Last year I read Roger Wagner and Andrew Briggs’ excellent book, The Penultimate Curiosity (OUP). The book is a tour through human history from the perspective of art, science and religious seeking. In this post I will remark on an interesting point that I learned from this book.
Sorry to go blog-silent for a while. International events have once again intruded on the things I would have liked to write about. The change of administration in America has caught so much attention, mine included, that it is hard to write about anything else. But I haven’t forgotten that this is a science and religion blog, so I will try not to go too far off that theme.
I would be willing to be called theist in the sense described in this previous post, and I would like to encourage others to try to understand what that means. I hope that this will help other people to find for themselves a better sense of their own role and possibilities. I also affirm the right of atheism to express itself in the world, with full rights of citizenship, and to earn all the respect it can by motivating good lives and work for peace, justice, science and all the arts.
This post is a continuation of a theme I addressed in a piece on fascism on August 23rd. You may ask, why did I include a piece on fascism in a blog about science and religion? It is because I think I can detect totalitarian thinking in some of the material published and positions advocated in this area. I already discussed one issue related to this, namely the attempt to suppress dissent by redefining the very words that other people have adopted:
[Changing the meaning of words]
In this post I will expand on another issue: assessing people not by how they behave but by how you label them.
In its early days, the movement called National Socialism in Germany did not look like a horror story about to happen. It looked ok to most people. You had to be discerning to smell a rat. Here are some of the features that fascism was showing before it swelled into outright violence and totalitarianism.
A Man Digging Potatoes, Thomas Frederick Mason Sheard
So far in this blog I have tried to offer ways for people unsure about religious language to find a way in, and I have objected to various unsubstantiated or ill-argued claims coming mostly from outside the Christian movement. However, in the interests of balance and straightforwardness, I want to admit this week that the worldwide Christian movement itself has deep problems and often does much harm. I think it does a huge amount of good too, but it has its own characteristic problems and they will not go away quickly or easily.
The blog is intended to give people a way in, in a briefer format than is typical for a book. I have already given some book-length thoughts, and I intend to discuss some issues at greater length eventually in another book, but here I will offer an introductory comment on the two activities called science and religion. Continue reading