm's way at some point along the line. In other words, Christianity built up prophylactics to what had been its own excesses in practice if not in doctrine and theology.
Along the way, many there were who thundered about the "feminization" of men Christianity trailed in its wake, undermining the warrior traditions of antiquity. Also, monumental developments in the West moved away from the insistence or assumption that there must be an established faith in the realm and other faiths or denominations might, perhaps, be tolerated but only that. St. Thomas Aquinas in the twelfth century was already arguing against a strong notion of "Christendom," even as St. Augustine in the fifth century had resisted the allure of a "Christian empire," after having first been somewhat attracted by the idea. This meant that rule over Christians by a non-Christian could be a legitimate form of rule. The test of a ruler's legitimacy was not whether he was Christian but whether he was a tyrant—for tyranny lacked legitimacy.
September 11 invited reflection on one's own heritage and backdrop, on the excesses of one's tradition over time and on strong theological arguments countering those excesses as illegitimate and not authentically Christian at all. The Christian backdrop of "the two swords" doctrine, already in place by the fifth century, held that one should not fuse spiritual and temporal authority into a single monistic structure; rather, these forms of authority and governance (if you will) were distinct and separate, albeit touching on one another and intersecting in a variety of ways. There was "two," not just "one" when it came to human ordering of societies. The upshot was that no legitimate "Christian" reason for attacking another country or people or nation existed as such. Instead, one repaired to the so-called just or justified war doctrine that applied without distinction to all: if there is to be conflict, it must be under right authority, be a response to aggression or the imminent threat of such, and so on. And, in fighting, there were constraints that must be observed; the most important being noncombatant immunity. If there was, if there is, a distinctive "Christian" way of thinking about 9/11, it would need to encompass the elements I have sketched. All require a remembering of one's own tradition. Because so many contemporary Christians know very little about their own tradition, 9/11 was an extraordinary "teaching" moment—teaching and learning. That so many were ill-equipped to either teach or learn is a tragedy.
It is only through perspicuous contrasts that we come to know other traditions in relation to our own. In many ways, it is rather easier for Christians to deal with certain questions than it is for Muslims, given that official Christian understanding for centuries insisted on tearing apart the temporal and the spiritual. Islam has a different starting point. Further, the Prophet himself was a political founder and a war leader who fought in battles, personally beheaded people as punishment, and so on. My impression is that large numbers of Americans were hungry to learn more about Islam. For months after the attack, I saw people at airports—as I spend so much time in them myself—carrying copies of the Koran, histories of Islam, commentaries on Islam, first-person accounts written by Muslims about their faith, both positive and negative.
I found this terribly important, especially in light of the growing Muslim migrations into America and Western Europe and the necessity to distinguish between ordinary faithful Muslim and the radical Islamists. If there was, or is, any "positive" outcome of the hideous events of that September day, it is that non-Muslims have become more aware of Islam and have tried, for the most part, to understand and to assess it fairly minus an excess of wrath or zeal.
To be sure, there are pockets of ignorance and fear and loathing. But the survey data available to us suggests that the majority of American citizens are perfectly well equipped to distinguish Islam tout court from Islamism. This is a good starting point for serious cross-cultural, cross-religious encounters. In the meantime, we will no doubt just have to live with uncomprehending or inadequate explanatory models for years to come. A substantial number in the ranks of both theologians, ironically enough, and philosophers cannot bring themselves to take or to accept religion as a casus Belli. But accept it we had better. Freud liked to quip that theory is a very good thing but it does not stop things "from existing." Our theories may put religion at arms length. The reality is that religion as justification for terrorism has appeared in our midst in the full light of day. Hannah Arendt, one of the twentieth century's most important political theorists, insisted that once something has emerged from the depths, so to speak, and appeared among us, it can always reappear and likely will. (This was apropos totalitarianism and its hideous panoply of gulags and death camps.). Religious justification for mass murder has appeared and it will not go away anytime soon. It behooves us to guard against any temptation to counter with our own religious justifications, first, and, second, to come to grips by naming things accurately rather than veering off the harsh realities staring us in the face and, finally, by elaborating explanations that take seriously the reasons proffered even by terrorists as to why they are doing what they are doing.
11 his book is the final volume of the six-volume series The Day That Changed Everything? With some time having passed since the attacks of
September 11, 2001, it is possible`to reflect upon the attacks and assess their impact. The series brings together from a broad spectrum of disciplines the leading thinkers of our time to reflect on one of the most significant events of our time. This volume is devoted to changes after 9/11 in the areas of religion and philosophy.
At its heart, 9/11 was a religious event. This assertion applies to both the causes and the consequences of the attacks. The central cause for the attacks was a serious increase in religiously motivated violence throughout the previous decade. The attacks have had effects that have reverberated across many dimensions of human life, which this series has documented in earlier volumes on politics and war, economics, the law, the media and the arts, and psychology and education. When evaluating the human impact, our spiritual responses and coping methods are the most immediate and fundamental of these various areas.
The 9/11 event was the capstone of a decade-long expansion of religiously motivated terrorism, with Islamist extremism leading the trend. Experts in the field had repeatedly observed the growing threat of nontraditional terrorism in the pre-9/11 age.' My own The American Military after 9/11 assesses the cultural reasons for these changes.'
Rather than focusing on conventional goals of political or religious movements, more and more terrorists are using the purity of religious motives to adopt eschatological goals: they often seek destruction and chaos as ends in themselves. The Quranic Concept of War explains this concept:
Terror struck into the hearts of the enemies is not only a means, it is in the end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent's heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved. It is the point where the means and the ends meet and merge. Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose upon him.3
A recurring theme in Peter Bergen's seminal The Osama bin Laden I Know, which provides an exhaustive documentation of bin Laden and other al Qaeda senior leadership, is a sincere belief in the religious impetus for their terrorist actions.' Rather than cynically using religious principles to advance their cause, the cause of these leaders must be considered identical to their religious principles. Their sincerity is corroborated by numerous pieces of evidence: the harsh and puritanical rule of al Qaeda's chosen host government, the Taliban; the austere conditions in which bin Laden and his organization consciously chose to live; the consistent glut of volunteers for so-called martyrdom operations, or suicide bombings.
Of course, Islam is not the only religion with extremist adherents who have assumed disturbing preference for catastrophic, mass-casualty forms of violence. Among radical cults Aum Shinrikyo provided the counterpart to al Qaeda as the leading movement of its genre, with its 1994 sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway—the first ever use of biological weapons in a terrorist attack. And while there is certainly no cooperation between foreign Islamist and domestic right-wing Christian radicals, there is a disquieting solidarity in their views. August Kreis of the paramilitary group, Posse Comitatus, responded to the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers with this disconcerting rant: "Hallelu-Yahweh! May the WAR be started! DEATH to His enemies, may the World Trade Center BURN TO THE GROUND!"
I have begun this introduction with a discussion of the religious underpinnings of catastrophic terrorism to establish the fundamental relevance of religion and philosophy to any inquiry on 9/11. Our focus in this volume is the consequences rather than the causes of the attacks, and religion is central here as well. The trauma of the attacks has represented a major challenge for the healing resources of religious institutions for their members. Perhaps an even greater challenge is to build bonds of trust and ecumenical unity amid the religiously charged violence of 9/11 and other such national calamities in cities such as London, Madrid, Riyadh, Istanbul, and Mumbai.
Other anthologies such as this exist, including beliefnet.com's film series Voices of Meaning and the volume Strike Terror No More—a lengthy compilation that came out in March 2002 and shared an immediate response of religious leaders and scholars to the attacks. Philosophy 9/11 (2005) is one of several collections from a philosophical, if not religious, perspective. More recently, Arvind Sharma, a contributor to this volume, edited a four-volume series, The World's Religions after September 11, published in September 2008. I would recommend all of these works to readers. To my knowledge, however, this volume is the only such anthology of serious religious perspectives that has been produced as part of a greater interdisciplinary effort.
Following this introduction, Philip Yancey's overview chapter, "Aftershocks," sets the stage for the proceeding contributions. One of the most successful religious authors of our time, Mr. Yancey has 15 million books in print and is the editor at large for Christianity Today. After his retrospective on 9/11, two sections of religious perspectives follow.
Part I looks at Islam, starting with two chapters on the faith itself. Chapter 2 reveals the results of an intensive study on American government attitudes toward Islam. Asma Afsaruddin of Notre Dame begins with an insightful look at how Islam in the public sphere has changed after September 11. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a frequent commentator on CNN and other programs, and Sid Shahid of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy follow with their look at the battle between "Spiritual Islam" and "Political Islam" for the soul of the faith in chapter 3. Finally, Liora Danan and Alice E. Hunt, former research associates at two prominent Washington, DC, think-tanks conclude Part I with their study of U.S. government attitudes in chapter 4.
Part II looks at a variety of religious perspectives. Andrew Murphy of Valparaiso University begins chapter 5 with a look at American exceptionalism. The prominent British Christian theologian John Milbank follows with the connection between the political and the religious in his chapter "Geopolitical Theology." Laurie Johnston's discussion of the Catholic conversation since 9/11 in chapter 7 could have easily fallen under part IV of this volume on just war theory, but I chose to include it among the religious perspectives because it captures the essence of the theological discussion of that faith. Rabbi Jack Moline provides a Jewish perspective on dealing with the tragedy of calamitous violence in chapter 8, and the prominent Hindu scholar Arvind Sharma contributes chapter 9 on how his religion has made meaning of these attacks. With both the Jewish and Indian people in special opposition to Islamic militancy because of political conflicts of national interests in the Middle East and South Asia respectively, these religious traditions are well suited to describe the impact of terror. Finally, two ecumenical chapters close part II, first with James Spiegel and Ryan Pflum exploring dialogue and disagreement after 9/11 from the Christian scholar's perspective in chapter 10 and then with the prominent theologian John B. Cobb, Jr., presenting his skeptical view of the attacks narrative in chapter 11.
Part III considers philosophy and ethics in light of 9/11. Ada Maria IsasiDiaz of Drew University begins with a look at justice in chapter 12. Liam Harte of Westfield State College looks at current philosophy's relevance to the challenge with chapter 13, the title of which is a clever play on former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's famous quotation: "Known Unknowns." Jorge Secada and Talbot Brewer, each from the University of Virginia, and Martin L. Cook, the prominent military ethicist from the Air Force Academy, each follow with chapters 14,15 and 16, respectively, that examine different dimensions of the use of power after 9/11.
The considerations of power at the end of the philosophy section provide a natural segue for part IV to examine just war theory after 9/11. Michael McKenna of Florida State University and Mark Douglas of Columbia Theological Seminary each present discussions of how the just war has responded and should respond to today's terrorism in chapters 17 and 18, respectively. Andrew Fiala of Fresno State addresses how pacifists have responded to these new challenges to their perspective in light of 9/11 in chapter 19, and part IV concludes with Pauline Kaurin of Pacific Lutheran
University raising the "elephant in the room" in chapter 20—the jus in bello consideration, torture, which has actively entered public political discourse in Western societies.
The contributing authors of this volume—and the entire series—have been deliberately assembled to reflect divergent perspectives on 9/11 and its aftermath. Some are highly critical of Western reactions to the attacks; others view the response as justified in accordance with traditional ethics on the use of force. Others are skeptical about the prevailing 9/11 narrative itself. This series attempts to bring together leading minds from a variety of perspectives. Without any particular "ax to grind," I believe this approach to reflect on the impact of the attacks is best to explore the question of whether September 11, 2001, was the day that changed everything.
On Religion by John D. Caputo (Thinking in Action: Routledge) explores the very roots of religious thinking and draws on contemporary images of religion as well as providing fascinating insights into religious fundamentalism. Drawing widely on examples from popular culture, telecommunications and philosophy, John Caputo asks why and how religion is for many a source of personal inspiration and moral guidance in a digitalized, postindustrial, nihilistic age. He even asks whether it is possible to have "religion without religion" and what this might mean. Throughout, On Religion draws on portrayals of religion in popular culture, such as Robert Duvall's film The Apostle. It presents a compelling new picture of religion and belief today.
Any book entitled On Religion must begin by breaking the bad news to the reader that its subject matter does not exist. "Religion," in the singular, as just one thing, is nowhere to be found; it is too maddeningly polyvalent and too uncontainably diverse for us to fit it all under one roof. There are Western religions, Eastern religions, ancient religions, modern religions, monotheistic, polytheistic, and even slightly atheistic religions; too many to count, too many to master, in too many languages to learn. I am not complaining or making excuses. Indeed the uncontainable diversity of "religion" is itself a great religious truth and a marker of the uncontainability of what religion is all about. I am just trying to get started and I have to start somewhere. I am not trying to begin at the Absolute Beginning. I have no head for that. I am just trying to get something on the table.
By religion, therefore, let me stipulate, I mean something simple, open-ended, and old-fashioned, namely, the love of God. But the expression "love of God" needs some work. Of itself it tends to be a little vacuous and even slightly sanctimonious. To put it technically, it lacks teeth. So the question we need to ask ourselves is the one Augustine puts to himself in the Confessions, "what do I love when I love God?," or "what do I love when I love You, my God?," as he also put it, or, running these two Augustinian formulations together, "what do I love when I love my God?". Augustine, I should say at the start, will be my hero throughout these pages, although with a certain post-modern and sometimes unorthodox twist that might at times have provoked his Episcopal wrath (he was a bishop, with a bishop's distaste for unorthodoxy).
I love this question in no small part because it assumes that anybody worth their salt loves God. If you do not love God, what good are you? You are too caught up in the meanness of self-love and self-gratification to be worth a tinker's damn Your soul soars only with a spike in the Dow-Jones Industrial average; your heart leaps only at the prospect of a new tax break. The devil take you. He already has. Religion is for lovers, for men and women of passion, for real people with a passion for something other than taking profits, people who believe in something, who hope like mad in something, who love something with a love that surpasses understanding. Faith, hope, and love, and of these three the best is love, according to a famous apostle (I Cor. 13:13). But what do they love? What do I love when I love my God? That is their question. That is my question.
The opposite of a religious person is a loveless person. "Whoever does not love does not know God" (I John 4:8) Notice that I am not saying a "secular" person. That is because I am out to waylay the usual distinction between religious and secular in the name of what I shall call the "post-secular" or a "religion without religion." I include a lot of supposedly secular people in religion - this is one of my unorthodox tendencies that I hope to slip by the bishop's notice - even as I think a lot of supposedly religious people should look around for another line of work. A lot of supposedly secular people love something madly, while a lot of supposedly religious people love nothing more than getting their own way and bending others to their own will ("in the name of God"). Some people can be deeply and abidingly "religious" with or without theology, with or without the religions. Religion may be found with or without religion. That is my thesis.
Thus the real opposite of a religious person is a selfish and pusillanimous curmudgeon, a loveless lout who knows no higher pleasure than the contemplation of his own visage, a mediocre fellow who does not have the energy to love anything except his mutual funds. That is what the philosophers call an abusive definition, but I do not feel any great compunction about that, because the people I am abusing deserve it. They do not love God. What is worse than that? What can you say on their behalf? If you know, you should write your own book and defend them. This book is for those who love God, that is, for people who are worth their salt. The New Testament is peppered with references to salt (Matt. 5:13; Mark 9:50; Col. 4:6). Salt is my criterion of truth, and love is my criterion of salt.
But if my definition of irreligion, of the opposite of religion, is abusive, my definition of religion, the "love of God," sounds slightly smarmy and pietistic. The love of God is my north star, but it only provides me with a starting point, not a finish, a first word, not a last. Everything depends on the follow through, on facing up to this beautiful and provocative Augustinian question, "what do I love when I love my God?". Love is the measure. Every historical and social structure, everything created, generated, made, formed, or forged in time - and what is not? - should be measured against the love of God. Even religion - especially religion - insofar as religion takes historical and institutional form, must be tested to see how loyal it is to itself, to its religious vocation, which is the love of God. But the love of God itself, if ever we could find such a beautiful and precious jewel, is beyond criticism. Of the love of God itself I will hear no criticism; I will cup my ears.
Let us speak then of love. What does it mean to "love" something? If a man asks a woman (I am quite open to other permutations of this formula) "do you love me?" and if, after a long and awkward pause and considerable deliberation, she replies with wrinkled brow, "well, up to a certain point, under certain conditions, to a certain extent," then we can be sure that whatever it is she feels for this poor fellow it is not love and this relationship is not going to work out. For if love is the measure, the only measure of love is love without measure (Augustine again). One of the ideas behind "love" is that it represents a giving without holding back, an "unconditional" commitment, which marks love with a certain excess. Physicians counsel us to eat and exercise in measured moderation and not to overdo either. But there is no merit in loving moderately, up to a certain point, just so far, all the while watching out for number one (which is, alas, what we are often advised by a decadent "New Age" psychology). If a woman divorces a man because he turned out to be a failure in his profession and just did not measure up to the salary expectations she had for him when they married, if she complains that he did not live up to his end of the "bargain," well, that is not the sort of till-death-us-do-part, unconditional commitment that is built into marital love and the marital vow. Love is not a bargain, but unconditional giving; it is not an investment, but a commitment come what may. Lovers are people who exceed their duty, who look around for ways to do more than is required of them. If you love your job, you don't just do the minimum that is required; you do more. If you love your children, what would you not do for them? If a wife asks a husband to do her a favor, and he declines on the grounds that he is really not duty bound by the strict terms of the marriage contract to do it, that marriage is all over except for the paper work. Rather than rigorously defending their rights, lovers readily put themselves in the wrong and take the blame for the sake of preserving their love. Love, St. Paul said in his stunning hymn to love, is patient, kind, not puffed up or boastful; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (I Cor. 13). A world without love is a world governed by rigid contracts and inexorable duties, a world in which - God forbid! - the lawyers run everything. The mark of really loving someone or something is unconditionality and excess, engagement and commitment, fire and passion. Its opposite is a mediocre fellow, neither hot nor cold, moderate to the point of mediocrity. Not worth saving. No salt.
Then what about "God"? What about loving God? One of my main arguments in this essay is that "love" and "God" go together, for "God is love," as the New Testament tells us: "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.... God is love and those who abide in love abide in God and God abides in them" (I John 4:7-8, 16). That is my Archimedean point, my true north. But notice how easily saying "God is love" slides over into saying "love is God." This slippage is provocative and it provides us with an exceedingly important and productive ambiguity, opening up a kind of endless substitutability and translatability between "love" and "God" that I shall also be exploring as we go along (and raising the eyebrow of a bishop or two along the way). As love is the first name of God, "of God" is also the best name we have for those who love. To love God is to love something deeply and unconditionally. But it is also true - there is no stopping this slippage or reversal - that to love deeply and unconditionally is to be born of God, to love God, for the name of God is the name of love, the name of what we love. That is why I will hear no criticism of this idea and why those who do not love God are loveless louts. That is also why the central and most pressing question is not whether I love God or whether there is a God to love, but "what do I love when I love my God?".
But where do we start -I am always trying to get started -if we want to get an idea of what we mean by "loving God"? An old and daunting problem, but my advice is as follows. When the Virgin Mary was told by the Angel Gabriel that she would conceive and bring forth a child, the first thing that Mary said, according to the gospel of Luke, was what any expectant virgin mother might be expected to say: "What are you talking about? I guarantee you, angel or not, that's impossible" (loosely translated). To which Gabriel responded, with characteristic archangelic composure, don't worry, "nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). The second thing Mary said is what made her famous: "here I am," "fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum," in short, "yes, oui-oui" (in FrancoAramaic). I will come back later on to the "yes," which I regard as an important and deeply religious notion and also closely linked to the idea of God, but for the moment I am interested in Luke's linking of "God" with "nothing is impossible." With God, all things are possible, very amazing things, even things that are, I am tempted to say, "unbelievable" (which are the things that most require belief), and even, God help us, "impossible" things. After Jesus told the story that it would be harder for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God than it would be for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, he added, "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible" (Mark 10:27). So to get a start on the idea of loving God, let us take a closer look at what is for me, following Luke and Mark, a closely connected idea, "the impossible."
Philosophy of Religion: A Guide and Anthology by Brian Davies (Oxford University Press) provides a comprehensive, authoritative, and accessible overview of the philosophy of religion. Under the careful editorship of Brian Davies, the book contains a selection of the best classical and contemporary writings on the philosophy of religion together with substantial commentary, introductory material, discussion questions, and detailed guides to further reading. The editorial material sets the extracts in context and guides the reader through them. Taken as a whole, the book offers the ideal, self‑contained introduction to the questions that have most preoccupied Western philosophers when thinking about religion.
The selection is both very comprehensive and very generous. 65 sizeable extracts map out the full range of topics most commonly encountered in courses on the philosophy of religion. Part I looks at the relation between philosophy and religious belief; Parts II‑IV consider the existence and nature of God; Part V addresses the problem of evil; and Parts VI and VII are devoted to the relationship between morality and religion and to the question of life after death.No other book on the market offers this combination of introductory guide along with such a substantial anthology of key writings.
Philosophers Speak of God edited by Charles Hartshorne, William L. Reese (Humanity Books) This wide-ranging anthology of philosophical writings on the concept of God presents a systematic overview of the chief conceptions of the deity as well as skeptical and atheistic critiques of theological ideas. Considered by many American philosophers as the best presentation of the panenthestic conception of the divine, it has curried favor as an essential supplemental reading text in courses that deal with process theology as well as philosophical justifications for the idea of God. The selections cover key philosophical developments in this subject area from ancient to modern times in both the East and the West. Charles Hartshorne and William L. Reese have not only selected many arresting passages from the world's great thinkers but have also analyzed and evaluated the underlying ideas, showing how they fit into major, overarching systems of thought. This richly varied collection will provide the serious student with a thorough foundation in the philosophy of religion.Philosophers Speak of God remains one of the best orientations to the philosophy of Charles Hartshorne and Alfred North Whitehead. It is first-rate for a clear and concise explanation of Hartshorne's take on the classical philosophers defense of the idea of God. Hartshorne and Reese cover most of the major Western and a good number of the major Eastern philosophers in this wide-ranging analysis of the primary tenets of theology. Recommend for anyone who is first reading about process philosophy, and wishes to understand the differences between classical thought and the panentheist approach.
Ninian Smart was a prolific author who pretty much set the tone for the academic approach to religion in Britain and the USA. His contributions embrace history, philosophy, anthropology and sociology. Much of what he contributed set the terms of how basic categories of human experience might be approached. Though his work is often original and usually arresting it tends to be general and introductory except for a few titles listed below. He wrote with an effortlessness grace and fluency, publishing over thirty books. Some, such as his paperback on Mao, were light and ephemeral but others, such as his magisterial study of World Religions, published in 1989, were works of enormous learning and scholarship, tempered with deep sympathetic understanding and tolerance.
Roderick Ninian Smart was one of three sons of Professor W. M. Smart of Glasgow University, all of whom themselves became professors: Jack, a somewhat eccentric but lovable Professor of Philosophy in`Canberra; Alistair, Professor of History of Art in Nottingham (and himself a considerable painter), and Ninian, founding Professor of Religious Studies at Lancaster and later Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Smarts second appointment was in 1956 at Kings College London, where he spent five years. At 34 he was appointed Wood Professor of Theology at Birmingham University. While there he was invited to be the external assessor on the about-to-be-established Chair of Religious Studies at the new University of Lancaster, and the terms of the post so attracted him (it was advertised as being for persons of any faith or of none) that he asked if he might be a candidate, and was duly appointed.
The Religious Studies at Lancaster department he created after 1967 was significant. Many faiths were represented Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Chinese specialists (Smart had himself learnt Mandarin Chinese during a visit to China), and many disciplines too, with sociologists, anthropologists and philosophers all contributing to its work.
The most recent works by n Smart tended to reflect the dumbing-down tendencies in academic publishing where his works attempted to reach the vast mass of undergraduate studies to introduce an interesting but not simple area of human creativity.
World Philosophies by Ninian Smart (Routledge) World Philosophies is a comprehensive survey of the world's philosophical and religious traditions by one of our foremost religious thinkers. Ninian Smart discusses notable figures such as Plato and Kierkegaard in the West, the Buddha and Mao Zedong in Asia, Tempels and Knibanga in Africa, and Rodo and Royce in America. Covering a wide range of topics including Indian ideas of testimony and evidence, Chinese notions of moral development, Buddhist concepts of cosmology and Latin American critiques of materialism, Smart sheds new light on the astonishing diversity of philosophies that have developed throughout history.
As comprehensive as this title no doubt is it suffers from too much in too little space. Still it is excellent for general survey courses if supplement with good readings.
Contents: Preface 1. The History of the World and our Philosophical Inheritance 2. South Asian Philosophies 3. Chinese Philosophies 4. Korean Philosophies 5. Japanese Philosophies 6. Philosophies of Greece, Rome and the Near East 7. Islamic Philosophies 8. Jewish Philosophies 9. Europe 10. North America 11. Latin America 12. Modern Islam 13. Modern South and South-East Asia 14. China, Korea and Japan in Modern Times 15. African Philosophies 16. Concluding Reflections Bibliography Index
Dimensions of the Sacred: An Anatomy of the World's Beliefs by Ninian Smart (University of California Press) A world-renowned religion scholar explores the world's major religions and comparable secular systems of thought in this unusually wide-ranging and readable work. Ninian Smart considers Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Shintoism, as well as Marxist-Leninism, Maoism, nationalism, and Native American, African, and other systems of belief. His goal is to advance our understanding of how we as human beings interact thoughtfully with the cosmos and express the exigencies of our own nature and existence.
Smart's book is a summation of his work as a subscriber to the morphological/Eliade branch of the "Chicago School" of Religious Studies, also called "Religionswissenschaft" or History of Religions. He divides religion into "Theistic" and "Non-Theistic" and then proceeds to identify, buffet-style, bits and pieces of different religions as fitting into his schema, with little attention to the particular historical, and social contexts involved.
The discussion on Magic, Mysticism, and Heresy are especially banal. Smart either ignores or refuses to engage much of the scholarship of the last 100 years, presenting theories of magic and heresy that have long since been refuted. The discussion on mysticism is only marginally better, only half-heartingly engaging post-Steven Katz work on mysticism and mystical experience. You won't find any of the work of Francis Yates, Ioan Couliano, Walter Bauer, Bruce Janz or anyone else who has brought the fields of magic, mysticism and heresy out of Protestant Dogma. Smart's Episcopalianism shows through with little attempt to hide it, or openly acknowledge it as a prejudice.
Doctrine and Argument in Indian Philosophy by Ninian Smart (Indian Thought and Culture, Vol. 4: Brill Academic) This study, one of Smarts earliest contributions is still an exceptional introduction to Indian philosophy. A revised and updated edition of Ninian Smart's well-known work, long out of print, this study provides a lucid and helpful introduction to the chief systems and debates found in Indian (Hindu, Buddhist, Jain etc.) traditions of philosophy. Part 1 discusses the metaphysical systems, Buddhist metaphysics, Jain metaphysics, materialism and exegesis, distinctionism and yoga, logic-atomism, non-dualism, qualified non-dualism, dualism and Saivite doctrine, analysis of the religious factors in Indian metaphysics. Part 2 examines arguments for and against the existence of God, arguments about rebirth and the soul, epistemological questions, causation, and induction and inference.
Reflections in the Mirror of Religion by Ninian Smart (Library of Philosophy and Religion: Palgrave) is a collection of Smarts best essays. They reveal some of his most wide-ranging and original work. The essays listed below show just how wide ranging his reach was.
Preface: Reflections in the Mirror of Religion Acknowledgements Introduction by John P. BurrisPt. I. A Hermeneutics of Comparison: Reflections on the Possibility of a Science of Religion 1. What would Buddhaghosa have made of The Cloud of Unknowing? (1992) 2. The Purification of Consciousness and the Negative Path (1984) 3. Our Experience of the Ultimate (1984) 4. Foreword to Religion in Essence and Manifestation (1986) 5. Identity and a Dynamic Phenomenology of Religion (1985) 6. Western Society and Buddhism (1989) Pt. II. Religion of the Ground: Some Examples of Method for Developing a Sociology of Religious Knowledge 7. Consciousness: Permanent or Fleeting? Reflections on Indian Views of Consciousness and the Self (1989) 8. Reflections on the Sources of Knowledge in the Indian Tradition (1989) 9. An Analysis of Hinduism in the Modern World (1986) 10. Action and Suffering in the Theravadin Tradition (1984) 11. India, Sri Lanka and Religion (1989) 12. Discontinuities and Continuities between Mao Zedong Thought and the Traditional Religions of China (1990) 13. Asian Cultures and the Impact of the West: India and China (1982) Pt. III. The New Discipline: Religion as an Academic Study 14. Introducing the Study of Religion (1990) 15. Teaching Religion and Religions: The 'World Religions' Course (1991) 16. The Pros and Cons of Thinking of Religion as Tradition (1991) 17. Graduate Education: Some Practical Issues (1988) 18. Reflections on the Future of Religion (1989) Bibliography Index
ANXIOUS ANGELS: A Retrospective View of Religious Existentialism by George Pattison ($59.95, hardcover, 304 pages, St Martins Press; ISBN: 0312220111)
Existentialism was one of the most important influences on twentieth-century thought, especially in the period between the 1920s and early 1960s. Best known in its atheistic representatives such as Sartre, it also numbered many significant religious thinkers. ANXIOUS ANGELS is a critical introduction to these religious existentialists, who are treated as a coherent group in their own right and not merely as derivative of secular existentialism, and it is shown that they constitute a distinctive voice in the history of modem religious thought. Written for students unfamiliar with the primary sources, it summarizes and comments on the existential element in each of the major figures concerned, from Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky through to Tillich, Bultmann and Marcel, and includes less familiar representatives of the group such as Berdyacv, Shestov and Unamuno. Their interest in questions of language and communication and political and social life is also explored, and it is argued that they continue to merit attention in an era of postmodernity.
George Pattison is Dean of Chapel at King's College, Cambridge. Widely known for his work on Kierkegaard: The Self in Society. He has written on many aspects of modern religious thought and philosophy. From 1994 to 1998 he was editor of Modern Believing, and he has also written and broadcast on religion and the arts. His books include Poor Paris : Kierkegaard's Critique of the Spectacular City (Walter De Gruyter, 1999) and Agnosis : Theology in the Void (St Martins Pr ess, 1997Existentialist Approach to Philosophy of Religion
Existentialists are not engaged in abstract speculation intent in making a final judgment on the contents of the great faith traditions. Their main intent is the clarification of concrete existence, in understanding a way of life as striving for authenticity and overcoming the many forms of dispersion and alienation in daily worldly living. Religion, then, is much more than a persistent element of human culture and a fact of history. It is a way of being-in-the-world that may contribute to, or distract from, a worthy life. Existentialist thinkers' attention to the question of God neither eliminates nor introduces arguments for God's existence. Their suspicion about final systems of thought and otherworldly transcendence raises the question about the place and meaning of God. The decisive issue consists in wondering about the meaning of God in and for human living. The question of God, Camus suggests, is connected with the experience of absurdity, with the possibility of finding meaning in a conflicting, paradoxical relation between the human nostalgia for clarity and the obscure silence of the world. The absurd calls into question the logic leading to the affirmation of God. Neither the idea of God nor the adoption of religiosity should function as a consolation or compensation of a future illusion for current hardships and for the absence of a profound meaning in the present.
KIERKEGAARD's critique of institutionalized religion was coupled with his notion of the individual's facing religious truths and paradoxes. His attacks on Hegelian system building and his Socratic irony exposed the pretensions of scientific, calculative rationality as the embodiment of detachment from the dynamic of existence, from the task of becoming an individual. The individual's struggle against anonymity and crowd-mentality, leading to aesthetic dispersion and to the false self-certainty of following a code of rules, spares him or her anxiety. Yet anxiety can lead to the leap of faith in God. Religion is assumed as personal, as responsibilty before God, as a concrete living relation with Christ as the paradox of the finite and of the infinite. This perspective may help to recover the lost or diluted inwardness of religion, of becoming and striving for authentic, responsible existence. Thus, the religious way of being is born out of the most personal decision in choosing God (like Abraham) in a personal leap of faith and in putting the concrete, personal relation with God above everything else, in giving oneself to God as the ultimate source. Authentic existence, the life of the responsible individual standing alone and finding one's true self before God, takes place in fear and trembling, in the experience of anxiety. Religion is a way of life of striving for the inwardness of Personality in enacting the truths of faith, the hard, ascetic, daring demands of New Testament Christianity. Genuine becoming and finding one's self take place before God, in the life of personal relationship with the absolute. Religious existence overcomes the alienation and fragmentation of the self, the abolition of the individual, the identification of the individual with the general idea of humanity. Soviety, marked by crowd-mentality, is a threat to individuality, to the uniqueness and integrity of individual existence. The horizontal dimension of existence, the relation with others and the world, is based on the vertical axis of life, on the personal faith-relation to God. Thus, religion lived as witnessing to the truth of Christianity leads to the inner peace with God and to the true self; it is the way to overcoming alienation and loss of the self. In finite time, the religious individual alone makes a decision for eternity and thus transcends to God in personal relationship and makes the immediate relation to God the central fact of and guide for living.
For Nietzsche, the overcoming of alienation and nihilism is atheistic, or at least anti-ontotheological; it means the liberation of the individual from the illusion of another, higher world. The experience of the self consists in descending into the depths of human existence and into the unexplored possibilities of the earth, of this world; in the final analysis, one experiences only oneself, not the immediacy of the divine or of an afterworld. Christianity, as vulgarized Platonism, devalues and instrumentalizes this life; it turns the attention from the wealth and depth of yet unexplored meanings of this life, of the present, to the illusory promise of another, higher, transcendent realm, to an afterworld. Rituals, traditions, conformity and mediocrity, and the submission to the burden of religious transcendence suffocate the self. Christianity creates resentment in the obeying individual and thus destroys the joy and value of this life.
Nietzsche's attack on cultural, historical, and political Christianity claims to bring about the overcoming of nihilism, the creation of new values, the discovery of the potentials of human freedom and creativity, the joy of living, the affirmation of life returning without end, without being replaced or displaced. His teaching of the eternal recurrence of the same proclaims the self worth and value of this life, of this world. This way of thinking and living overcomes the consequences of the phenomenon of the death of God, the lack of direction after the rejection of the moralistic God and religious transcedence. It recovers the human self in this time without its metaphysical-religious illusion. His insights and language teach the art of thinking and free inquiry.
According to Buber, religion is holding fast to the existing God, not to an image of God as a human construct. Philosophy, especially in the twentieth century, is the intellectual letting go of God. The existence of God cannot be proven; it is not a matter of inference from the world, history, or the self. God is the absolute person, the eternal Thou that never becomes an It, an object. The holding fast to the living God, facing God as Thou, is not the result of dialectical speculation. It comes about in turning to the Other; through meeting the human, finite Thou one obtains a glimpse to the eternal Thou. Religion, as holding fast to the living God, is connected with human relationships, with the affirmation of the fullness of dialogical living. It is the response of the human to the divine in concrete living, in the process of becoming. Humans can enter into direct relation with God because God enters into direct relation with humans. A person cannot speak to God while ignoring other humans.
Sartre suggests that human self understanding includes discarding the idea of God and the recovery of responsibility for one's existence. Human freedom, choosing oneself while acting in a specific situation, cannot be reconciled with a God who determines one's essence, as held in many religions. The basic nature of human relationships is conflict, not dialogue; intersubjective relations are frequently based on conflicting projects, leading neither to the other nor to God. The death of God renders possible the liberation of the human to choose genuine, authentic existence. Sartre regards religion as teaching conformity, as preaching resignation to the lower classes of society.
Tillich's definition of religion as ultimate concern for being indicates the depth and existential implications of life as relating to God through faith. A main difficulty of this understanding of religion consists in the fusion of ontological and theological perspectives. To philosophize, Merleau-Ponty suggests, means to seek; it does not consist in returning to, or defending, a specific tradition. Philosophy should seek to see. Theology often uses philosophy for its own purpose and thus ends philosophy; it frequently makes use of philosophical wonder for the purpose of motivating an affirmation that ends the wonder. Philosophy never comes to an end. It arouses us to what is problematic in our existence and in that of the world so that we shall never be cured of searching. Thus philosophy arouses the problem: What is responsible for the birth of God in human consciousness? The thinker wonders about the constant manifesting of religious phenomena through world history and about the continual rebirth of the divine. The thinker attempts to describe this rebirth. The philosopher tries to understand religion as an expression of consciousness. However, understanding religion and accepting it are not the same.
FEUERBACH AND THE INTERPRETATION OF RELIGION by Van A. Harvey
Cambridge studies in religion and critical thought
Edited by Wayne Proudfoot (Columbia University); Jeffrey L. Stout (Princeton University); Nicholas Wolterstorff (Yale University)
Cambridge University Press
$18.95, paper, notes, bibliography, index
Ludwig Feuerbach is traditionally regarded as a significant but transitional figure in the development of nineteenth-century German thought. Readings of Feuerbachs The Essence of Christianity tend to focus on those features which made it seem liberating to the Young Hegelians: namely, its criticism of reification as abstraction, and its interpretation of religion as alienation. In this long-awaited book, the first of an important new series, Van Harvey claims that this is a limited and inadequate view of Feuerbachs work, especially of his critique of religion. The author argues that Feuerbachs philosophical development led him to a much more complex and interesting theory of religion which he expounded in works which have been virtually ignored hitherto. By exploring these works, Harvey gives them a significant contemporary restatement, and brings Feuerbach into conversation with a number of modern theorists of religion.
Table of Contents
Note on the text and abbreviations
1. "Projection" in The Essence of Christianity
2. The interpretative strategy informing The Essence of Christianity
3. The criticism of religion in The Essence of Christianity
4. Feuerbach's intellectual development
5. The new bipolar model of religion
6. The new interpretative strategy
7. Feuerbach and contemporary projection theories
8. Feuerbach, anthropomorphism, and the need for religious illusion
A series such as Cambridge Studies in Religion and Critical Thought might be expected to comprise works that are clear and authoritative and, taking the word critical seriously, provocative. Van Harveys study of Feuerbach fulfills all these expectations and is a book that should be read carefully by anyone concerned with the study of Feuerbach. This work refocuses critical attention on the work of Feuerbach offering a delightfully provocative account of his philosophy of religion.
Van Harvey's study of Feuerbach offers one of the most extensive re-evaluations of Feuerbach this century. It should become a major source for refocusing upon this thinker who is germaine to the study of religion. This is a stimulating and thought-provoking book that is destined to become a classic in Feuerbach studies and essential reading for all engaged in the social-scientific study of religious belief.
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