Friday, May 25, 2007

Quasi-Religious Souls

Found this here, from Arama's link on GH's blog. From today's NY Times:

The Catholic Boom, by David Brooks:

"The pope and many others speak for the thoroughly religious. Christopher Hitchens has the latest best seller on behalf of the antireligious. But who speaks for the quasi-religious?

Quasi-religious people attend services, but they’re bored much of the time. They read the Bible, but find large parts of it odd and irrelevant. They find themselves inextricably bound to their faith, but think some of the people who define it are nuts.

Whatever the state of their ambivalent souls, quasi-religious people often drive history. Abraham Lincoln knew scripture line by line but never quite shared the faith that mesmerized him. Quasi-religious Protestants, drifting anxiously from the certainties of their old religion, built Victorian England. Quasi-religious Jews, climbing up from ancestral orthodoxy, helped shape 20th-century American culture."

...


"In fact, if you really wanted to supercharge the nation, you’d fill it with college students who constantly attend church, but who are skeptical of everything they hear there. For there are at least two things we know about flourishing in a modern society.

First, college students who attend religious services regularly do better than those that don’t. As Margarita Mooney, a Princeton sociologist, has demonstrated in her research, they work harder and are more engaged with campus life. Second, students who come from denominations that encourage dissent are more successful, on average, than students from denominations that don’t.

This embodies the social gospel annex to the quasi-religious creed: Always try to be the least believing member of one of the more observant sects. Participate in organized religion, but be a friendly dissident inside. Ensconce yourself in traditional moral practice, but champion piecemeal modernization. Submit to the wisdom of the ages, but with one eye open.

The problem is nobody is ever going to write a book sketching out the full quasi-religious recipe for life. The message “God is Great” appeals to billions. Hitchens rides the best-seller list with “God is Not Great.” Nobody wants to read a book called “God is Right Most of the Time.”


Getting the best of both worlds, hmm...

8 comments:

Jewish Atheist said...

Interesting. Kind of makes sense in that the quasi-religious get to have the benefits of religion without letting it compromise their minds. Too bad it's so hard to create a whole community that could accomplish the same.

e-kvetcher said...

I think that it just depends on your personality. Some people need to have a worldview that is consistent with their beliefs. Others just don't spend any time thinking about it.

It reminds me of an old Russian Jewish joke:

Moishe had two geese - a white one and a grey one. He needed to kill one for dinner but couldn't decide which one. "If I kill the white one, the grey one will be lonely. If I kill the grey one, the white one will be lonely". So he goes to his neighbor Ivan.
"Ivan, help me. I need to kill one of the geese. But if I kill the white one, the grey one will be lonely. If I kill the grey one, the white one will be lonely".
Ivan says "Kill the white one."
"But the grey one will be lonely".
"Then kill the grey one".
"But the white one will be lonely".
"So who gives a f*ck!"

Shoshana said...

I'm curious to know which denominations encourage dissent.

alex said...

Good question, Shoshana. I suspect the author meant: "Dissenting with the *orthodox* position."

e-kvetcher said...

Boy, that joke killed (the comments)! Try the veal. I'm here till Thursday!

Anonymous said...

Quasireligion is self-limiting: it lasts one generation. It's also parasitic: it can't survive on it's own, relying instead on the existence of the truly religious.

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"Quasireligion is self-limiting: it lasts one generation. It's also parasitic: it can't survive on it's own, relying instead on the existence of the truly religious."

I don't know about that first assertion, but you do have a point with the second.

Miri said...

"No, see my people are called the SORT-OF Christians..." Anyone who has not yet checked out the G-d Inc. and Mr. Deity videos on YouTube should do so.

Maybe I should write a book caled "G-d is Right Most of the Time." Or, "What the Hell Has G-d Got To Do With It? It's Mostly the People That Screw Up Anyway." Is that too long for a best-seller? Or just too boring?