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Interesting article about religion, law and culture - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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October 11th, 2007

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01:20 pm - Interesting article about religion, law and culture
Continuing my previous post, here's an interesting NYT piece about religion and law in China and what typical Western reactions to it mean about us. From a bit of googling, the author looks to be a sensible and interesting Marxist, and I largely agree with the article, with one small caveat -
The significant issue for the West here is not Buddhas and lamas, but what we mean when we refer to “culture.” All human sciences are turning into a branch of cultural studies. While there are of course many religious believers in the West, especially in the United States, vast numbers of our societal elite follow (some of the) religious rituals and mores of our tradition only out of respect for the “lifestyle” of the community to which we belong: Christmas trees in shopping centers every December; neighborhood Easter egg hunts; Passover dinners celebrated by nonbelieving Jews.

“Culture” has commonly become the name for all those things we practice without really taking seriously. And this is why we dismiss fundamentalist believers as “barbarians” with a “medieval mindset”: they dare to take their beliefs seriously. Today, we seem to see the ultimate threat to culture as coming from those who live immediately in their culture, who lack the proper distance.
To me, all this is a very good thing indeed, since "living immediately in a culture" means (among other things) seriously holding the sorts of beliefs, which include everything from religious faith to patriotism and nationalism that leads to people being willing to kill and die for their beliefs, and from my PoV that is pretty much always a bad thing. I'd far rather all humans only ever risked their own lives or threatened the lives of others in order to prevent immediate physical threats to themselves or others. In any case, I think the article raises some interesting issues.
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