EXCELLENT ARTICLE: The beauties of religion need to be saved from both the true believers and the trendy atheists, argues compelling religious scholar James Carse. Steve Paulson writes:
Take a snapshot of the conflicts around the world: Sunnis vs. Shiites, Israelis vs. Palestinians, Serbs vs. Kosovars, Indians vs. Pakistanis. They seem to be driven by religious hatred. It’s enough to make you wonder if the animosity would melt away if all religions were suddenly, somehow, to vanish into the ether. But James Carse doesn’t see them as religious conflicts at all. To him, they are battles over rival belief systems, which may or may not have religious overtones.
Carse, who’s retired from New York University (where he directed the Religious Studies Program for 30 years), is out to rescue religion from both religious fundamentalists and atheists. He worries that today’s religious zealots have dragged us into a Second Age of Faith, not unlike the medieval Crusaders. But he’s also critical of the new crop of atheists. “What these critics are attacking is not religion, but a hasty caricature of it,” he writes in his new book, “The Religious Case Against Belief.”
To Carse, religion is all about longevity; it’s what unites people over the millennia. He cautions his readers against looking for more conventional explanations, like the search for transcendence or belief in an afterlife. He writes that religion’s vitality is based on mystery and unknowability: “Religion in its purest form is a vast work of poetry.”