Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Anne Rice: Still Clinging to Christ

At first I was (naively and mistakenly, as it turns out) impressed with Anne Rice's decision to "leave Christianity."

But from the moment she announced her faux apostasy, Rice has continued to loudly and monotonously defend both the founder of the Christian religion and the "sacred" writings of that religion, while condemning the religion itself, in its modern form, as a "deservedly infamous group."

Those who claim that Christianity was originally a wonderful religion of brotherly love and simple morality have never seriously studied the New Testament itself, at least not with anything approaching a critical eye. The Gospels tell us that Jesus preached intolerance for all other points of view, and encouraged his own followers to treat others contemptuously unless they meekly submitted to Jesus' teachings. Jesus explicitly pronounces that all those who refuse to follow him are condemned to Hell.

And it was Jesus himself who taught, "By their fruits shall ye know them." Therefore there is no justification for judging Jesus separately from the "fruits" of his teachings, namely, "this thing called Christianity", as Thomas Paine put it so eloquently.

If anyone wishes to get up to speed on the reality of Christianity, including the truth about it's founder, here are some suggestions for further study:

Intolerance and the Gospel: Selected Texts from the New Testament
by Gerd Luedemann
Contemporary Christians usually suppose that Christianity is quite congenial to the democratic ideals that are the basis of free, open Western societies. Among these ideals is freedom of religion, which encourages a broad tolerance for different belief systems. Nonetheless, a careful examination of core Christian beliefs and the history of Christianity reveal little tolerance for thinking or acting outside the orthodox Christian tradition.
[Amazon blurb]

The Price of Monotheism
by Jan Assmann
There are two kinds of religion. First there are those "primary" religions that spontaneously arise as a natural expression of the intrinsic spiritual urges of homo religiosus. These religions are polytheistic, tolerant, and ubiquitous throughout human history.

Then there are secondary religions. These arise first and foremost as a rejection of primary religion. "For these religions, and for these religions alone, the truth to be proclaimed comes with an enemy to be fought." That is how Jan Assmann describes these "counterreligions".

[blurb de moi]

There is no crime for those who have Christ
by Michael Gaddis
"There is no crime for those who have Christ," claimed a fifth-century zealot, neatly expressing the belief of religious extremists that righteous zeal for God trumps worldly law. This book provides an in-depth and penetrating look at religious violence and the attitudes that drove it in the Christian Roman Empire of the fourth and fifth centuries, a unique period shaped by the marriage of Christian ideology and Roman imperial power. Drawing together materials spanning a wide chronological and geographical range, Gaddis asks what religious conflict meant to those involved, both perpetrators and victims, and how violence was experienced, represented, justified, or contested. His innovative analysis reveals how various groups employed the language of religious violence to construct their own identities, to undermine the legitimacy of their rivals, and to advance themselves in the competitive and high-stakes process of Christianizing the Roman Empire.
[Amazon blurb]

Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries
by Ramsay MacMullen
Persecution: describing the determination of the Christian leadership to extirpate all religious alternatives, expressed in the silencing of pagan sources and, beyond that, in the suppression of pagan acts and practices, with increasing harshness and machinery of enforcement.
[chapter description from the book]


Denis said...

Apuleus Platonicus,
you report when an celebrity converts into one or another religion, but why does it matter so much for you? Do you regard it as a sign of strength or weakness of the worldview they share?

Apuleius Platonicus said...

Hi Denis. I guess I am just fascinated by popular culture, and especially anytime where religious or philosophical issues impinge on popular culture.

In the ancient world religion was a ubiquitous feature of popular culture, including especially "low" culture. This is much less the case today, but it's still there.

Mary said...

Denis, Julia Roberts' self-identification as a practicing Hindu has precipitated a very positive discussion of Hinduism. Yes, that's good.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

My interest in Julia Roberts goes well beyond ironically detached amusement, which is definitely where I am at with Anne Rice. At one point I admit that I actually took Anne Rice seriously, but I now see that I was giving her far more credit than she deserves.

In Julia Robert's case, though, her connection with Hinduism looks, at least to me, to be both serious and well-informed. It is easy to be dismissive of celebrities, and the celebrities themselves usually provide ample justification for such dismissiveness.

But if anything Roberts appears to have avoided discussing her spirituality, and I consider that to be a positive sign. She is focussed on her own path and also on the spiritual welfare of her own family.

I am also impressed that the kind of Hinduism that Roberts and her family are involed with appears to be fairly traditional, rather than some new-agey neochristian blather.

I just read that Swami Dharam Dev had Roberts learn 182 Sanskrit slokas to chant prior to the beginning of shooting on location at Hari Mandir:

Denis said...

Apuleus Platonicus,
I asked that in the wake of your recent posts on Islam. As you may have noticed, Muslims (and Christians, too) like to excitedly report a celebrity's conversion, which is supposed to demonstrate the superiority of their religion. Some find it tempting to counter that with apostasy stories.

But I agree that traditional polytheism in popular culture is important. The more we see it in pop-culture, the faster it will be accepted in higher intellectual spheres.

What I personally would like to see is not just more polytheist artists, actors or singers, but also professional philosophers. I understand that modern philosophers are not what they used to be in Antiquity, but they would certainly create a more favorable intellectual climate.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

I would also like to see more (or any!) genuinely polythestic intellectuals in the West.

A major problem, as I see it at least, is that over the last 200 years higher education in the West has become actively hostile to anything that smacks of polytheism. Much of this has occurred just in the last 50-60 years. This is especially true in philosophy, and even more especially so in the English speaking world. There are a few exceptions, and these are quite important.

Nick Ritter said...

For Denis and Apuleius, I might recommend Collin Cleary as a polytheistic (specifically, Germanic heathen) philosopher. I've read a few of his essays, and quite enjoy them. I even find it enjoyable to find where I disagree with him, as food for thought.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

Interesting. I've never read anything by Cleary, but I see that he has published in TYR (and helped to edit the first issue). I have not read much from TYR, but I have a good feeling about it and have heard good things from people I respect.

Do you recommend anything in particular by him, Nick?

Nick Ritter said...

It seems that my earlier post didn't go through, so I'll repost here a few recommendations. I would recommend "Knowing the Gods," "Summoning the Gods: the Phenomenology of Divine Presence," and "Paganism Without Gods," which is Cleary's review/critique of Alain de Benoist's "On Being a Pagan." I would even recommend "On Being a Pagan," for all its problems (which are addressed in Cleary's review).