Thursday, August 2, 2007

Pantheism and the Mosque

I was reading a post by James Polous about the fact that, while churches have gone from being the most beautiful buildings in town, they are now among the most offensive, mosques remain truly impressive.

This, I think, can be linked to Tocqueville’s fear about the homogenizing effect of pantheism in democratic societies. As we begin to think of everything in terms of equality – the equality of all people, all peoples, all religions and cultures – it becomes more difficult to see why this place should be more important than that place – or why we should spend much time or energy on making any place particularly beautiful. A church is no longer the House of God. It is, rather, simply a meeting place for people.

The increasingly popular humanist cosmopolitanism school of thought James speaks about seems to misunderstand that the parochial cultures they wish to mediate among and reconcile with each other, in fact, despite their particularity, have visions which are just as universal as that of the UN, and may well prefer to subsume the cosmopolitan horizon under their own rather than the other way around.

Not only are these visions universal, they are opposed to other universal visions in ways that the Kantian inspired desire for a peaceful federation of republics seems to have no resources to deal with. How to deal with those cultures that do not feel that all places are equal, but that one place in particular is of the utmost importance and must be under their control? And what if that one place is right on top of a place about which another group has the very same beliefs (see picture above)? This is especially a problem when these beliefs are bound up with the current state system (see picture of the Jordanian 20 dinar bill below). The only solution would seem to be the relinquishing of these unfounded beliefs, which are, after all extraneous to what C.S Lewis calls the Tao, and what many scholars refer to as 'thin morality.' On the other hand, maybe we should think harder about what Tocqeville says in the concluding lines of his chapter on pantheism:

Among the different systems by whose aid philosophy endeavors to explain the universe I believe pantheism to be one of those most fitted to seduce the human mind in democratic times. Against it all who abide in their attachment to the true greatness of man should combine and struggle.

Chris McClure


Erica said...

"may well prefer to subsume the cosmopolitan horizon under their own rather than the other way around." Beautiful!

Rory said...

I like the blog, especially the part where you have a picture of my roomates' closet. I saw it in a whole new perspective. The pictures in general are great.

Anonymous said...

I find it very interesting that media has yet to discuss the difficulty that Hillary Clinton, if elected president, would face in the area of foreign affairs, particularly in the Middle East, where women, much less a light-skinned, blonde-headed, caucasian woman) are devalued.