Friday, June 6, 2008

The Uses and Abuses of the Religious

There is a great column in the the Wall Street Journal today, Too Much Faith by Alan Jacobs on how naive journalists are in trusting the claims of religious leaders that the actions they are taking are religiously motivated:
Card-carrying members of the intelligentsia like Mr. Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris would surely be doubtful, even incredulous, if a politician who had illegally seized power claimed that his motives for doing so were purely patriotic; or if a CEO of a drug company explained a sudden drop in prices by professing her undying compassion for those unable to afford her company's products. Discerning a difference between people's professed aims and their real aims is just what intellectuals do.

Yet when someone does something nasty and claims to have done it in the name of religion, our leading atheists suddenly become paragons of credulity: If Osama bin Laden claims to be carrying out his program of terrorism in the name of Allah and for the cause of Islam, then what grounds have we to doubt him? It's not like anyone would lie about something like that as a strategy for justifying the unjustifiable, is it?

I have been thinking about some recent criticism I saw of some of my favorite conservative Anglican blogs. And I am thinking that an appropriate response to the criticism is that they are serving the purpose of discerning the difference between Anglican leaders professed aims and their real aims.

H/T to TitusOneNine


The Underground Pewster said...

What criticism of what favorite conservative Anglican Blogs?

Perpetua said...

Hi Pewster,

Well one example would be the second comment by "Anonymous" to the post "What's The Use of Worrying" On Not Another Episcopal Church Blog. That is a really clear case on the local level of one Episcopal Diocese.

That was a funny and insightful piece but it drew this strong lackey response: don't question authority -- we're all happy campers here. Actually, that was kind of funny as well, given the topic of the sermon seems to have been that religion was the opiate of the people used to keep people from questioning authority.

A more complex example is the criticism of Stand Firm by "Young Joe from Old OC". The criticism started on Stand Firm over a post about +John Howe and then spread over to Innocent As Doves. That really had me thinking about the purpose of the blogs. Young Joe was concerned, as I read him, that Stand Firm was undermining the leadership we conservatives have, creating self fulfilling prophecies and not providing an organizing locus of energy.

But for me, Stand Firm does serve the purpose of questioning the professed motives of the Episcopal and Anglican religious leadership

And I don't think it is wrong to extrapolate from the past and present to suggest likely future outcomes. And Stand Firm actually has provided some degree of organizing tools with Little Stone Bridges, the membership messaging system and the Around the Web feature.

The Underground Pewster said...

Oh, I remember those examples. I have been outcast because I dare to discuss the Sunday sermon in a blog format. I know people do this behind closed doors, in little whispers so no one else will hear, and we are seeing some choice examples being put on the web for al to see. The blogs bring these private whispers into the public arena, but only for those who choose to log on and look for these thoughts and ideas. When the "conservative" Anglican blogs start sounding "Pharisaical," as C.S. Lewis would put it, "too good... it leads not only to the wickedness but to the absurdity of those who in later times came to be called the 'unco guid' "
(Reflections on The Psalms by C.S. Lewis pp 66-67)
This is the view of those who protest the Anglican blogs, that the "conservative" blogs are self righteous and quick to cast the first stone. Those of us on the "conservative" side have to pray to stay humble and to not become "prigs" even though we may seem to be "priggish" as St. Lewis warns us.