John Gray in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago joined the trend of writing kind of stupidly about religion and secularism. Gray rather wants to have his cake and eat it, arguing that secularism is based on religion and, anyway, secularism is worse than religion. Now, the first half of this argument is true; contemporary western secularism really does draw a lot on early Christian arguments against paganism, reformation arguments against Catholicism, and enlightenment arguments against a personal God, which is a tradition of ideas central to Christianity. But true as this is, it doesn’t constitute the knockdown argument against secularism that Gray seems to think it does. On the contrary, secularism’s relationship to religion is no argument against secularism at all. Read more↴
In the wake of the discussion of Radical Orthodoxy some time ago, I’ve finally got round to listening to this CBS program about Milbank and Pickstock, two of the movement’s founders. It’s an extraordinarily good radio show – I can’t imagine the militantly middlebrow Radio 4, or it’s repetition-as-farce NPR, producing something half as intellectually serious. Great podcast though it is, it’s obviously not a complete account of Radical Orthodoxy; still, if it was accurate I can see where some of infinite thought’s concerns come from. Milbank and Pickstock put forward some interesting and persuasive criticisms of modernity; but there seemed to be an absence of the kind of thinking necessary to move forward from that critique, leaving Radical Orthodoxy in the end, as IT says, reactionary. Read more↴
The most recent of them have found the correct expression for their activity when they declare they are only fighting against “phrases.” They forget, however, that to these phrases they themselves are only opposing other phrases, and that they are in no way combating the real existing world when they are merely combating the phrases of this world. The only results which this philosophic criticism could achieve were a few (and at that thoroughly one-sided) elucidations of Christianity from the point of view of religious history; all the rest of their assertions are only further embellishments of their claim to have furnished, in these unimportant elucidations, discoveries of universal importance.
The Guardian last week saw some particularly high-quality entries in the competition to write the stupidest thing possible about religion. Tobias Jones is terrified of “totalitarian” Richard Dawkins, who is apparently poised to carry out a genocide of religious believers. A. C. Grayling fights back, accusing homophobic protestors of “an obscenity against human rights” (whatever that means), and a desire to institute widespread torture. Grayling loses in the “who’s the stupidest” stakes because the particular religious people he is incoherently attacking are indeed bastards; but Jones does say one thing that is slightly suprising and might be worth a bit more comment: Read more↴