Dyslexia in Excelsis
Well here’s a piece that strikes me as completely bizarre. As if one should stare at a landscape buried under three feet of snow and say ‘How come it never snows around here?’ Or go for a nice walk in Death Valley and comment on how wet and cold it is, or eat some vanilla ice cream and say it’s too spicy. It’s like a kind of dyslexia. I suppose it’s really just the usual: confirmation bias, seeing what one expects to see and ignoring what one doesn’t. No doubt I’ll just be doing the same thing but in reverse – Elshtain sees the photograph and I see the negative or vice versa. But all the same, it does seem perverse to me to claim that we (in the US) hear more of people like Frank Lentricchia than we do of ‘serious reflection on religion.’ Excuse me? We do? Where would that be exactly?
As a result of the suppression of serious discourse about religion in many activist circles, we grow less able to appreciate what is going on in the war on terrorism. Issues of religious liberty, separation of church and state, the possibility that one might have a secular state in a society in which religions flourish, the dignity and status of women-all these matters and more can be seen clearly only if we take religion seriously, on its own terms.
Ah. Notice that final sly proviso, the last four words of the piece, slipped in at the last possible second, perhaps in the hopes that we won’t notice it. On its own terms. Oh is that how we’re allowed to discourse about religion – on its own terms. Well what if we want to discourse about it on our own terms? What then? Does that fail the test? Does that then become ‘suppression’ of serious discourse about religion? Is it serious only if done in religion’s own terms, whereas if we do it in secularists’ or atheists’ terms then it’s frivolous? If so, why?
In short here we are again, with religion demanding that everyone else take it ‘seriously’ despite its flat refusal to take non-religion seriously, and then to top it all off pretending that we don’t hear much about religion in the US. A counter-factual if I ever saw one.