In modern democracy we must maintain the separation of church and state, which is of course the rallying cry of atheists everywhere. And for good cause, since fundamental religion would remove the democratic ideal and reinstate a theocracy based not on equality but divine right ruled by a religious caste. On the other hand we've thrown out the baby with the bathwater altogether and consequently our political economy is lacking in the kinds of basic human decency necessary to overcome the inhuman forms of treatment endemic to what we're seeing expressed in budget proposals all across the US; the rich get richer and more powerful which the middle class and the poor bear the brunt of ever-shrinking leftover pie crumbs. To reinject human value back into politics then religion must obviously be of a different kind, we might even say of a postmetaphysical kind, that is bereft of all those things we have grown beyond but still retains our connection with something larger that instills within us humane values toward each other.

In that light I'd like to kick off the thread with excerpts from page 4 of the progressive economics thread, where Arnsperger's (re)turn to religion was requisite in formulating his economic analysis and prescriptions in moving beyond capitalism. Granted it seemed to me that while his economic critique was valid his religious prescriptions tended to fall back into the metaphysical variety. I'll then provide some excerpts of John Caputo's and Catherine Keller's comments on the topic from the Winter 2007 edition of Cross Currents, taken from the 2006 American Academy of Religion convention in Washington DC.

Arnsperger:

Existential economics....led to me into this—somewhat iconoclastic—direction...an anchoring within what, roughly, we might call Christian humanism, a way of doing philosophy that accepts that anthropological reflection need not (and, in fact, cannot) be disconnected from radical reflection on religious and spiritual issues.

Don’t expect me to draw...a well-meaning denunciation of economic materialism in the name of 'spirituality.' If I did that, I’d be ignoring the very roots of modern economic thought. In reality, in fact, the great thinkers of economics were working very consciously for the salvation of humanity.... I think we need to go as far as saying that economic thought has a strictly spiritual root.... The economy is, therefore, less a technical-operational domain than an existential-spiritual one.... Economics, therefore, the science of the economy, is part and parcel of theology—not only neo-liberal economics (as some left-wing critics claim, using the word 'theology' as a degrading term), but all of economics to the extent that it ultimately seeks to liberate Man. Marx, Keynes, and Hayek were, literally, the most influential theologians of the 20th century; I say this not by analogy or as an image, but as a literal description of what their study of economic activity was about.

One thing that is very urgently needed is development aid to the First World from the Third World—to the extent that the Third World hasn’t itself already given up its traditions.... What the Third-World traditions are still rich in, and what we tend to have become very poor in, is spiritual resources to deal with existential anxiety in 'adjusted' ways—integrating death into the rituals of life.... Spiritual resources would allow us to see things differently, and to live differently, giving economic wealth production its rightful—and relatively minor—place and giving relational and social investment the priority.

Caputo:

Have we not learned by now to keep theology out of politics? Do not the sacred oils of religion fuel the fires raging in the Middle East? Must we not clear our heads of theology and so liberate politics from the distortions of the political order for which religion is responsible?

My hypothesis is the opposite, that theology goes all the way down, that there are always lingering or unavowed theological presuppositions in what we say or do, and hence, as Heidegger said a long time ago, it is not a question of getting free of our presuppositions but rather of entering into them all the more primordially. Consciously or not, avowedly or not, the political order has theological roots.

Consequently, on my proposal, a reformation of political thought would require not ridding ourselves of theology but rather reexamining our theological presuppositions and learning to think about theology differently, which means to think about God otherwise, to reimagine God.

What would a political order look like, were the Kingdom able to be reinvented and transformed into a political structure? What would it be like if there really were a politics of the bodies of flesh that proliferate in the New Testament, a politics of mercy and compassion, of lifting up the weakest and most defenseless people at home, a politics of welcoming the stranger and of loving one’s enemies abroad? What would it be like were there a politics of and for the children, who are the future; a politics not of sovereignty, of top–down power, but a politics that builds from the bottom up, where ta me onta (I Cor 1:28) enjoy pride of place and a special privilege? What would a political order look like if the last are first, if everything turned on lifting up the lowliest instead of letting relief trickle down from the top? What would it look like if there were a politics of loving one’s enemies, not of war, let alone, God forbid, of preemptive war?

Would it not be in almost every respect the opposite of the politics that presently passes itself off under the name of Jesus? Are not the figures who publically parade their self-righteousness, their love of power, and their hatred of the other under the name of Jesus singled out in advance by Jesus under the name of the whited sepulchers and long robes whose fathers killed the prophets?

A politics of the Kingdom would be marked by madness of forgiveness, generosity, mercy and hospitality. The dangerous memory of the crucified body of Jesus poses a threat to a world organized around the disastrous concept of power, something that is reflected today in the widespread critique of the concept of “sovereignty”—of the sovereignty of autonomous subjects and the sovereignty of nations powerful enough to get away with acting unilaterally and in their own self-interests. The call that issues from the Cross threatens what Derrida calls the “unavowed theologism” of the political concept of sovereignty by returning us to its root, to its understanding of God, to its underlying or archi–theology. The crucified body of Jesus proposes not that we keep theology out of politics, but that we think theology otherwise, by way of another paradigm, another theology, requiring us to think of God otherwise, as an unconditional claim or solicitation without power, as a weak force or power of powerlessness, as opposed to the theology of omnipotence that underlies sovereignty.

Keller:

We are all prone to denounce the American empire as such, in its military, economic and theocratic aspirations; and to announce the possibility of a democracy that we might as well call radical. Radical in that it articulates the synergies of sociality, ecology, planetarity in which we all root. This rhizomatic radicality is not about uprooting our traditions so much as exposing them to our confounding togetherness—as species, peoples, ethnicities, sexes, religions, even as theological members of this panel. But the Bush doctrine was also radical; we have needed the label “progressive” to take the place of the enfeebled signs ‘left’ and ‘liberal.’

However here’s a puzzle: we are accustomed to dissing any idea of “progress” as naïve, teleological or imperialist; yet we want to use the term progressive. This means affirming the sort of imperfect and incomplete watersheds of history that comprise progress—the emancipation of slaves, of women, the end of apartheid; hey, even this recent midterm election. Has our progressive messianism been so apocalyptically pitched that in the interest of a prophetic standard, it detaches from the very history it wishes to transform? I suspect that if we cannot acknowledge momentary events of progress, moments in which the better rather than the worst outcome actually takes place, then surely we should give up the slogan: “a better world is possible.” But such progress does not move in a line from pure origin to guaranteed New Jerusalem. Its aim remains as Derrida insists, messianically yet to come, a to come that does not unfold as a predictable future outcome of present history. Progressive theopolitics might then entail an alternative temporality, the time of event–relations, in which our becoming together, now, makes possible but does not determine that which is to come tomorrow: a helical, fractal or rhizomatic kind of nonlinear progress. Such progressivism does not need consensus on whether God is the name of the possible, its source or its realization, whether God is omnipotent, weak or alluring. It does need concurrence on the formal criteria of progress: the actualization of social, ecological and planetary relations of justice with sustainability. Such rhizomatic radicality is not about uprooting our traditions but about exposing them to our confounding togetherness—as species, peoples, genders, sexualities, races, religions, even—Lord help us—our Christianities.

Constructive theology has been from the start enmeshed in varieties of radical hermeneutics. This allows Christian faith to attract intellectuals and to work with secular activists; and believe me, Christianity without its intellectuals is not going to be any appealingly populist affair. The more theology absorbs the methods of deconstruction and pluralism, the more the opposition between secularism and religion can itself be deconstructed. And as Jim Wallis has pointed out, “the secular left will give up its hostility to religion and spirituality, or it will die.” And this is politically crucial. For that hostility contributes to an evangelical stereotype about Godless humanists, etc. But the more we heal that hostility, the less we constructive theologians sound like Christians to evangelicals.

Indeed ironically it may have been Hardt and Negri, those radically democratic and secular socialists, who kicked me into the evangelical register, when they noted: “People today seem unable to understand love as a political concept, but a concept of love is just what we need to grasp the constituent power of the multitude.” Progressive Christians have been also unable to grasp love as political concept; we have been constrained by a self–righteous ethic of mere justice.

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I have posted excerpts from this essay on Panikkar and "sacred secularism" before, but it fits here, so I weave this into the mix:

 


"About a decade after Worship and Secular Man Panikkar returned to the topic of secularization and the meaning of "secularity," focusing now more specifically on the relation between religion and politics. In the new text -‑ titled "Religion or Politics: The Western Dilemma"—the earlier notion of "symbolic difference" was modified or amplified by a further difference or differential entwinement equally opposed to both fusion and separation. According to Panikkar, the history of Western civilization has been dominated by two contrasting models: either, religion and politics have been fused or identified, leading to forms of theocracy or caesaropapism, or else they have been separated and pitted against each other "as if religion and politics were mutually incompatible and antagonistic forces." The first model gives rise to such dangers as religious opportunism, fundamentalism, and even variants of totalitarianism; in the second model, favored by agnostics and "all types of liberalisms," separation readily leads to degeneracy in politics by reducing it to a "mere application of techniques." Adopting again a secularization perspective (focusing on our saeculum), Panikkar sees our age as capable of moving beyond the "Western dilemma" of monism/dualism. As he notes, various developments in our time warrant the conclusion that "we are approaching the close of the modern Western dichotomy between religion and politics, and we are coming nearer to a nondualistic relation between the two." This rapprochement is liable to be beneficial to both sides by rescuing each from an endemic mode of pointlessness or aporia: "Religion without politics becomes uninteresting, just as politics without religion turns irrelevant."

As in his earlier text, Panikkar attends again to a clarification of terms. In his view -- distantly echoing Aristotle—"politics" denotes the "sum total of principles, symbols, means, and actions" whereby humans endeavor to attain "the common good of the polis"; the term religion, on the other hand, refers to the "sum total of principles, symbols, means, and actions" whereby humans expect to reach "the summum bonum of life." Differently phrased, politics is concerned with the "realization of a human order," while religion aims at "the realization of the ultimate order"—with the two concerns highlighting the tensional polarity (though not segregation) between politics and religion. In the history of Western culture, the latter polarity has often been captured in institutional terms, for example, by opposing to each other papacy and empire, church and state; on a different level, the opposition has been between professional clergy and laity, or between private faith and public neutrality (vis-à-vis all faiths). Panikkar's aim is to challenge these and related dichotomies… All too often, he notes, it is taken for granted that religion is "only concerned with the divine, the supernatural, the eternal, the sacred," while politics is consigned to "the earthly, the natural, the profane." The task today is to move beyond these dualisms without lapsing into monistic coincidence:

God and the world are not two realities, nor are they one and the same.  Moreover, to return to our subject, politics and religion are not two independent activities, nor are they one indiscriminate thing.  There is no politics separate from religion.  There is no religious factor that is not at the same time a political factor…The divine tabernacle is to be found among men; the earthly city is a divine happening.

To illustrate the history of religion-politics relations in the West, Panikkar offers the image of a somewhat tumultuous marriage.  While at the outset the partners promised each other "eternal fidelity," soon mutual disenchantment set in, with accusations and recriminations being levied on both sides. Eventually, accusations gave way to a legal divorce, followed finally by attempts to "declare the marriage null and void": in the view of both fundamentalists and agnostics, politics and religion should never have been married and there must have been a "misunderstanding" on both sides. In Panikkar's account, this story has played itself out over the past centuries. However, the situation we face in our time, in our saeculum, is rather a question of "legitimizing or recognizing the son [or daughter] born of this union": an offspring in which the respective natures of the parents are correlated in such a way as "to offer us today a new intuition about both politics and religion." This offspring, he adds, is not yet baptized and thus has no name; but, heeding the "signs of our times," we can already describe his/her physiognomy. For today, people speak of a "politics of engagement" and a "religion of incarnation"; in doing so, people are discovering "the sacred character of secular engagement and the political aspect of religious life." In the confines of "Christian" societies, one witnesses the growth of a faith that is "less and less ecclesiastical" and of civil and political activities that are "less and less subject to party disciplines" or ideologies. Using Augustinian vocabulary, one might say that the heavenly or celestial city is not "a second city for the elect" but rather represents, so to speak, "the channels of communication and the joy of earthly paradise constantly lost and refound." By the same token, "love of God" cannot subsist without "love of neighbor" and vice versa. With regard to the goal of salvation (or moksha) this means that "one does not enter heaven alone" but that somehow "the earth enters [or must enter] with us"; for, "those who are deaf to the cries of men are blind to the presence of God."

By referring to a concrete "politics of engagement" and its religious significance, Panikkar ultimately undercuts the institutional division of church and state, shifting attention instead to the ordinary life-world where religious and "wordly" motifs are inevitably linked. For the proverbial "man in the street," he notes, the institutional division is remote and opaque. Seen from this vantage, humans do not have "two natures, two countries, two vocations"; rather, religion is impregnated with politics and politics with religion. Using language distinctly resonating with contemporary "political theology" or "theology of liberation," Panikkar asserts that a "religion for our times" must be political in the sense that it cannot keep itself aloof of "problems of injustice, hunger, war, exploitation, the power of money, armaments, ecological questions, demographic problems." By the same token, a politics that is really concerned with the well-being of the polis and desires to be more than "a technocracy at the service of an ideology" cannot ignore the deeper religious and (perhaps) metaphysical roots of the problems beleaguering our age. For Panikkar, none of the preceding means that politics and religion can simply be fused or identified, for there always remains an excess or left-over. For believers in the "transcendent" life's aspirations can never be reduced to private whim or political manipulation; and even for non-believers life is likely to retain an "imponderable factor" or even a "mystery" Hence, politics is always "more— or other—than just 'politics'," just as religion is always "less—or other—than 'religion'." Ultimately, for Panikkar, the relation between the two domains is "non-dualistic" or "advaitic" (in the sense of Indian Advaita Vedanta):

It is an intrinsic and thus nonmanipulable relationship that distinguishes but does not separate, allows for diversity but not for rupture, does not confuse roles, but equally does not raise roles to ontological status."

Thanks Balder, I don't know how I missed that the first time around.

This is from Tikkun's core vision statement:

"We in the Tikkun Community and the NSP (Network of Spiritual Progressives) believe that...liberals and progressives have tended to underplay or even deny a very important dimension of human life--the spiritual dimension.... People want their lives to have some higher meaning and purpose than simply accumulating money, power, sexual gratification and fame--they want their lives to be connected to something about which they can feel that it has transcendent value. And they hunger for personal relationships, families and communities in which they can experience themselves as being cared for and recognized in all of their specificity and uniqueness and spiritual beauty--not only for what they can 'deliver' or 'do' for others, not for how they will be 'of use,' but simply because they are valuable and deserving of love and caring just for who they are as embodiments of the sacred. And many people want their ethical commitments to social justice, peace and ecological sanity to connect with achieving a life that is suffused with love, generosity, kindness, and awe, wonder & radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery of the universe and all being.  Unfortunately, very few social change movements move beyond the first set of needs to actually understand and integrate into their thinking and program these spiritual or meaning needs.

The absence of this consciousness and program in progressive and liberal movements and political parties of the West has limited the potential impact that all these movements could have. It will take a very different kind of movement--one founded on and giving central focus to a spiritual vision--to create a real alternative to the political Right, to the fundamentalists (religious and political), and to our society’s ethos of selfishness, materialism, and cynicism. Without that, we find ourselves in the following very peculiar position...the ideology of the Right continues to shape what these people do in office, because that ideology has a coherence that is rarely matched by the various and often intellectually incoherent or at least scattered and random measures introduced by these liberal and progressive governments. The defeat of Marxist ideologies, which now frees liberals and progressives to come up with a more comprehensive and psychologically and spiritually sophisticated worldview, was made possible in part because Marxism and the various weaker versions thereof gave no attention to these 'meaning' or 'spiritual' needs, and moreover often reflected a religiophobia that communicated contempt for those who take their own spiritual development or inner life seriously—thus making many people feel that they had to choose between being part of a progressive movement and being alive to the spiritual or religious dimensions of their consciousness."

I'm a member of the Network of Spiritual Progressives -- attended its "founding" mega-teach-in event in Berkeley in 2005, where speakers & teachers included Jim Wallis, John Shelby Spong, Matthew Fox, Riane Eisler, Rami Shapiro, Thankeka, Michael Lerner (the main founder of Tikkun & NSP), the comic "Swami Beyondananda," and (then not well-known) Van Jones -- who gave an exceptionally powerful and stirring presentation. I would love to see more of this kind of dialogue and social action across religious/secular boundaries. I wrote about this NSP event back on the Integral Naked forum (now lost to the cyberether), where I sensed it was largely dismissed as overly "green." (KW basically does the same thing in his blurb on Lerner in Integral Spirituality).

Rabbi Michael Lerner's book, Spirit Matters, really spoke to me when it came out (the year 2000). As someone who'd briefly worked in academia, I knew what he meant when he wrote:

"Most of the people I met in intellectual, academic, or liberal circles seemed to feel that religion and spirituality were for people who were culturally and intellectually retarded, for people who couldn't handle the world and hence 'needed that kind of thing.' The very idea of 'needing' was seen as a sign of being weak, undeveloped, retarded, because, of course, people who are cool can stand alone without 'need' of anything or anyone. It was these 'ordinary people,' I was taught, who were such jerks that they got duped by right-wing fascists; adopted racist, sexist, and homophobic ideologies; and clung to religion and spirituality because thinking in a clear and rational way was beyond their capacities and scared them too much. . .

"Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that 'ordinary people' (the term itself now sounds elitist to me) were far more aware and complicated than most intellectuals had allowed themselves to notice. [As a psychologist] I had looked for pathology, but what I found instead was a deep and significant yearning for spiritual purpose in life. Working with middle-income people whose jobs were not high-paying or 'fancy,' I learned the following: Most people have a real need for meaning and purpose in their lives, a meaning and purpose that could transcend the selfishness and materialism of the competitive marketplace and root them in something with transcendent significance. . ." (Spirit Matters, p. 75)

 

Lerner was interviewed in 2001 by Andrew Cohen in EnlightenNext at this link. P. 3 is particularly interesting to me because Cohen keeps trying to tell Lerner that political action is maya, an attachment to ego, that complete detachment and attainment of personal enlightenment is in itself the solution. Lerner strongly disagrees and sees that sort of enlightenment as deformed and selfish. While Cohen doesn't say it here, we can see how he might view Lerner as a green pluralist due to his activism, which is sorely lacking in the likes of Cohen and kennilinguissts. Conversely many of the socially oriented enlightened see the former is more prone to spiritual narcissism and caught is a subtle ego trap, which seems more likely the case given the strict metaphysical dichotomy of absolute/relative we see in the likes of Cohen and kennliguists.
actually tommy douglas was a preacher.
Keller above noted it was Hardt and Negri that motivated her to understand love as a political concept. In this video Hardt talks about this, how it is a bridge between dictatorship and spontaneity. Here we have the same polarity I'm exploring in the authoritarian-liberatarian thread and how love is the missing element that finds balance between them. Same for being the fulcrum between reason and the passions, how love is both and yet neither.

As an aside I'm reminded of Mark Edwards' work on the "space between." A brief excerpt from part 5 of his interview in ILR:

"In the following figure I draw two holons encountering each other in a moment of relationship. The space between is filled with the interobjective artifacts of that encounter – words, gestures, signs, touch, meanings, displays, roles, communications. Using the developmental ideas of Vygotsky the space between is filled with the mediating processes and artifacts that flow between the two holons. We can draw an holonic boundary around some logical grouping of these artefacts to identify the “mediating holon”. The archetypal mediating holon is the “Word”. The pure expression of communion. It is not coincidental that in the Catholic tradition the very heart of the great sacrament of the Mass is called 'communion.' This is the recognition of the Godhead as manifest through community, through sharing a meal together, through relationship—completely present in the most fundamental act of existence—a simple act of breaking bread together as incarnate beings. The beginning of all experience and all form and all communication begins there. Hence we have 'In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God.' John here is saying that Jesus is the true agent of Mediation, the ultimate source of connection that gives rise to all distinctions and all encounters between “two or three”. So in this figure of two holons encountering each other we have the 'Word' and 'Love' emerging from the space between."

And lest we forget Rifkin’s empathy as the root of political-economic development to the next level. From that thread:

"Empathy represents the deepest expression of awe, and understandably is regarded as the most spiritual of human qualities.  But empathy also requires trust – the willingness to surrender ourselves to the mystery of existence at both the cosmic level and at the level of everyday life with our fellow beings.  Trust becomes indispensable to allowing empathy to grow, and empathy, in turn, allows us to plumb the divine presence that exists in all things.  Empathy becomes the window to the divine.  It is by empathic extension that we transcend ourselves and begin connecting with the mystery of existence.  The deeper, more universalizing our empathic experience, the closer we come to experiencing the totality of being – that is, we become more all-participating, all-knowing, and all-belonging.

Empathy brings together sensations, feelings, emotions, and reason in a structural way toward the goal of communion with the vast others that stretch beyond our physicality. If empathy did not exist, we could not understand why we feel the way we do, or conceptualized something called an emotion or think rationally.  Many scholars have mistakenly associated empathy with just feelings and emotions.  If that were all it was, empathic consciousness would be an impossibility.

We are beginning to learn that an empathic moment requires both intimate engagement and a measure of detachment.  If our feelings completely spill over into another’s feelings or their feelings overwhelm our psyche, we lose a sense of self and the ability to imagine the other as if they were us.  Empathy is a delicate balancing act.  One has to be open to experiencing another’s plight as if it were one’s own but not to be engulfed by it, at the expense of drowning out the self’s ability to be a unique and separate being.  Empathy requires a porous boundary between I and thou that allows the identity of two beings to mingle in a shared mental space.

By reimagining faith and reason as intimate aspects of empathic consciousness, we create a new historical synthesis that incorporates many of the most powerful and compelling features of the Age of Faith and the Age of Reason, while leaving behind the disembodied story lines that shake the celebration out of life."

Speaking of the "word," interestingly here is the definition of "word" as slang from the urban dictionary:

"A versatile declaration, originating (more or less) in hip-hop culture. 'Word' has no single meaning, but is used to convey a casual sense of affirmation, acknowledgment, agreement, or to indicate that something has impressed you favorably."

Even the slang indicates a communion, as in I understand you, I agree with you, I hear you man, or in Pandoran, I see you.

And here's David Loy from his essay "Religion and the market":

"This paper will argue that our present economic system should also be understood as our religion, because it has come to fulfill a religious function for us. The discipline of economics is less a science than the theology of that religion, and its god, the Market, has become a vicious circle of ever-increasing production and consumption by pretending to offer a secular salvation. The collapse of communism makes it more apparent that the Market is becoming the first truly world religion, binding all corners of the globe into a world-view and set of values whose religious role we overlook only because we insist on seeing them as 'secular'.

The major religions are not yet moribund but, on those few occasions when they are not in bed with the economic and political powers that be, they tend to be so preoccupied with past problems and outmoded perspectives (e.g., pronatalism) that they are increasingly irrelevant (e.g., fundamentalism) or trivialized (e.g., television evangelism). The result is that up to now they have been unable to offer what is most needed, a meaningful challenge to the aggressive proselytizing of market capitalism, which has already become the most successful religion of all time, winning more converts more quickly than any previous belief system or value-system in human history.

If economics were a genuine science its consequences seem unavoidable, despite the fact that they are leading to extreme social inequity and environmental catastrophe. Yet there is nothing inevitable about our economic relationships. That misunderstanding is precisely what needs to be addressed -- and this is also where religion comes in, since, with the increasing prostitution of the media and now universities to these same market forces, there seems to be no other moral perspective left from which to challenge them. Fortunately, the alternative worldviews that religions offer can still help us realize that the global victory of market capitalism is something other than the attainment of economic freedom: rather, it is the ascendancy of one particular way of understanding and valuing the world that need not be taken for granted. Far from being inevitable, our economic system is one historically-conditioned way of organizing/reorganizing the world; it is a worldview, with an ontology and ethics, in competition with other understandings of what the world is and how we should live in it.

Religions are not fulfilling their responsibility if they ignore this religious dimension of capitalism....the history of economic systems reveals the contingency of the market relationships we now take for granted. Although we tend to view the profit motive as universal and rational (the benevolent 'invisible hand' of Adam Smith), anthropologists have discovered that it is not traditional to traditional societies. Insofar as it is found among them it tends to play a very circumscribed role, viewed warily because of its tendency to disrupt social relations. Most premodern societies make no clear distinction between the economic sphere and the social sphere, subsuming economic roles into more general social relationships. Pre-capitalist man does not act so as to safeguard his individual interest in the possession of material goods; he acts so as to safeguard his social standing, his social claims, his social assets. He values material goods only in so far as they serve this end. But in capitalist society instead of economy being embedded in social relations, social relations are embedded in the economic system.

Our humanity reduced to a source of labor and a collection of insatiable desires, as our communities disintegrate into aggregates of individuals competing to attain private ends . . . the earth and all its creatures commodified into a pool of resources to be exploited to satisfy those desires . . . does this radical dualism leave any place for the sacred? for wonder and awe before the mysteries of creation? Whether or not we believe in God, we may suspect that something is missing. Here we are reminded of the crucial role that religions can serve: to raise fundamental questions about this diminished understanding of what the world is and what our life can be.

From a religious perspective, the problem with market capitalism and its values is twofold: greed and delusion. On the one hand, the unrestrained market emphasizes and indeed requires greed in at least two ways. Desire for profit is necessary to fuel the engine of the economic system, and an insatiable desire to consume ever more must be generated to create markets for what can be produced. Within economic theory and the market it promotes, the moral dimension of greed is inevitably lost; today it seems left to religion to preserve what is problematic about a human trait that is unsavory at best and unambiguously evil at its worst. Religious understandings of the world have tended to perceive greed as natural to some extent, yet rather than liberate it they have seen a need to control it. The spiritual problem with greed -- both the greed for profit and the greed to consume -- is due not only to the consequent maldistribution of worldly goods (although a more equitable distribution is of course essential), or to its effect on the biosphere, but even more fundamentally because greed is based on a delusion: the delusion that happiness is to be found this way. Trying to find fulfillment through profit, or by making consumption the meaning of one's life, amounts to idolatry, i.e. a demonic perversion of true religion; and any religious institution that makes its peace with the priority of such market values does not deserve the name of genuine religion.

In other words, greed is part of a defective value-system (the way to live in this world) based on an erroneous belief-system (what the world is). The atomistic individualism of utilitarianism, which 'naturalizes' such greed, must be challenged and refuted intellectually and in the way we actually live our lives. The great sensitivity to social justice in the Semitic religions (for whom sin is a moral failure of will) needs to be supplemented by the emphasis that the Asian enlightenment traditions place upon seeing-through and dispelling delusion (ignorance as a failure to understand). Moreover, I suspect that the former without the latter is doomed to be ineffective in our cynical age. We are unlikely ever to solve the problem of distributive social justice without also overcoming the value-delusion of happiness through individualistic accumulation and consumption, if only because of the ability of those who control the world's resources to manipulate things to their own perceived advantage. That is not to demonize such people, for we must recognize our own complicity in this system, not only through our own levels of consumption but also through the effects that our pension funds have upon the workings of the market.

This suggests that any solution to the problems they have created must also have a religious dimension. That is not a matter of turning from secular to sacred values, but the need to discover how our secular obsessions have become symptomatic of a spiritual need they cannot meet. As we have consciously or unconsciously turned away from a religious understanding of the world, we have come to pursue this-worldly goals with a religious zeal all the greater because they can never be fulfilled. The solution to the environmental catastrophe that has already begun, and to the social deterioration we are already suffering from, will occur when we redirect this repressed spiritual urge back into its true path. For the time being, that path includes struggling against the false religion of our age."

Amen, Brother Loy.
A point Loy made was that the Semitic religions needed supplement from the Asian to cut through the illusion of self, yet he didn't note that the reverse is also necessary. Otherwise without the Semitic thrust on social justice we can get an imbalance of the higher self-ish variety seen above in the Cohen interview with Lerner, a view that seems rampant in kennilinguist spiritual individualistic capitalists.

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

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