Saturday, June 04, 2005


A couple of interesting articles to blog about today. The first is a nuanced account in which Os Guinness examines a new book about religion and politics. The book argues that rich societies are becoming more secular but the world as a whole is becoming more religious. The arficle examines whether or not people’s insecurities and fears created religion, and whether, in today’s America — and especially after 9/11 — there really is religious freedom, or freedom to speak against religion, or neither, or both. I’d say neither.

Salman Rushdie writing for the Toronto Star, however, just yanks out his six-shooters and blazes away at religion. Like Gore Vidal, who called religion “the great unmentionable evil” at the very centre of our culture and ethics, Rushdie has no time for those who sit back and ideologically handle religion with kid gloves, while it ideologically punches many areas of life and culture full in the face.

Rushdie makes an interesting point about dead religions v. live ones: that only after a religion dies is its art and literature available for true enjoyment by all. It’s as if the pagan Norse poetry and Greek and Roman temples are only now opened to the view, only now flung wide for the mind to examine — only now their religions have passed out of memory and practice.

One lunchtime in London, I stepped into Westminster Abbey to sit for a while in the middle of its history and beauty, and was told that it was closed for a service. I looked the guy in the face and said I had come to pray. He stepped aside. I sat for a while, listened to the music and looked at the wonderful stonework, and didn’t think about god once. I thought about visiting a famously beautiful new temple out in the suburban terraced streets and abandoned the idea when I found I would have to remove my shoes; I have never genuflected in a Catholic church (although I have played the organ in many) and will not do the equivalent anywhere else. Maybe all Rushdie’s fierce blasting is closer to my worldview than I thought.

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