I blog about religious issues, so it might seem counter-intuitive to post something against religion. But no matter what good comes from religious people, and no matter how much I think about God-related stuff, I’ve spent most of my adult life thinking Blaise Pascal was right to say much strongly motivated evil stems from religious convictions. (Pascal had more depth, breadth, and nuance in his thinking than his famous Wager, taken by itself, might suggest.)
In our time, Bob Dylan seems to have the same idea as Pascal:
“Religion is a dirty word. It doesn’t mean anything. Coca-Cola is a religion. Oil and steel are a religion. In the name of religion, people have been raped, killed, and defiled. Today’s religion is tomorrow’s bondage,” Dylan once said, as quoted in Dylan: The Biography by Dennis McDougal.
h/t to J.D. Landis
Please also see Bob Dylan on Morality.
Howard Zinn, in his 1999 play Marx in Soho, has Karl Marx say something like, “Why is it that every movement of six people is trying to expel someone?” In Zinn’s imagination, even Marx is exasperated at the ideological zealotry that can lead a group as small as six people (with essentially the same goals and values) to wage an intense purity campaign within its own ranks. It’s food for thought in these times, when someone who agrees with you 75% of the time can be 100% your enemy. There is no room for compromise, is there? Better a scorched Earth than a shared Earth, right? Just to be sure, you have to keep everyone within your ranks pure enough. Be vigilant.
During my visit to the Museum of Communism in Prague this past summer, I saw a display that revealed Party officials would sometimes torture and execute Party loyalists just to keep everyone in line through fear. The display showed mugshots of innocent people who were cherry-picked for torture and execution—even when the Party officials knew they had done nothing wrong. Purity through terror.
Update, Jan. 14:
While social media hissing is not quite like torture and execution, the condemnation of Margaret Atwood by the self-appointed, self-anointed “Good Feminists” is an example of a vicious purity campaign. Read Atwood’s account in The Globe and Mail.
If the name of Margaret Atwood rings a bell, it’s because she is the author of the 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, which recently became an acclaimed Hulu series. I teach her essay, “The Female Body,” in one of my writing courses each semester. Atwood strikes me as a feminist icon, but lately she has fallen out of favor with some purists.
The purists’ response to her civil-rights stance underscores my original point in this post. In a world with Donald Trump as president, left-leaning people actually want to target Margaret Atwood? But if you agree with her only 75% of the time, she must be 100% your enemy. That kind of thinking earns you Donald Trump.
Posted in Christian Humanism, politics
Tagged allies, Communist Party, Donald Trump, enemies, Howard Zinn, Karl Marx, Margaret Atwood, Marx in Soho, Museum of Communism, political correctness, politics, Prague, purity campaigns, scorched earth policies, terror
I just yesterday found this video, which includes Owen Barfield’s account of his friendship with C.S. Lewis. The occasion was Barfield’s Nov. 3, 1977, visit to Wheaton College’s Marion E. Wade Center, which is devoted to The Inklings, G.K. Chesterton, and Dorothy L. Sayers. (Barfield was at Wheaton to give a lecture, a piece of which is included in the below video.)
During the video, Kilby shows Barfield one of the Center’s prized pieces: the wardrobe from Lewis’s home. Barfield also talks about his first book, The Silver Trumpet, and its popularity among the children of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Please also see:
Rediscovered C.S. Lewis Christmas sermon: ‘we shall have to set about becoming true Pagans’
And, the short documentary “Owen Barfield: Man and Meaning.”
And, C.S. Lewis on … ashtrays.
And, an interview with Lewis scholar Don W. King on Ruth Pitter, an award-winning poet and friend of Lewis.
Plus, you can search this site for more notes, annotations, and posts about Lewis, Barfield, Tolkien, Charles Williams, and G.K. Chesterton.
Posted in Christian Humanism, Inklings, The Inklings
Tagged 1977, books, C.S. Lewis, Clyde Kilby, Clyde S. Kilby, Inklings, J.R.R. Tolkien, Marion E. Wade Center, Owen Barfield, The Silver Trumpet, video, Wheaton College, YouTube
While researching for her PhD thesis, Stephanie L. Derrick uncovered a forgotten C.S. Lewis article—forgotten in the sense that it that had not appeared in scholarly bibliographies of his work. Entitled “A Christmas Sermon for Pagans,” it reads in part:
“A universe of colourless electrons (which is presently going to run down and annihilate all organic life everywhere and forever) is, perhaps, a little dreary compared with the earth-mother and the sky-father, the wood nymphs and the water nymphs, chaste Diana riding the night sky and homely Vesta flickering on the hearth. But one can’t have everything, and there are always the flicks and the radio: if the new view is correct, it has very solid advantages.”
And then later:
“It looks to me, neighbours, as though we shall have to set about becoming true Pagans if only as a preliminary to becoming Christians. … For (in a sense) all that Christianity adds to Paganism is the cure. It confirms the old belief that in this universe we are up against Living Power: that there is a real Right and that we have failed to obey it: that existence is beautiful and terrifying. It adds a wonder of which Paganism had not distinctly heard—that the Mighty One has come down to help us, to remove our guilt, to reconcile us.”
Read Derrick’s article about unearthing this C.S. Lewis sermon along with an unlikely article he apparently wrote about cricket (under his pseudonym).
By the way, Derrick is turning her thesis into an upcoming book: The Fame of C. S. Lewis: A Controversialist’s Reception in Britain and America, to be published by Oxford University Press in July 2018 (that release date according to Amazon.com).
And while we’re talking Christmas, see what C.S. Lewis had to say about ritual, which included some thoughts about the holiday season.
Posted in C.S. Lewis, Christian Humanism, Christmas
Tagged articles by C.S. Lewis, books, C.S. Lewis, Christmas, holidays, paganism, pagans, rediscovered writings, research, ritual, scholarship, Stephanie L. Derrick
Here’s a gift of insight for all things personal and political:
“The power of words over reality cannot be unlimited since, fortunately, reality imposes its own unalterable conditions. The rulers of totalitarian countries wish, of course, to be truthfully informed, but time and again they fall prey, inevitably, to their own lies and suffer unexpected defeats. Entangled in a trap of their own making, they attempt awkward compromises between their own need for truthful information and the quasiautomatic operations of a system that produces lies for everyone, including the producers.”
— Leszek Kolakowski, “Totalitarianism and the Virtue of the Lie” (1983)
Also see: “Auden Explains Poetry, Propaganda, and Reporting” and “Christianity as propaganda; Christianity versus propaganda”
Posted in Christian Humanism, language, propaganda, words
Tagged essays, Is God Happy?, language, Leszek Kolakowski, lies, personal, politics, propaganda, psychology, totalitarianism, words