Monday, July 4, 2011

All Religions Alike

Having given a year to the Brain, Charlie Rose (PBS) has initiated a series on Islam, which bids fair to be outstanding.  On Friday, 1 July 2011, he had numerous academic, thoughtful, authoritative guests to help him frame the questions.  Some of us will think that we already are aware of all the varieties of religious experience, but it is always interesting to hear others sort them out.
One thing caught my attention.  Considering Duke University's Islamic Studies Center, he asked his round table what they would most hope for Islam in America.  Professor Miriam Cooke wanted it to be "just a religion".  That is sympathetic; all my Moslem friends would enjoy the same status as I do, coming from many generations of WASPs in America.  As one who has pled for serious separation of religion and state, I must agree.  It is just what I'd urge to children, but consider its inadequacy, since it requires that all the others be just religions, too.
Buddhists will have no problem.
Jon Meacham will have no problem.
Baylor Baptists will have none, either.
Eminent Turkish and Egyptian intellectuals will rejoice in keeping their personal beliefs to themselves, and I'm sure that Michael Bloomberg will, too.  In short, the whole happy society of the urban educated, for the most part, will rejoice in refraining from saying its prayers in the marketplace, as Jesus of Nazareth enjoined.
What can be more private and more personal than an adult person's spiritual life?  What is harder to enunciate than answers to the ultimate questions?  Blurting them can make them tawdry.
Many persons, if not most, though, do not differentiate emotional life from spiritual life; they never have.
Professor Fukuyama is probably right about the residuum of tribal identity as the monkey wrench (spanner to the English) in 21st-century civilization.  One sees one's fellow citizens making their religious affiliations fill the needs met by extended families.  So, too, adherence to football teams and clubs.  When religious and national affiliations coincide, social problems, political problems (political action committees and parties, etc.), can mount deleteriously.  They not only can—in fact, they do, all the time and the world over.
It's forever the "Merry Minuet".
Quite simply, one's most inward, highest life is one thing and is compromised by the stuff we join with so as not to be so responsible for ourselves.  That is what Freud was trying to get at in Civilization and its Discontents.  I hope he wouldn't mind my saying so.