Monday, October 29, 2007

Speaking of Faith - Beyond the Atheism-Religion Divide

Here is a quote from Harvey Cox's book The Secular City:
Athens and Jerusalem have created a whole history through their interaction with each other, and so have religion and secularization. In both cases, as soon as one achieves a kind of dominance, the other swoops back from exile to challenge it. When reason and intellect begin to ride high, they inevitably make unrealistic claims, and faith and intuition awaken to question their hegemony. Then, just as the sacral begins to feel its oats and reach out for civilizational supremacy, reason and cognition question its pretentiousness.

Harvey Cox makes an appearance in Krista Tippett's podcast Speaking of Faith to speak about the Atheism-Religion divide. A transcript of their conversation is available, as usually with SOF episodes. At the time when Cox wrote the Secular City (1965) he assumed, as many of his contemporaries, that religion was on the decline and especially in academic circles, religion would disappear. However, since the 1980's it has shown not to disappear, quite to the contrary.

I think what shows, is that questions of meaning and morality had remained. Traditionally this has been the field of religion and when Cox speaks of 'when Jesus came to Harvard' he doesn't claim academics are turning Christian, but rather use their traditional heritage (Christian in most cases, Jewish for many) as an entrance into these issues, but no longer in the traditional exclusionary sense. Hence, secular, in many ways they have remained. Secular academics do not exclude search for ethics, meaning and spirituality. Cox calls this 'part of the conversation'. The open phone line between Athens and Jerusalem.
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