I was at the bookstore this morning with a bit of time to spare, and so I got to do what I love to do: wander the aisles and peruse the titles. I do it at the library, also. To wander among books just puts me at rest. Anyhoo, I included the religion section in my perambulations and I couldn’t help but notice that there were quite a few books that had to do with the insufficiency of religion as it’s practiced today.
None of these were screeds against the faith in question. All were “why this isn’t working” kind of treatises. For example, Tony Jones’s book, The New Christians, caught my eye. It discusses the emergent church movement and how young evangelicals “have decided to recreate church for postmodern times.” Another book, Why I Am Not a Muslim, by Ibn Warraq, explains where (in the opinion of the author) Islam went wrong. “It is well to bear in mind while reading this book the distinction between theory and practice; the distinction between what Muslims ought to do and what they in fact do; what they should have believed and done as opposed to what they actually believed and did,” Warraq begins.
Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but it’s nice to think of times like these as at least potentially groundbreaking. Karen Armstrong’s The Axial Age describes how religion changed massively and yielded monotheism, Confucianism, Greek philosophy and Buddhism. It was a time of massive religious and spiritual invention, and to this little agnostic, it seems like we could use a bit of that kind of thing today.
By the way, did anyone see “I Am Legend,” that movie with Will Smith about how a virus turns humans into rabid maniacs? I’m not sure I’d recommend it, but it had a neat little dialogue about God and science near the end. I don’t know if it meant to, but it left me with the impression that the author of the screenplay thinks science and religion can get along just fine.