mad in pursuit journal



Ireland left me with a spiritual glow and a vague wish that I were more of a believer. On the other hand, I'm annoyed at the pressure on political candidates to gush about their faith and to make public professions of their allegiance to "my Lord." Are we Americans developing a religious playbook? Hasn't George W. Bush taught us anything about presidents who get their advice from a Higher Power?

I'm reading two books this week.

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (2004) is a memoir by an Iranian English professor who holds a weekly seminar on English literature with a small group of women. They have to meet in secret, under the reign of religious terror that took hold in Iran in the late 70s. It's a chilling story of people arrested and even put to death because they had Western ideas and were not Islamic enough. Their philosphy that "criminals don't deserve trials" sounds way too much like current administration policy that "terrorists have no civil rights."

Doubt: A History by Jennifer Michael Hecht takes me in a different direction. I heard the author interviewed on "Speaking of Faith" [1]. It's comforting to learn that doubting the prevailing religious views is not simply a grumpy and colorless absence of belief. Doubt has its own history of illustrious thinkers who were often responsible for pushing belief out of its rigid and institutionalized rut. So far I've only gotten through the section on Hellenistic Greeks (600 BCE - 1 CE).

What I like is that these thinkers were not either-or types. Today we love to polarize various belief systems in the most humorless way: if you don't believe in a personal God, then it is hypocritical of you to go to church or to pray. Not so, say the ancient Greek atheists, many of whom still peppered the universe with supernatural beings. It feels good to pray, so do it. The fact that no one is listening is beside the point. No one listens to you anyway, but you still talk. (Hmm... same idea as writing an online journal...)


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[1] A History of Doubt on Speaking of Faith