Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Who's winning?

On the plane home from Birmingham I saw the woman sitting next to me was reading The God Delusion: What's Wrong with Religion by Richard Dawkins. I was tempted to strike up a conversation, but I have such contempt for Dawkins' point of view on this subject that I wasn't sure I would be able to remain polite. I was also tempted to take out my rosary, just to provoke her, but that seemed counterproductive, too. Anyone who was reading Dawkins with so much interest would probably be someone either newly liberated from some tyrranous childhood faith, or someone so thoroughly atheistic that they could match Dawkins shrillness. Neither felt like much fun to talk to. So I just sat back and slept, and occasionally snuck a peak at what she was reading.

What surprises me is how often Dawkins uses words like "emergency" and "crisis" to describe the state of religious culture in the country today. If half the country was goose-stepping and saying "Sieg heil!" he could not have used stronger language to denounce it. As he tells it, we are on the verge of slipping into utter chaos and darkness because of these unenlightened idiots.

The funny thing is, the religious fundamentalists are saying exactly the same things. They do not see a world getting increasingly religious; they see a world becoming increasingly secular, and fear a downward slide into moral relativism and social anarchy. When I mentioned the article in USA Today about Americans' religious ignorance to my client (who was a church-going man), he had the typical response: "Is it any wonder the world is going to hell in a handbasket these days?"

So . . . who's winning? Is religion gaining ground, as so many articles in Time and the Wall Street Journal attest? Or is secular humanism carrying the day? My guess is that both sides must be dead-even in influence, because neither side is feeling particularly secure. The volume of the rhetoric is turned up across the board, because everyone senses that the country is teetering on a tipping point, and could go either way. And there may yet be a niche for a Third Way, if someone can articulate a vision of spirituality that transcends both literal-minded mythology and soulless rationality.



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