Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Sacred and the Human by Roger Scruton

It is not surprising that decent, sceptical people, observing the revival in our time of superstitious cults, the conflict between secular freedoms and religious edicts, and the murderousness of radical Islamism, should be receptive to the anti-religious polemics of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and others. The "sleep of reason" has brought forth monsters, just as Goya foretold in his engraving. How are we to rectify this, except through a wake-up call to reason, of the kind that the evangelical atheists are now shouting from their pulpits?


R. Joseph Hoffmann said...

If I were taking aim, it would be at this part of Scruton's philosophy:

"Today's atheist polemics ignore the main insight of the anthropology of religion-that religion is not primarily about God, but about the human need for the sacred. As René Girard argues, religion is not the cause of violence, but the solution to it."

Judy Walker said...

I'd shoot two bullets here. Religion's relationship to the sacred can be distinguished from its relationship to violence.
First, at this stage in the debate the feel of the New Atheism does favor debunking religion over providing ordinary folk with emotional comfort or, at best, a sense of wholeness. Soon it will be time to provide and promote the comprehensive alternatives to religion's de facto usurping of such needs. Scruton uses the connotatively inappropriate word "sacred" to cover human impulses which can - and should - be thoroughly and effectively secularized, because the secular encompasses both their origin and effectuation. We can now show through psychology the urge for epiphany and creativity, through sociology the implications of life in community, through anthropology the sustenance of ritual, and through cognitive neuroscience the satisfaction of framing the self by narrative. The sense of the sublime, as the ground and full equivalent of the sacred, is already physiologically present to those who learn to see themselves and their environments from a humanistic worldview. But most people still don't know that such a worldview actually offers what is emotionally inclusive, not what is limited or cold.
As for violence, of course it's complicated. Religion can be both its cause and attempted solution, as can politics, personal and tribal vendetta, and a host of other and usual categorical suspects. To claim that the Christian experience of forgiveness at the time of sacrifice is the sort of sacred awe equal to the task of quelling worldwide violence is, at best, a travesty of thought.

Anonymous said...

Please check out these closely reasoned related references which describe the origins & consequences of the perceptual strait-jacket in which we are now ALL trapped. A strait-jacket created and held in place by fear based left-brained "reason" which objectifies everything and thus seeks to control everything thus objectified---and inevitably destroys everything thus objectified.

A perceptual strait-jacket which has inevitably created the situation described in this reference.

The moral of the story being that left-brained "reason", uninformed by by the Vision of Totality, or the Wisdom of the Heart, IS a form of SLEEP which inevitably creates monsters.