Religion in the public life

Jonah Goldberg’s latest G-File is a very interesting discussion of his personal take on religion, the privacy of religious beliefs, and religious thinking in the modern Western world. I don’t really agree with all that he says, but it definitely is thought provoking. Here’s my favorite graph:

I also detest the tendency of Americans, Westerners, or “Moderns” to boast of how they’ve customized their religious views to fit their lifestyles. “I don’t believe in organized religion, but I’m a very spiritual person.” Yuck. It simply strikes me as intellectually offensive to pretend that the engineer of it all goes out of his way to let individual people order off-menu their religious preferences in just such a way so as pretty much everything they do is exactly how God wants it. And, even if that were the case, even if God customizes the heavens, space, and time so as to make every personal indulgence divinely inspired, the trend of people being their own priests is not one I celebrate. I’d hate to sound like I’m lending my voice to that chorus — I’m not. Indeed, my belief that religion is important depends on it being a social institution. If everyone has his own church, each designating himself a personal messiah, we’ve slipped out of the realm of faith and, ultimately, into the arena of the übermensch where whoever has the religion which condones the most barbarity, wins.

4 thoughts on “Religion in the public life”

  1. I think organized religion IS very unhealthy. I thought so every Sunday for the first 18 years of my life. Does that mean I can’t believe in God? Does that mean I can’t be spiritual? Does that mean I can’t teach my kids about God and the healthy lessons of Christianity?

  2. I don’t understand the fear people have of organized religion.

    A religion is organized so that the people can have a community with other people of similar beliefs. By being organized, they can come together, support and get support from each other, and learn from ones that have their livelihood in studying the religion. If I don’t have time to look everything up myself, I want to be instructed by the ones that study the material the most. And it wouldn’t hurt if the person is more articulate/clear/excited in their intruction. If I need some help in a hard time, I want help from people that understand my needs the best or people that I’m in a community with. When I volunteer, it is most often through an organized religion’s program.

    And study after study shows that in general, people that attend regularily an organized religion’s service are healthier.

    Millions of people that led destructive lives decided to turn their lives around because of an experience in organized religion.

    Most of the relief work in the world is done by organized religion.

    Now I’m sure it’s common to not receive these benefits from organized religion. It’s my guess that it can happen for several reasons: one does not accept or follow key tenets of the certain religion, one never asked for help or helped someone else, or one had encounters with people of the religion that they generalized to be true for most people of the religion. I am eager to learn of other instances that I couldn’t think of off the top of my head.

    I know that in my case, I have benefited from organized religion.

  3. I don’t fear organized relgion Drew. I look at it with eyes wide open and see the political entity it was designed as and the political entity it still is. Despite that, I still find endless value in the lessons that Christianity offers. I’m not sure why someone should find it intellectually offensive that I remove myself from an organized group and act on my own.

  4. I think it’s more the republican party is aligning itself up to organized Christianity rather than organized Christianity following the republican party. Christianity always has had its values, and for the most part, it sees the poor and needy as the responsibility of the church rather than the government, war as a necessity to prevent greater evil, and socialism as sure failure because of the selfishness of human nature.

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