Monday, April 21, 2014

Is religion too simple?

From Damon Linker at The Week:

In responding to the indifference of the nones, religious institutions face two challenges. First, convincing the nones to recognize and respect their own religious longings. Second, persuading them that what the churches teach and demand can truthfully satisfy those longings. 
My own view is that the first should be relatively easy to accomplish, but that the second may well be impossible.... 
... perhaps the most daunting obstacle to getting the nones to treat traditional religion as a viable option is the sense that it simplifies the manifest complexity of the world. Yes, we long for a coherent account of the whole of things. But we don't want that account to be a fairy tale. We want it to reflect and make sense of the world as it is, not as we childishly wish it to be. 
The tendency toward oversimplification is a perennial temptation for all forms of human thinking, but it's especially acute in matters of religion. ... 
There is a whole, and it can be grasped. But it is a complex whole. A pluralistic whole. A differentiated whole shot through with contradiction and paradox. 
His argument is that religion is generally too simplistic to account for this complexity, and attempts to make too uniform an explanation.

What do you think?


JCF said...

I think it's a

{wait for it}


(Good) religion operates at different levels, because the human mind operates at different levels.

We've all heard about those near death: they cry for their mothers. I think religion NEEDS this EXTREMELY SIMPLE aspect, in extremis: God as Big Parent, to offer the "Everlasting Arms" to Take Us Home.

But (good) religion ALSO needs deep thought, complex thought, nuance (dare I say it again---paradox) that honors the Big Fat Brains of the Imago Dei. "God said it, I believe it, That settles it" is so much shite, for inquiring/argumentative minds.

Simply Complicated/Complexly Simple: that's Good Religion.

Did Jesus of Nazareth's corpse, post-rigor mortis, reanimate/resuscitate/rise to full function?

I don't know.

But Alleluia, He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! :-D

Kevin K said...

Well Said.

JCF said...

Why thank you, Kevin K. :-)

Unknown said...


very good comment.

I think the reason the evangelical mega-churches draw them in is that they do the simple part very well. Why they have such high turnover is that they don't do the second part well (indeed, they can ask people to check their brains at the door), and when they fail to find an answer or framework for the big questions, they leave.

The beauty of Anglicanism (especially the North American variety represented by TEC and ACC) is that we do do the second part well. Unfortunately, that can also be our best-kept secret.

Kevin K said...

Dear IT

One of the problems which Christianity faces is that too often churches choose between simplicity and wisdom. Both are important and both should be welcomed. The balance is so important and has been so hard to find and maintain.