Current/Recent Reading List

29 July 2007

Couple 'o Quotes

Lots of good stuff in the August/September First Things, but here are a couple of passages that stand out:

Harvey Mansfield, of Manliness fame, on the failure of modern-day political science to concentrate on anything but that second word, science:

Ambition embarrasses our political science because ambition smacks of greatness; it is not average enough to be the object of a science that knows nothing of individuality, hence nothing of greatness. Even the word great is unscientific because it is pretentious. But we human beings are animals with pretensions.

My profession needs to open its eyes and admit to its curriculum the help of literature and history. It should be unafraid to risk considering what is ignored by science and may lack the approval of science. The humanities too, whose professors often suffer from a faint heart, need to recover their faith in what is individual and their courage to defend it. Thumos (the part of the soul that makes us want to insist on our importance) is not merely theoretical. To learn of it will improve your life as well as your thinking.

And then this from Richard Neuhaus on the latest boom of bestselling books that attack religion, and how they should be categorized:

Hitchens, Harris, et al. are not really making the case for atheism. They are attacking the grab bag of evils and absurdities associated with that amorphous reality called religion, which is an easy thing to do. "Religion" has to do with human beliefs and behaviors that are as riddled with nonsense as any other human enterprise. Christians qua Christians, have no stake in defending "religion." Much of what is called religion is false and meretricious. The Book Expo had it right: The "atheist" books in question are a subcategory in religion. Now, if Hitchens and company want to talk about God, i.e., Reality, that would be a most welcome discussion.


dhanson said...

It seems to me that atheism IS a religion. The rock-solid belief that there is no higher being requires as much faith as is asked of any other religion. It reminds me of an old Gahan Wilson cartoon of crowds of people bowing and praying to an empty pulpit with the letter N carved on it. One turns and says "Is nothing sacred?" Indeed, Nothing (with a capital N) seems to be sacred to atheists.

School Master P said...

Very true, dhanson - and, of course, some atheists like to proselytize as well, in their own way. I suppose that is fair, though not likely to be wildly successful, since it means arguing that life is meaningless.

I do believe, though, that most of those who put on the trappings of atheism are really just very angry at someone or something associated with religion - perhaps a family member, a religious group or leader, a church action, or a doctrine they don't agree with. I'd bet that if you pressed them very hard to say they definitely didn't believe in God (or the equivalent in other cultures), not many could honestly do it.