[KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever

Gregory Desilet info at gregorydesilet.com
Thu Oct 30 03:40:47 EDT 2014

Many good points have been made by several persons, so there is much to respond to and if I do not touch on someone’s point here that will be because of my limits as a mere human and not because I view a particular point as not meriting a response. Turning to Ed’s comments first, he points out that his definition of “religion” is different from mine. But I think this kind of response gets off on the wrong foot with regard to the thrust of what I’m attempting to say. Granted, it is perfectly sensible and legitimate in a discussion of religion to say, “this is what I mean by religion.” But when Ed says “Greg means something different,” I believe more than that is going on. True, we can each have our different definitions of religion and go our separate ways, but what I’m attempting to do is argue (persuade) others that the term “religion” ought not to be applied in certain ways due to the circumstance that it thereby loses much of its usefulness as a term. For example, if we call every bright light in the sky a “star,” that’s okay but there is benefit to be gained by refining our distinctions to separate out stars, planets, comets, galaxies, etc.

Ed has seemingly accepted my challenge to distinguish religions that abandon the sacred text notion from philosophical study and inquiry by offering the following:

I regard its [religion’s] primary reference as characteristic of one who believes in an Originary Power we can rightfully call "God."  For me, as a Burkean, I would reductively define that Power as the "Great Potential."

In other words, divinity or God becomes the “Great Potential.” All such reasoning is well and good, but what becomes of the status of what have been called religious texts by way of such a view of religion? Are these texts in some way the “voice” of the “Great Potential”? Or as Stan says, are they wholly inspired, substantially inspired, or only partially inspired by the Great Potential? And what makes these religious texts substantially different from other texts such as those written by Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, etc? Are not these latter texts also inspired by the “Great Potential”? In fact, is not EVERYTHING inspired by the “Great Potential”?

When we humans sever, cloud, or muddy the link between a text and a divine source of that text, we in effect place that text alongside all other texts composed by human hands. Who is to say, for example, that Oscar Wilde’s “De Profundis” is not as much or more divinely inspired than any text of the Bible—if the divinity is regarded as the “Great Potential”? The problem is that deciding if texts are religious in nature and in inspiration becomes a very arbitrary issue. From within this view, we may as well call every such text “religious” or every such text “secular” because there is no longer a distinction between the two that can be convincingly defended. At least I am not convinced and I hope I have convinced others not to be convinced.

As soon as we no longer have a very direct and clear link to a divine source (a higher being), manifested decisively in some texts and not in others, we have a situation where every text discussing the nature of “life” effectively reduces to the category of philosophy. Some of these texts may be valued more than others by particular individuals but none of these texts any longer have a source or origin unquestionably superior to any other. The benefits of each text must be constantly ARGUED and not assumed. This attitude toward texts makes a big difference in how texts are approached and in how they are valued. I believe the use of the term “philosophy” to describe such texts and associated practices is better than “religious” because it reduces the chances for conveying an authoritarian quality in the text—the quality traditionally associated with so-called religious texts.


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