Friday, October 21, 2005

"We Can't Put it Together; It Is Together"

Much of our expectation about life and even reality is shaped by our culture. Culturally, we are Western Europeans, which means we are shaped fundamentally by Hellenistic reasoning. And the basic construct of reality the Hellenes accepted, was that creation arose from chaos, and that only unstinting efforts kept chaos from re-emerging and destroying all order again.

This is the reason we think, if we do, of life or even the cosmos as a "struggle between good and evil." This is the reason we think that, without the imposition of our will in the world, reason or order or good, will fail. This is the reason people so frequently, and so willingly, mis-read the teachings and the traditions of Judaism and Christianity.

DAS pointed out this, in response to my post about "Acts of God:"

I think it was in a recent issue of the Economist they pointed to a UN study which indicated that floods are really no worse geographically than they used to be. The big difference is that cities on high ground right by rivers which otherwise have floodplains (which are good places for cities to be -- near flood-born fertile soil to provide enough crops to feed them, near to rivers to transport goods, etc) have now expanded, because of population pressures, into the floodplains themselves. And, it is the poor who are squeezed into the floodplains.

If people had more hope beyond having enough kids that one was likely to prosper, we would not have these sorts of population pressures which lead to wars, people dying in floods, etc.

Of course, ecological devistation is a factor, in spite of what the UN report said.

In general, though, it is amazing ... given an allegorical interpretation of passages in the Torah and Talmud about the plagues that will befall a land if justice is not served, wealth is not properly distributed and the land is not properly cared for, how much God has warned us of what "acts of God" will befall us if we do not follow God's law.

What is a shame is how the very people who claim to be the guardians of morality are often the ones supporting ruinious policies that go against God's explicit laws. Didn't Jesus have a name for these people? Oh yes ... hypocrites!
There it is, in a nutshell: even if you set aside the very modern question of faith, Christianity and Judaism aren't rooted in a struggle with nature, or each of us with one another: they are rooted in the struggle with our nature. It is our selfishness which must be overcome, and "the passages in the Torah and the Talmud" teach us, if we will listen. And that is the true basis of religion, and belief: not mythology, not the extension of will in the world Both of those explanations of religion are rooted in 19th century critiques of religion, not of human religious activity. And that is the irony of Christian fundamentalism: although it is a product of the 20th century, it is rooted in the religious critiques of the 19th century and so created and forever bound to that which it seeks to destroy.

If you see creation as fundamentally chaos, then perhaps reason is your only hope for salvation. However, if you see creation as fundamentally good, then perhaps the way to have life "into the ages," is to consider the best ways we can care for one another. Because "acts of God" will continue to happen; and they will continue to plague us, if we don't learn the lessons about our own nature that are offered to us.

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