Overweening Generalist

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Promiscuous Neurotheologist, vol.6-ish

[Due to the concurrent State of the Union address on one side of a split-screen, and the real-life film noir shoot-out of a disgruntled ex-LAPD on the snowy mountainside 90 minutes outside Los Angeles, we join another episode of the OG already in progress.]

...about a passage from Tom Robbins's first novel, Another Roadside Attraction:

Jesus: Hey dad.

God: Yes, son?

Jesus: Western Civilization followed me home this morning. Can I keep it?

God: Certainly not boy. And put it down this minute. You don't know where it's been.

Darwin Day From Here On Out: Feb.12: Pass It On!
As I write this, it's a few minutes Pacific Standard Time after Darwin Day has passed. February 12 was Charles Darwin's 204th birthday, and it's the latest volley by those who seek to push-back against the Creationists. (Those of us persuaded by scientific thought may be aware of others who do not - 46% of Unistatians in one poll said they believed in a "Young Earth" theory of creationism: God created the Earth about 10,000 years ago. The article linked to earlier in this 'graph seems mostly about a Creationist from Australia named Ken Ham, who is largely responsible for the rather clueless folk among us seeing pictures of Adam sitting next to his vegetarian dinosaur...in case you are interested in that reality tunnel..)

Karen Armstrong Enlightens Me
As Karen Armstrong wrote in A History of God, "Science has been felt to be threatening only by those Western Christians who got into the habit of reading the scriptures literally and interpreting doctrines as though they were matters of fact." (p.379) Ms. Armstrong then goes on to cover a period of theology I hadn't known much about before: the radical theologians of the 1960s who embraced Nietzsche's "God is dead" idea. In a book I have not read, Thomas J. Altizer's 1966 The Gospel of Christian Atheism, Armstrong quotes Altizer: "Only by accepting and even willing the death of God in our experience can we be liberated from a transcendent beyond, an alien beyond which has been emptied and darkened by God's self-alienation in Christ."

This reads like mumbo-jumbo to me, but then I'm no trained theologian; the lucid thought and prose of Ms. Armstrong unpacks it for me. There had to be a silence around God before He could become meaningful again. Altizer had gone on, mystically, about the pain of suffering and the dark night of the soul. Yes, but...why again? Armstrong: "All our old conceptions of divinity had to die before theology could be reborn. We were waiting for a language and a style in which God could once more become a possibility. Altizer's theology was a passionate dialectic which attacked the dark God-less world in the hope that it would give up its secret." (p.380)

I'll note that this book came out one year before Derrida made his first big splash in Unistat. I mention Derrida here because this Altizer dude, as filtered through Armstrong to my reading eyes, seems well-fed enough of an intellectual to entertain such ideas about "god." Armstrong mentions that the 1960s "death of God theologians" were criticized for their affluent, middle-class white America perspectives.

From my perspective, the idea there were intellectuals with the theology degree who had embraced Nietzsche's "God is dead" idea is marvelous enough. Armstrong also cites Paul Van Buren's 1963 The Secular Meaning of the Gospel, which argued that we can't talk about God acting in the world anymore because science and technology had become a myth that had superseded God. The best we can do is hold on to Jesus, and forget God; Jesus at least taught us liberation, and how to be free.

                                                       Karen Armstrong

Yet another 1960s theologian who embraced God's death was William Hamilton, whose contribution to  a book of essays, Radical Theology and the Death of God (1966), co-written with the aforementioned Altizer, found no God in the world of Unistat in the Sixties. Furthermore, Unistat had never had a great theological tradition of its own, and was always more utopian. Hamilton noted that Luther abandoned his cloister and went out into the world of people, looking for... not God but the spirit of Jesus among them. Hamilton says this was the way to be a theologian in Unistat in the Sixties: find Jesus in the City, among his neighbors and among technology, power, money, and sex.

Easy Remarks: Sure, these guys were white, privileged and steeped in...I'm guessing Heidegger. But they sure make a hell of a lot more sense than whatever sort of "Hate thy neighbor and the poor/Rich Folks are where it's at and by the way science and rational thought is for godless heathens and I can't wait to see 'em fry in Hell" that I see in far too many Unistatians these days.

A Brief Word On Fred N.
Nietzsche's "God is dead" seems to have become his most popular catch-phrase, but the one that's always seemed more interesting - almost zen koan-ish - is his notion and phrase "Will to power." So far my favorite definition of it is from (surprise!), Robert Anton Wilson, who parsed it out thus:

"The spirit of abundance and creativity, which is not One, not a final principle or a God-in-disguise, but the resultant of the forces that make up the mesh of Chaos." - from "A New Writer: F.W. Nietzsche"

[We now join As The World Turns, already in progress.]

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