Wednesday, February 18, 2009

the erosion of idenity: the national religion as freedom for indifference

It is hardly surprising that our handy Gallup Poll also finds that among Americans who identify themselves as religious, the overwhelming majority (70% nationally) say that the particular religion a person practices is simply one of many such ways that a person could approach God and that many different religions are equally good at helping people achieve their eternal salvation. I am not sure that people can take political liberalism’s “freedom of religion” seriously, both as a value and as a cultural practice, unless they do not think there is anything serious at stake in which religion you are a member of. It would be naive to try and disentangle the particular way in which America understands and practices the cultural and political values of "freedom of religion" from the below average importance that religion holds in American lives according to the poll and the widespread American belief that which particular religion you are is not important to your eternal salvation.

Daniel Greene, Ring-a-Ghoul
Daniel Greene, "Ring-a-Ghoul" (2006)

One of the reasons the Evangelical Right is so "whacko" is precisely because they think that those who do not subscribe to their view of the world generally, and to their Christianity in particular, are going straight to hell…and, moreover, are trying to take the country there with them. They are at one edge of the American political spectrum because they continue to identify their religious beliefs with the State, i.e., they continue to insist upon "a Christian America". This allows them to wage both figurative and literal war upon those they identify as the enemies of God and the State with a confidence that would otherwise boggle the mind. They are on a mission from God to save America and the world -- with a gun and through the death of their enemies when necessary.

Taken more broadly though, it seems that the “religion” practiced by most people in a politically liberal state like America is a liberalism which is more or less nationalist depending on its adherent, but is largely indistinguishable from some aspect of liberal culture. The traditional religions are increasingly vestigial-hangovers from an earlier age that liberalism has been happy to mobilize as much as it can in support of its own meta-religion which subsumes all others. This is the power and genius of the modern liberal state.



satire and theology said...

Fantastic picture, LoA.

As you have probably gathered by reading my blogs, my academic approach uses several citations from those of different views. I like to be open-minded, even as I have strong views. I like to see myself as a moderate conservative theologically and hope to largely avoid the errors of the extreme left and right. I have run into problems with both of these groups...surprise, surprise.

I found the Schelling book and twenty others at TWU last night. I think I have 70% of material needed so far.


satire and theology said...

I should add, besides what I mentioned, I have fifteen journal articles and material from sixteen other books.:) I still need some more.