Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Resacralizing of the World

(I took this picture of a praying woman in The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.)

Richard Wolin of CUNY has written a superb essay on today's resurgence of religion. Religion has, citing philosopher Jurgen Habermas, "remarkable staying power."

Wolin writes: "Today academe is rife with discussions of "political theology," a term popularized during the 1920s by the German jurist Carl Schmitt. Schmitt meant by it that all modern political concepts — sovereignty, natural rights, the social contract — are secularized versions of theological concepts."

Wolin deals extensively with Charles Taylor's A Secular Age, disagreeing substantially with it yet citing it as an example of the current, ongoing resacralization of the world.

Wolin critiques the neo-Darwinian atheists. He writes: "to reject belief in the name of science potentially aggravates the crisis of meaning, with its attendant upsets and dislocations: alienation, social disorientation, anomie."

"The return of the sacred is in large measure a response to modernity's failings. However, religion's neo-Darwinian detractors seem unable to fathom the correlation. Moreover, they are peculiarly tone deaf, or "unmusical," when it comes to comprehending the very real attractions of belief and spirituality for a great many denizens of our hyperrationalized, disenchanted cosmos. Thus, in The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins's portrayal of belief is so dismissive and simplistic that one wonders why anyone would embrace such demented and malicious ideals."

I especially value Wolin's insights that the scientific method may be intrinsically incapable of grasping the reality of the sacred. He asks: "Who would really want to inhabit a totally enlightened universe, denuded of mystery, plurality, and sublimity? What if ultimate reality weren't attainable by the prosaic methods of cognition or secular reason? What if, instead, the Absolute had more to do with the faculties of the imagination, intuition, or the unfathomable mysteries of the human unconscious?"

Nice writing.