Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Religion & Hate (1)

In preparation for a discussion this evening (22 Feb) on religion and hate, I sketched the following bulletin points. In a subsequent post I will list the bullet points of what was actually discussed.

(1) I always have a problem with the question of religion & causality, since religion itself is an expression of social (& psychological) forces.

(2) I think we have to go behind religion & begin with its origins in magical thinking, and thus the connection with dependency, fear & violence, beginning with the experience of violence in nature.

(3) As much as I dislike René Girard as a Christian apologist, his views adumbrated in  Violence and the Sacred should be examined, particularly the notion of ritual sacrifice as a substitute for unregulated violence.

(4) I think religion has to be historically divided at least into 3 stages: (1) primitive magic & tribal religion; (5) religion in pre-modern class societies, wherein all the "great" religions took shape; (6) religion in the modern world, & the inability to digest modernity, in which magical thinking proliferates in both religious & secular ideologies.

(5) Without understanding the cultural reinforcements of hate, violence, oppression & paranoia, I don't see how we could understand religion's connection to hate, or in some cases, religion's rebellion against hate. There is even one religion or two which is mostly benign, the Bahai's, for example.

(6) And then there's the question of self-hate. Why do the victimized think they have done something wrong?  Richard Wright addressed this question symbolically in his brilliant 1942 story, "The Man Who Lived Underground."

(7) References given here address different historical stages of superstitious / magical / paranoiac thinking. Girard addresses primitive religion. Edmund D. Cohen's The Mind of the Bible-Believer addresses the genesis and psychological mechanisms of thought control behind Christianity.  Consult the LABELS on this blog for more on both of these authors. For an example of modern paranoiac thinking, consult reviews of Stephen Eric Bronner's A Rumor about the Jews: Antisemitism, Conspiracy, and the Protocols of Zion.

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