Friday, August 10, 2007
Up In the Air
Camille Paglia is not someone who I've paid any attention to in the past, so I was fairly indifferent to the reaction she garnered from PZ Myers at Pharyngula when, in the middle of a remembrance for Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni, she dropped this in:
My pagan brand of atheism is predicated on worship of both nature and art. I want the great world religions taught in every school. Secular humanism has reached a dead end -- and any liberals who don't recognize that are simply enabling the worldwide conservative reaction of fundamentalism in both Christianity and Islam. The human quest for meaning is innate and ineradicable. When the gods are toppled, new ones will soon be invented.There is a certain mild amusement, after Dawkins, on behalf of the "neo-atheists," blamed moderate theists for the excesses of fundamentalism, to see the circle closed with secular humanists getting a finger pointed at them for the excesses of religion as well -- and on about as much evidence. Apparently, everybody is enabling the fundamentalists, who are, it seems, merely doing what everybody secretly wants.
The part about toppling gods, however, is not silly and better minds than Paglia's have made the point. David Hume, in The Natural History of Religion, after relating amusing stories (often told by Catholics themselves) about the incongruities of the notion of the real presence of Jesus in the bread and wine of communion, makes this point:
Such are the doctrines of our brethren the Catholics. But to these doctrines we are so accustomed, that we never wonder at them: Though in a future age, it will probably become difficult to persuade some nations, that any human, two-legged creature could ever embrace such principles. And it is a thousand to one, but these nations themselves shall have something full as absurd in their own creed, to which they will give a most implicit and most religious assent.There is an aspect of "squeezing the balloon" in railing against religion. The religious impulse, whatever it may consist of, appears innate to humans. Pushed out of cathedrals it seems to pop up in Dianetics ... or worse.