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Posted by on Apr 28, 2013 in Culture, Philosophy, Religion | 6 comments

Chris Hallquist ponders the nature of religion

Chris Hallquist has a nice, meditative post in which he ponders the nature of religion. He gets into such issues as the tendency toward conspicuous consumption on huge sculptures or other monuments, and the tendency toward sexual puritanism. As he notes, the latter also seems rife in polities dominated by non-religious comprehensive ideologies. It does look as if comprehensive ideology is the ally of sexual puritanism, not just religion as such. In which case, the antidote is liberalism – which puts comprehensive ideologies in their place – rather than just irreligion.

I guess this isn’t surprising. I’ve long thought that is important to subject religion to sceptical scrutiny, but the same applies to other ideologies that offer comprehensive views of the world and of how we should conduct ourselves. And this is not just because they so easily latch on to the widespread tendency to view sexuality as dangerous. They have a general tendency to seek control of our lives and the lives of others. It’s for this reason that I often challenge atheists, not just religious people, to scrutinise themselves for illiberal tendencies. It’s too easy to get into a mentality where you start to think, “My detailed, intrusive prescriptions of what people should be allowed to say or do are fine, because they are the correct ones.” To hell with that!

  • http://www.facebook.com/akiva.quinn Akiva Quinn

    Makes a lot of sense to me, it seems that liberalism or inclusive and reasonable pluralism is the best antidote to all dogmatic ideologies and (exclusivist) religious fundamentalism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/udo.schuklenk Udo Schuklenk

    Hmm, Russell, having not read that paper, how is ‘comprehensive ideology’ defined? I’m thinking that Marxism, communism, utilitarianism and others are pretty comprehensive (agree or disagree with their substance, that’s a different matter altogether), and sexual puritanism doesn’t follow from any of em. That’s not to say that – say – communist regimes were (and some are) not puritanic in matters sex, but that doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut necessary result of communist ideology.

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

    I don’t actually use the term “comprehensive ideology,” and don’t make any such claim about what follows from communism or whatever.

    Rather, what seems to me to be the case is that there seems to be a widespread human tendency (maybe not in everyone, but in at least some members of a many superficially different societies) to want to control others sexualities, and this is often justified in terms of specific ideologies and may even seem to flow from a particular ideology to outsiders, but when you look at the broader picture, this tendency seems to cut across ideologies.

    I hope that makes sense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/colin.gavaghan Colin Gavaghan

    Intuitively, it does seem to make sense that a willingness (even an eagerness) to tolerate (or even encourage) a plurality of political visions may go hand in hand with the same attitude to sexual diversity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/russell.blackford Russell Blackford

    Doubtless not a necessary one at all, Udo. Indeed, I’d go further and say that
    you’d think there’d be nothing in, say, Marxism that should lead to sexual
    puritanism… and yet there you see it in some of these authoritarian regimes
    that employ versions of Marxism. I wonder why. Does the impulse to control in
    itself lead to this, even if the official content of the particular ideology
    doesn’t seem to imply it? Someone should research it and write a book about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/russell.blackford Russell Blackford

    This may be true – maybe these comprehensive ideologies (I’ll use the term even though you don’t) provide opportunities to rationalise or enforce certain impulses that have an independent source.

    I think something like that may be part of the puzzle. As I just said to Udo, this would be a good topic for a book. Or maybe for a PhD thesis.