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Phil's Avatar Jump to comment 67 by Phil

What a wonderful example of "semantic sidestepping." Mr. Hedges: "God is that mysterious force—and you can give it many names as other religions do—which works upon us and through us to seek and achieve truth, beauty and goodness. God is perhaps best understood as our ultimate concern, that in which we should place our highest hopes, confidence and trust. In Exodus God says, by way of identification, 'I am that I am.'" The rest of the world: "Religion is belief in god or gods and all that goes with it: the popes, the prophets, the propaganda, the proselytizing, the power, the prayer, the people, the pedophiles, the pageantry, the pogroms, and the pilgrims." Hedges's giving to common words one's own little pet definitions is ridiculous. Where else in life is this ok?
Just imagine if somebody tried to do such a thing with the color red: "My definition of red doesn't merely include all varieties of electromagnetic radiation of a wavelength of 625-740 nm. Oh no. That kind of rigid, unenlightened view of what it means to be a color is just one of a long line of rational, earthly 'meanings' that we humans give the color red due to our mania for conclusions from our most useless and sterile drives. For me, red takes on a much broader and deeper meaning. Red isn't simply the color of blood, the color of roses, of passion. Red is black, red is green, blue, yellow, silver – in fact all colors. Red is also not really an adjective, but rather a mysterious, indefinable part of speech. So, when you, Mr. Smith, attacked me for calling the noon day sky and the Hope Diamond red, you were apparently unaware of red as blue or red as all colors as it is best understood."
Clearly, this kind of playing around with words is at best a case of genuine ignorance and at worst blatant trickery. How many times must Mr. Harris and others say that they are not attacking "compassion", "our highest hopes", mystery, "trust", "ultimate concern", or any other vague meaning of religion or god? If that were all that we had to worry about as far a religion goes, then we would be in quite good shape. But that is not all that religion means for most people. I would also like to know what your everyday churchgoer would think of Hedges's favorable quoting of a man who called the church "inherently demonic." Mr. Hedges needs to get back in touch, if he ever were in touch, with what John Doe churchgoer really believes.
As for the rest of the article, I was rather pleased. His version of religion seems to be quite benign and positive – a bit nebulous, but at least harmless. There was one other spot, however, that showed that maybe his beliefs are not so innocent. I am talking about his patent anti-intellectual statements: "Faith allows us to transcend what Flaubert said was our "mania for conclusions," a mania he described as "one of humanity's most useless and sterile drives." Reason allows us to worship at the idol of our intrinsic moral superiority. It is a dangerous form of idolatry, a form of faith, certainly, but one the biblical writers knew led to evil and eventually self-immolation." - A call for the end of inquiry. In other words: "Don't look for answers or attempt to reach conclusions. Transcend all that nonsense and rise into the cloudy land of the semantic sidestep and the god of mystery." What garbage!

(edited slightly)

Thu, 24 May 2007 23:47:00 UTC | #41684