Sunday, 26 August 2012

Against His Master's Voice (In this case's HMV)

Frankly I don't like recycled sermons. This is where someone turns up and tells you another's sermon, and does so at a level of detail that means it's written and in front. Well it was because it is also online and I'd read the original. You are short-changed by the pretender giving the sermon.

The argument in the original was for a radicalism in Unitarianism that includes the like of seeing Christianity as having origins in Egyptian religion, the perspective of astrology and seeing coincidences as somehow coming together. Those in opposition are somehow not radical. Somehow a measure of the limited perspective of Unitarianism is that more would welcome Richard Dawkins to a Unitarian church than Rowan Williams, the retiring Archbishop of Canterbury.

Well I would, definitely, because Richard Dawkins speaks clearly and directly, whereas Rowan Williams is a professor of double-talk, where theology is a kind of cover for stating things he doesn't really believe or believes in such a convoluted fashion that he deceives himself.

There is a difference between pluralism with positive toleration and radicalism. I'm all in favour of pluralism and so I've no objection to someone who wants to push stranger ideas and even astrology. But then the definition of radical and including a Unitarian identity is that of rational and reasonable religion and that means I'll argue against you. The common narratives for science - for astronomy - happen to be evidence based. Astrology is not evidence based, and only proves there is one born every minute. There is no causal relationship between planetary positions billions of miles apart and a trip down your mother's birth canal on a spinning earth. If there is synchronicity between events then you end up in a puppet and chain type of life, with some sort of dance between joined up symbols of your own language. What are the chances of THAT happening - well, hundred per cent once they have happened: all shuffled cards in a pack turn over and have a sequence.

This is not radicalism. Radicalism is making the common narratives that are evidence based religious again. It is significant that this is religious humanism, in the sense that humanism is a code word for these evolutionary and chaos-system understandings. Reinventing superstition or thinking whacky theories of religious origins (who cares where Christianity came from anyway?) is not radical but irresponsible. There is a place for the careful work of history guided by historiography and not the kind of associationalism that was seen with the likes of Henry Lincoln, where this 'could have been' related to that and then that to something else, ending up with the bizarrest of associations.

The preacher today said he agreed with almost all of the sermon he received, but at the end wasn't sure he agreed with the astrology. Well, radicalism is always about roots. The roots of the liberal search are to discern. This is not discernment but scattergun unreasoning.

Now there is a tradition of romanticism with the rationalism, and this should not be lost either. Art and the aesthetic is important and needs reaffirming. We are not Puritans. But art is art and always subjective, and of course religion is subjective (or postmodern narrative). Religion is, but science and history isn't, and religion is not alternative science or history. That is the mistake made here. Symbolism to assist a religious path, a sort of ethical insight and appreciation of life, is not about alternative realities.

The same argument is to be made to postmodern Christian Platonists. Just do some research. The radical approach is to make the secular religious, but not to lose sight that the secular was found for good reason - by good reason.

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