[KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever

Gregory Desilet info at gregorydesilet.com
Wed Oct 29 00:31:51 EDT 2014

I find myself in agreement with much of what Ed and Stan say, but I also sense that it only obliquely addresses the issue I’ve raised. When Ed says, “You can’t paint everybody with a broad brush,” I assume by “everybody” he means every “religious” person. But the issue I’m addressing concerns instead the notion that the term “religion” may be getting painted with too broad a brush.

The use of any given term, when expanded too widely, becomes too thin to convey useful meaning. Accordingly, I’m arguing that for all practical purposes the distinction between philosophy and religion largely collapses when religious texts are no longer treated as “sacred” in the sense I’ve indicated—namely, when the source of a text is not viewed as divinely dictated or inspired. When a religious text becomes a text composed and written by a “mere” human, it shifts into a very different category than when it is considered “sacred.” Groups who approach religious texts in this fashion cannot be significantly distinguished from groups who gather to interpret, study, discuss, and learn from philosophical texts (such as the Great Books discussion groups popular in the 50s and 60s). Indeed, I would challenge anyone following this discussion to propose a significant distinction between these “religious” and “philosophical” groups aside from the circumstance that one may meet in a church and the other may meet in a library or conference room.

I understand that a great variety exists among those who happen to call themselves “religious” or who claim to belong to a “religious tradition.” But if such persons who claim religious alignment AND also claim their relevant religious texts are NOT divinely inspired cannot significantly distinguish their activity from what philosophers do with their particular texts of interest, then I do not find the label “religious” compellingly useful in such cases. More likely the label in these cases could be rightly understood as misleading. In these cases, what would someone who says “this is my religion” mean that could set it apart from the one who says, “this is my philosophy”?

So I acknowledge there are many folks who approach what have traditionally been called “religious” texts in the interpretive rather than received manner, but I see nothing thereby that necessitates the label “religious” be applied to such folks other than that their texts have been previously called “religious.” Applying the label in such cases would perhaps be analogous to continuing to call a bright light in the morning sky the Morning Star after it has been discovered to be the planet Venus.  

In sum, if the term “religion” retains primary connection to views and practices oriented toward the approach to texts as divine inspiration, then the metaphysical connection between religion and fascism retains a measure of accuracy whereby fascism becomes a distortion of religion by way of a shift into the political realm with more implications for the here and now than an afterlife.


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