Tag Archives | religion

Why would a religious scholar write a book about a religious figure?

From Buzzfeed:

Reza Aslan, a religious scholar with a Ph.D. in the sociology of religions from the University of California and author of the new book, “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth,” went on FoxNews.com’s online show Spirited Debate to promote his book only to be prodded about why a Muslim would write a historical book about Jesus.

This video is amazing. Most people, after asking a thoughtless baiting question and receiving an unfazed reply refuting the basis for asking it, would back off, or at least change tack. But this ‘journalist’ is not to be deterred. She just keeps going. And going. It’s awful but I couldn’t stop watching it.

Too Much Reason

In this instalment I continue my exploration of our public character by asking is there such a thing as too much reason?

Positivism

Regular readers will be familiar with the quotation by Tony Judt that I like to roll out from time to time, as I feel it captures succinctly something of our current state of affairs, how this came to be and what’s at stake. Let’s revisit it:

Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today … We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth. We no longer ask of a judicial ruling or a legislative act: Is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help bring about a better society or a better world? Those used to be the political questions, even if they invited no easy answers. We must learn once again to pose them.1

There are a constellation of factors and forces that have led us to the picture Judt describes; in this piece I’d like to continue the process of examining one small patch of sky at at time. As usual it will necessarily be an abridged discussion — a full treatment would take at least a couple of bookshelves.

The essence of the argument is that over the years, there have been things — an increasingly large number of things — we have decided are not important, and in some cases have forgotten how to see. The tools that we now use to craft our societies, though as sophisticated as ever, are brittle and incomplete. We have simply become blind to certain things that matter, and worse, we do not know that we are blind.

Much of the problem has to do with an over-reliance on reason. As Jonathan Haidt argues:

Western philosophy has been worshipping reason and distrusting the passions for thousands of years. There’s a direct line from Plato through Immanuel Kant to Lawrence Kohlberg. I’ll refer to this worshipful attitude … as the rationalist delusion. I call it a delusion because when a group of people make something sacred, the members of the cult lose the ability to think clearly about it.2 (emphasis in original)

For many, this will be an odd proposition. Surely reason is an unqualified good — a gold standard which we should strive to attain and by whose marker we shall know we have become fully enlightened, whether it be by the rule of philosopher kings or our arrival in the kingdom of ends. Continue Reading →

Sex, Love and Marriage

Growing up in a strict religious family can do strange things to a young boy’s concept of sex and sexuality. In this moving personal reflection, Sean offers a powerfully candid account of his sexual development through adolescence and into adulthood. Now a husband and a father, his story raises some difficult questions about relationships, religion and the institution of marriage.

It was never mentioned. Period. Sex transcended taboo in my upbringing. My earliest recollections of sexuality are being introduced by my marginally older cousin to OzBike magazines at his local paper shop, and finding Hustler magazines and a pornographic novel under my eldest brother’s bed. I recall that the Hustler magazines were encountered in my third year of school, when I was roughly eight years of age. The OzBike magazines predated this by perhaps twelve months at most.

Ever since I saw the tattooed, large breasted, high-heel booted biker models draped provocatively over Harleys in OzBike, I developed an instant and lasting fixation. Not for motorbikes, mind you. I was preoccupied by these goddesses and my thoughts were often consumed—with scant capacity left for more wholesome stimulation. Almost every afternoon we would visit the shopping centre on the same block as my school. Why we were there so often escapes me now, but every couple of days would find my mother, middle brother and I at the news agent where mum spent what at the time seemed like forever browsing, or being attended at the counter. This freed me to beetle off to the back section, where OzBike and other ‘adult’ magazines were kept. I would furtively, extremely furtively, riffle through magazines looking for stocking-clad legs, leather-bound bottoms and creamy white boobs. The thrill was intense and the risk palpable. Terrifying, yet delectable. People would come into the aisle with little warning and I was under the unshakable belief that they were ‘onto me’. Unaware as I was, the foundations underpinning a prominent, confusing and often debilitating pillar of my life were being laid.

The thrill was intense and the risk palpable. Terrifying, yet delectable.

Once, and I think only once, the lady behind the counter at the news agency called out to me from the counter in a shocked or affronted tone stating something along the lines that I shouldn’t be looking at those magazines. I downed whatever it was I was ogling and ran. No repercussions followed me. You must understand, being the moral flagship that I misguidedly thought I ought to at least attempt to be, that my ‘furtive’ and ‘ran’ are not to be imagined in the Dickensian, Artful Dodger sense. Rather, they were polite, dignified and at the same time nonchalant. The kind of attitude you wish to slap out of anyone arrogant enough to think they’re better than you. Reflecting now, I can only assume it highly likely that my mother was alerted to my infraction. It was never mentioned. I believe with every confidence that the truth would not even now, twenty years later, be divulged–even if pressed at length. Conveniently selective amnesia is endemic in my family.

The magazines under my eldest brother’s bed (he is ten years older than me), which he swore then and still swore when last I asked as an adult, belonged to a teenager (someone who tragically died when the rescue chopper he was a paramedic on crashed off the coast of North Queensland en route to a rescue several years ago) who visited from Tasmania with an ex-neighborhood friend. The magazines were, naturally, quite graphic. I know now, without question, that there was no penetrative sex depicted in those magazines. But at the time, and in my memory, I must have filled in the blanks. The farmyard barn loft setting featured a cowboy-booted stud and a basket-laden, seemingly innocent, and I assume devoutly Christian (if not explicitly Amish) country girl. During the photo-shoot she progressed from initial meeting to wildly uninhibited clandestine congress, aided by a sex-swing apparatus. I’m not sure why a barn loft would contain a sex-swing, but I could almost taste the arousal which I was sure coated the lucky bales of hay upon which the girl was spread.

Continue Reading →