Monday, July 21, 2008

The Miracle of What?

Salon has an interesting interview with James Carse, a historian of religion and the author of a new book entitled The Religious Case Against Belief. For Carse, being religious is connected with a question of existence:
Are you religious yourself? I would say yes, but in the sense that I am endlessly fascinated with the unknowability of what it means to be human, to exist at all. Or as Martin Heidegger asked, why is there something rather than nothing? There's no answer to that. And yet it hovers behind all of our other answers as an enduring question. For me, it puts a kind of miraculous glow on the world and my experience of the world. So in that sense, I am religious.
For Carse, the world has a "miraculous glow" because something was created out of nothing. But that doesn't strike me as quite right. I believe it would be more accurate to say that the world has a miraculous glow because "something" is always being created that didn't exist before. The earth is a tremendously fertile place where all creatures great and small, plant and animal, are continuously and miraculously bringing new things into life. Thus, the world isn't miraculous because an original "first" thing came out an original "nothing" as Carse suggests. Instead, the world is miraculous because of the constant cascade of newness around us. It isn't the first creation that should fascinate us, it's the continuous roar of creativity within us and around us.

Carse also has a comment on the popular atheism of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens:
To be an atheist, you have to be very clear about what god you're not believing in. Therefore, if you don't have a deep and well-developed understanding of God and divine reality, you can misfire on atheism very easily.
Of course, it's as easy to misfire on atheism as it is to misfire on anything else and the new atheists strike me as being superficial. It strikes me that atheism is more a matter of separating one's most profound questions from any kind of understanding of "God" and divinity. I'm fascinated by miraculous things like the green-ness of my environment after it rains, but I fail to see how that interest of mine connects to a concept of god at all.

Where Carse sees a religion of the miraculous, I have an atheism for a miraculous world.


Anonymous said...

Ah ha, it's true. A glimpse is emerging of the belief in "All Things Green" becoming the new Caric religion of miracles, complete with saints and worship sites around "All Things Green" (lawns, golf courses, forests, etc.). Yes, it is a true miracle. The Caric religion has revealed itself and may be a hint of things to come; perhaps, a Green Party candidate, a Greenpeace bumper sticker, or even a Kermit the Frog logo in the works. No, this looks much bigger than all that. Soon to come will be the Green Man Group meditating on the village green to the rhythms of the literary blogs of Caric himself. Armageddon could only come when his loyal followers clash with the St. Patrick's Day devotees about who is really the greenest group on the planet. Oh, this is sticky religious territory Caric. And to think you may be the inspiration of the latest religious cult to hit college campuses nationwide -- All Things Green. Students, worship at your own peril. Watch for the miracle color of green to appear in future editions of the Red State Impressions blog (soon to become the Green State Impersonations blog). The almighty Caric may just reach sainthood yet -- a true miracle.

Founding member of the "Green is Great" campaign and cult follower of "All Things Green".

Ric Caric said...

Perhaps "Anonymous" needs to reduce his or her coffee intake.