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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

All Religion is Politics

I've been looking at Karen Armstrong's book, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, which I intend to read and maybe use to lead a discussion on the role of religion and politics by whatever means.*

Armstrong's book prompts many of the ethical questions I have been dealing with in this blog, e.g.:

1. Is war itself religious? She cites Chris Hedges whose book I read and found very insightful on the religious character of war.
2. The understanding of religion in neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. She discusses the three brains. But I also think of Paul Bloom’s “Is God an Accident?” and “Descartes Baby.”
3. Religion and the stages of human organization: hunter-gatherer, agrarian, industrial, digital. She deals with the pre and post modern concepts of religion. What do we mean by religion as we discuss politics and war?
4. Religion in the West—in US: Founding, Great Awakening, Manifest Destiny, Civil Religion. What are the doctrines, rituals, narratives of the present American religion and its relation to violence?
5. Notion of violence itself. We realize that violence is often necessary. Is violence justified, ever? Then legitimated and sacralized?
6. Use of religion for war; against war; in war. Pacification vs. Peacemaking?
7. Religion and ethics. Can we have an ethics without god, revelation—a natural ethics, a natural religion? Is all politics moral?
8. Separation of church and state, inseparability of religion and politics? Political theology for conservatives, for progressives.
9. Religion in culture. Is there an inevitable war between civilizations? How might we think about the Islamic State?
10. The meaning of power in religion and in politics. It's relation to and distinction from force and violence. Power creation as an alternative to violence. War as the death of politics.

*Clausewitz gave a dialectical definition of war as "the continuation of policy by other means."

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