Monday, August 13, 2007

Peter Thompson in the Guardian writes a piece "Face to Faith" as an atheist with a fascinating argument critiquing Dawkins et al. and presenting an argument about the function of religion:-

The resurrection of God presents a challenge to those such as Dawkins and Hitchens because they continue to perceive religion as an opiate which is handed out by states and their tame priests and mullahs in order to keep people quiet, rather than as a home-grown product consumed by people in order to dull the pain not only of global economic disadvantage but also of a deep, yet unidentifiable sense of loss. And again it is Bloch who gives us a clue as to where this sense of loss resides. In The Principle of Hope he states that what drives us forward is the paradoxical desire to find our way back to somewhere we have never been: home.

The desire to return to somewhere completely new but familiar is clearly a sense which underpins all religious, but also much secular thought. It takes many forms, but is undoubtedly a product of the historical shift from the primacy of politics in the 20th century, to the primacy of economics today. Where once social attempts to control the invisible hand of the market were given precedence, our age has seen growing social inequality and the privatisation of hope. It should be no surprise that fundamentalisms of all sorts have rushed in to fill that void. The difference between fundamentalism and progressive religious belief, however, is merely the difference between looking backward or looking forward in order to find the way home.

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