News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: What is up with US?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

What is up with US?

I wrote the following in response to the anonymous writer, Spengler, at Asia Times Online:

Is "Xtianity" American, Russian, Abyssinian or any other state religion? The assumption underlying your comment is that true religion is somehow aligned with a nation, which defines its character. This assumption, you will note is what I questioned when I originally posted at this site. That is, that you somehow associate Xtianity with a state-religion in much the same way as Jews associate Judaism with a nation or state or theocracy. Therefore, I imagine that we will soon reach the point when just being born American will mean we are Xtian.

I find these assumptions absurd and destructive of true Xtianity, which is associated in no way with a state or people or anything temporal, even a church. Xtianity calls the individual to a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It calls for a recognition of personal sinfulness and says we can indeed find eternal happiness if we take up our cross and follow Jesus.

As far as the philosophers are concerned, it is the point to realize not that we can find faith thru reason but that philosophy should be limited, as Wittgenstein notes, to addressing grammatical problems, which ultimately are misundertsandings about the use of concepts to cover cognitive areas to which they do not apply. The desire to create a philosophical system represents, for Wittgenstein, the ultimate sin--to build a tower of Babel in definace of God.

The spiritual desolation indicative of our age is hydra-headed--it expresses itself in the desire to create systems of all kinds--scientific, religious, ethical, spiritual, and so on. It defines itself specifically in this age as the desire to identify religion with politics and political structures. Because individuals find themselves incapable of taking responsibility for the task of finding eternal happiness, they associate themselves with a group, which promises salvation for their guilt and sin. But this is a false promise, and its associated impetus is the sign of despair, the ultimate sin--for it represents humans trying to be God.

The true problem, contrary to your assumptions, is to realize that the modern age indeed destroys true religiousness--it has collapsed infinity into temporality. The various manifestations of this desolation include scientism, consumerism, religious enthusiasm, end-of-the-world hysteria, warehouse churches, evangelism campaigns, cultism, cafeteria-style religion, spiritism, fundamentalism, literalism, etc. The metaphor for the age is packaging--modern religious leaders have learned how to package Xtianity in much the same way as perfumers do a scent or politicians do a candidate.

"Individual conscience"? I think not--it is simply the desire to fill a hole in a spiritual vaccuum that many ultimately find in this wasteland. Yet, what do they have preached to them? They have various forms of concumerist fantasies designed to pack the churches where worship is tanatamount to experiencing a show meant to entertain "spiritually." They have movements they can join--against abortion, for abortion; against change, for change; for values, against values; all packaged and served up to satisfy a temporal need, whether that is anomie, envy, ressentiment, alienation, failed love affairs, addiction, etc.

Indeed, much of what is called religion in America accords with what a friend of mind who spent a week in jail said: "Guys in jail have preachers come in who pray with them, read scripture, and create a spiritual high. So these former addicts of one kind or another simply replace a drug high with a religion high."

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