Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Genuine Religion vs. Idolatry

Note: This is the sixth post in a series of notes that I am writing as I read The Stillborn God by Mark Lilla. The posts should be read in the following sequence: (1) Stillborn God?, (2) Why Believe?, (3) The Values Test, (4) Torah Rules, (5) "What Makes Man Religious at All?", then the following.

In my previous post, I wondered if it can properly be said that Hobbes effected any change in the discussion among theologians or only that he opened a discussion about theology among philosophers. On page 100, Lilla apparently concludes that the answer is that the former indeed cannot be said. Hobbes, he writes, "did not think it possible to liberalize and enlighten the Christian churches from within."

The question of whether there is a link between "genuine and idolatrous religious behavior" raised by Lilla on page 69, which also went unanswered through the reading covered in the last post, may be answered in the manner that Locke and Hume extended the philosophical challenge opened by Hobbes. At least Locke "thought it both necessary and possible to convince the Christian churches to liberalize themselves, doctrinally and organizationally." And Hume "could write as if this revolution in human self-orientation had already taken place."

Tolerant churches, coexisting peacefully, none insisting on an exclusive franchise on the ultimate truth-- this is indeed a religious sensibility that has shed all idolatrous trappings. Thus, in just three pages we have gone from a life that is nasty, brutish and short to a revolution in human self-orientation. As I can only take into account what I have read to this point, I can only hope that when I read further tomorrow I will not find that Lilla has yadda yadda'd the most interesting part.