Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Religion as culture - Camille Paglia

Camille Paglia starts her lecture identifying as an atheist intending to defend religion. The lecture appeared on Canadian TV (TVO) and was podcast in the series Big Ideas. Paglia's central point is that understanding of religion is essential to fully understanding human civilization, or as she says is more succinctly: religion must be studied as culture.

Hearing the lecture on podcast will be unproblematic (as I did). If you feel like it you can see the video and take along the Hollywood examples Paglia brought, but apart from a Cecil B. DeMille section, she just tells it without showing. What the Hollywood materials do there in the second part of the lecture, is serve as an example for the first part of the lecture as the last, most modern expressions in culture of religion. Apparently she would argue that we all go and see these great movies and that more of these should be made.

The real important part of the lecture is the first part though. This is where Camille Paglia makes clear how essential religion is to our culture and argues that religion needs to be known, needs to be studied and taught, lest we become alienated from our traditions. The implicit point being that you do not need to believe in God, in the stories and revere the symbolisms in order to need to know and esteem them. More strongly this means that in her definition religion is just the form in which our cultural baggage has come to us and we can freely take it, study it, learn it, know it and use it and be modern people at the same time. Modern people that are rationalist, informed by science and agnostic or possibly atheist and that reject the actual beliefs completely, yes even reject the morals. Still, even then, the religions of our ancestors are our cultural inheritance. Throw the stories and the symbols away and we turn into ignorants.

More Big Ideas:
Christopher Hitchens on the Ten Commandments,
The empire,
Lawrence Freedman - Big Ideas,
New Learning - Don Tapscott on Big Ideas,
On Crime.


The incomparably elegant German vodcast Ersatz TV had a spring and summer season in which is appeared every two weeks. Then, after a long summer break it was back, yet, it has not arrived at the frequency where it used to be. The second issue after the break came out only now which is four weeks after the previous one.

Nevertheless, the new show is as good as ever. As usual a couple of subjects are covered, in this case swarm robotics, light art and the confusing sizes of mass produced men's suits.

More Ersatz TV:
Electronics, then and now,
The last before Summer break,
Ersatz TV from the Underground,
The way of the plants,
The experts love Ersatz TV.