Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another letter to the editor on fideism

This is another letter I wrote to the paper, but I'm not sure if it will be published yet:

I blush in writing another letter within the space of a few weeks from my last, but I read just recently a column titled “___” (____). Mr. H writes about religion as a phenomenon of divisiveness, hatred, and fear, one which “burns” and brings with it a great cost of suffering. His view of religion is neatly summarized when he says, “The primary issue is religion can be used to justify anything.” Can it? To the contrary, look up such people as “Bartolom√© de las Casas.” Some of his claims, though, are not in dispute - evil men exist within as well as without religion and have used religion as an excuse for their misdeeds. Granting all the evil in the world, that does not however justify his conclusion: religion is not thereby false. But, on a more important note, do religious people merely grasp for whatever a demagogue grants them as the word of the divine?
While I cannot answer this fully, I point to the recent "Regensburg address" of Pope Benedict and wish to refer to one particular phrase: “Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God.” There are religions that are fideist, much as Mr. H remarks, and these might well hold that the categories of the rational cannot be applied to God. However, not all or even most religions do. There are and have been religions that take as their founding principle the rationality of faith. While there have been those who stood by or even justified the killing of the Jews in the Holocaust, there was Dietrich Bonhoeffer and many others who went to the camps out of their religious conviction that every man is infinitely precious. While those who rammed planes into the WTC did so out of their twisted religious beliefs, slavery was overturned by religious who embraced non-violent resistance and rational persuasion. While there are those who declared reason to be anathema, there are likewise those who hold that the light which illuminates our reason is the same Word that became flesh in a small town in Palestine.
Saying that “religion is above ridicule” is just dishonest. If Mr. H presumes himself to be the first atheist, he is sorely mistaken. More disturbingly, attempts to bypass rational discussion of religion by calling its followers “idiotic” leads down the same bloody road as the fideism he pretends to abhor, and has led straight to the gulags in other notable places. I suspect that what Dostoyevsky said might quite well be true, that “without God, all is permitted,” as evinced by Mr. H's confusion between religious and moral claims. I fear even more that his explicit project to dispel the light of morality, let alone God, from society might indeed become successful. Then he, as well as I, shall regret that bloody darkness which comes when people reject morality as a “hindrance” to the march of the Volk.

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