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Introduction 
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Post Introduction
Reading the introduction is like readin Dissidents posts! I see the influnce on him by Ms. Armstrong.

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of Pain

HEY! Is that a ball in your court? - Mr. P

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Thu Jan 06, 2005 11:45 pm
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Post Re: Introduction
I like the way Armstrong is handling the topic. I like her style and her knowledge seems very solid!

I also like the fact that she uses BCE instead of BC for time reference...I dont know why, but it shows me honesty.

This is a freethinker that also believes in god. It can be done, although I still dont see it...god that is. But I respect her so far!

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of Pain

HEY! Is that a ball in your court? - Mr. P

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Fri Jan 07, 2005 1:08 am
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Post A quibble

The mythos/logos distinction is an interesting way to view intellectual history, but I think Ms Armstrong goes way too far in asserting that average people in the past would have used any similar distinction.

Considering the number of modern people who sincerely believe that the Earth is 6000 years old, I find it hard to believe that ancient people didn't take their myths just as literally. For that matter, even though I've never seen the planet Neptune, sources of information that I consider reliable say it exists. Ancient people would have trusted the village elders about as much as I trust the scientific community.







Sun Jan 16, 2005 1:18 pm
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Post Re: A quibble
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The mythos/logos distinction is an interesting way to view intellectual history, but I think Ms Armstrong goes way too far in asserting that average people in the past would have used any similar distinction.


The way I read Armstrong on this topic, there WAS no real 'logos' in pre-modern society...well, none as an over statement...it was basically non-exsitent. Mythos, as she explains in Chapter 2, was the only way an agrarian society could function. Innovation was not a boon to the stability needed for pre-modern civilization to maintain itself.

She explains that people of the pre-modern era did not look forward, for they did not have the optimism of our modern civilization, but backward, because the next generation could very well regress due to shortages of resources and the limits of agrarian society. Mythos looks backward.

So I agree with you, and I think Ms. Armstrong says this too, that the pre-modern person, or at the least the 'average' pre-modern person, did not make any distinction at all, for it was only the myth that mattered...or could even be concieved, as on page 35 she writes:

Quote:
"Just as it is difficult-even impossible- for people living in Western society, which has institutionalized change, to appreciate fully the role of mythology, so too it is extremely difficult-perhaps impossible-for people deeply and powerfully shaped by conservative spirituality to accept the forward-looking dynamic of modern culture."


It simply WAS this way until Wester Civ kicked in and initiated the change from mythos to logos.

It also shows us just how hard it is to escape the myths that helped us survive in the past.

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of Pain

HEY! Is that a ball in your court? - Mr. P

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper

Edited by: misterpessimistic  at: 1/16/05 4:30 pm



Sun Jan 16, 2005 2:03 pm
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Post Re: A quibble
I haven't bought the book, and probably won't get around to it in time to really participate in this conversation (you should see the "unread" stack in my apartment), but in reading through the introduction posted by Chris I thought it might be worthwhile responding to a few abiguities.

The big question that strikes me in reading the introduction (and this is perhaps something she tackles in on of the early chapters) is that of how Ms. Armstrong defines fundamentalism. Does the phrase "militant piety" cover it? One might assume so, but then she points to presumed examples of fundamentalism that qualify as militant only when viewed through the lens of hyperbole. Are we to class Muslim women who "shroud themselves in veils and chadors" along with fundamentalists who "have gunned down worshippers in a mosque", or Orthodox Jews who "observe their revealed Law more stringently than ever before" along with those who "have killed doctors and nurses who work in abortion clinics"? We might as easily class the Amish as fundamentalists, and wonder how they bear comparison. Such violence is the product, says Armstong, of "only a small minority of fundamentalists" -- how then are the other so-called fundamentalists "militant?"

It seems more likely that, for Armstrong, fundamentalism stands out most starkly when placed against "the painfully acquired insights of liberal culture". The error is perhaps one of structure only -- she has begun her introduction with what appeared to be a formula equating fundamentalism with militant behavior when, in fact, the portrait she hopes to paint is of fundamentalism as an extreme form of conservativism. If that's the case, then Armstrong has already given away her bias with the observation that fundamentalists "seem so adamantly opposed to many of the most positive values of modern society." Such a contrast makes it relatively clear that she intends to champion "liberal culture", whatever that may mean to her. But is it really the case that a Jew who chooses to obey a given Law, or a Muslim who chooses to wear a hijab necessarily opposes the life they have chosen not to live? Armstrong might be right to rail against the Muslim Imam who insists that the women in his community veil their bodies, but she has framed her example in largely voluntary terms, and no doubt there are religious believers who fit that characterization.

We might also question her assertion that "in the late 1970s, fundamentalists began to rebel against this secularist hegemony and started to wrest religion out of its marginal position and back to center stage." This claim makes sense if you're willing to assume that all religious believers after a certain period during the 20th century are, to some degree, fundamentalists. If you're not willing to assume that, however, you have to ask how religion could make such a strong resurgence on the strength of a pious minority alone. It seems more reasonable to consider the possibility that there were two distinct, though perhaps interrelated trends, fundamentalism on the one hand and the growth of a new mainstream religious belief on the other. When Armstrong summarizes the renewal of religious belief as a "remarkable success" for the fundies, implying that their efforts have made religion "a force that no government can safely ignore," she clearly intends to suggest that religion would have continued its declining prevalence in modern society had it not been for fundamentalist efforts. I'm unconvinced. Even attempts to cite the fundamentalist vote as the principle reason behind Bush's re



Wed Jan 19, 2005 11:44 pm
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Post Re: A quibble
Taking up where I left off...

It might be more accurate to say that Armstrong sees fundamentalism as a process. In that case, velied Muslim women and obedient Orthodox Jews would fall somewhere on the path from the onset of crisis to outright militant rebellion. Armstrong's source for this view of fundamentalism is apparantly the Fundamentalist Project, edited by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby. ("Monumental" is right -- each volume clocks in at about 800-900 pages.) Armstrong's summation begins thus:

They are embattled forms of spirituality, which have emerged as a response to a perceived crisis.

So far, so good. It's the next statement that makes things problematic, and I wonder if Marty and Appleby meant to imply such strict lines of demarcation.

They are engaged in a conflict with enemies whose secularist policies and beliefs seem inimical to religion itself.

"Crisis," you see, does not necessarily imply combat. There need be no "enemy," no aggression, in the sense that implies warfare. So we come to an essential question -- which is more central to the experience of fundamentalists, crisis or aggression? This leads to a number of auxilary questions: if crisis is more central, how often and how rapidly does that crisis take on the character and symbols of war? If aggression is more central, why do some supposedly fundamentalist sects never react with like aggression? Is there necessarily a connection between the perception of crisis and the perception of aggression?

We may wonder, as well, how apt is the characterisation that, "Fundamentalists do not regard this battle as a conventional political struggle, but experience it as a cosmic war between the forces of good and evil." Certainly some fundamentalist groups view their crisis in this sense, and to whatever degree such a cosmology is imbedded in the initial religious tradition we may assume that it plays likewise some role in fundamentalist traditions. That's a line that needs to be explored more closely. After all, it's hardly fair to credit fundamentalists with the notion of this cosmic war if it arises instead from the tradition itself. But then again, I wonder if Armstrong wouldn't view the persistence of this sort of religious tradition as a branch of fundamentalism, regardless of whether or not we would recognize all believers as fundamentalists. She has already credited the resurgence of religious belief to 20th century fundamentalists. The line between simple faith and fundamentalism is so far perilously blurry.

Should we count it as fundamentalism any time a group attempts "to fortify their beleaguered identity by means of a selective retrieval of certain doctrines and practices of the past"? If so, we might well call Kwanzaa an expression of fundamentalism. Or must we qualify that it is fundamentalism only when the expression serves as a step towards the end result of a militant stance towards liberal culture? If that's the case, then we're only capable of recognizing fundamentalism in its final stage, and many groups who meet the criteria for fundamentalism in its early stages may never result in the full-blown final product.

It does not help to note their withdrawal from mainstream society -- groups have done that throughout American (and indeed, world) history without fitting the mold of "militant piety." If there's anything useful to our understanding of fundamentalism as a problematic mode of belief, it's in the final sentence of Armstrong's summation of the Fundamentalist Project: "Eventually they fight back and attempt to resacralize an increasingly skeptical world." This falls most clearly in line with the modern concerns about fundamentalism, but it is not characteristic of all of the examples she has given.

Incidentally, there appear to be a few problems of conception in Armstrong's historical description. There are some broad generalizations therein which conflict with the conclusions she presents. For example, she talks of a general trend away from polytheist paganism towards monotheistic immaterial conceptions of God. At the same time, she is content to conclude that "during the Axial Age, the great confessional faiths that have continued to guide human beings sprang up in the civilized world," among which she lists two explicitly plytheistic traditions and at least two that permit if not wholly endorse polytheism. On the political level she talks as though the shift away from strictly agrarian culture largely nullified monarchy. Both of these suggestions are hyperbole of a peculiar kind. The use of the entire passage is questionable, since there is a rather sharp disjunction between the historical claims and the results said to derive therefrom.

Armstrong's analogy is that we're undergoing a similar change, one that arises somewhat spontaneously due to certain social changes inherent in our civilization. The implication is that religious fundamentalism is a reaction against changes that are practically natural -- this is the direction of progress, she seems to say, and it's unreasonable to push in any other direction. But the rise of "liberal culture", if we must call it that, is not concommitant with the industrialization of the West. Our economic modes have not determined our ethical responses. Rather, the spirit of humanism has arisen primarily because men and women of a particular philosophical inclination have put forward through taxing effort their ideology and example. Our current economic means may have made it more practical to spread such ideas, but the ideas did not rise as the logical ergo to a particular set of technological premises.

----------------------


A few tangental points:
In particular, they evolved two ways of thinking, speaking, and acquiring knowledge, which scholars have called mythos and logos. Both were essential; they were regarded as complementary ways of arriving at truth, and each had its special area of competence.

There's a great deal of mischaracterization going on in this passage. Your first clue ought to lie in the terminology that Armstrong uses. Mythos and logos are specifically Greek terms, and Armstrong provides no reasoning for why we ought to apply it to primitive peoples in general rather than to the Greeks exclusively. We might well presume it likely that other cultures drew a similar distinction, but how likely and how many other cultures we are not yet at liberty to guess.

Moreover, the fact that this distinction comes from the Greeks ought to indicate to us that it is a dinstinction within the progress of humanism, which was essentially a Greek invention. The distinction itself comes from philosophy, not religion. The religious beliefs of Greeks prior to the 6th century BCE were likely not effected by the distinction.

The various mythological stories, which were not intended to be taken literally, were an ancient form of psychology.

That's an assumption that Armstrong is likely not entitled to make with any authority. This entire section, in fact, comes off as a mish-mash of ideas drawn in part from legitimate classical inquiry and probably in large part from revisionist fluff. Particularly telling is the fact that, despite having first makes the claim that the spiritual lives of primitive religous believers differed fundamentally from modern spirituality, she has here reduced one of those fundamental differences into a kind of similarity. In large part, she's reading Jung and Hillman into mythos, and while the classical psychologists of the last century or so may have liked to suppose that mythology illustrated their psycho-analytic premises, I doubt any of them would have seriously contended that mythology functioned as a form of psychology.

Particularly astonishing is the claim made concerning the roles of mythos and logos in the First Crusade:
Throughout the long crusading project, it remained true that whenever logos was ascendant, the Crusaders prospered. They performed well on the battlefield, created viable colonies in the Middle East, and learned to relate more positively with the local population. When, however, Crusaders started making a mythical or mystical vision the basis of their policies, they were usually defeated and committed terrible atrocities.
Can you really verify a claim involving a sharp distinction like that? What are Armstrong's sources on the matter? I suspect that an in depth analysis of the matter would demonstrate nothing more clearly than that it is all but impossible to determine which had the upper hand in most instances, mythos or logos.




Thu Jan 20, 2005 6:07 pm
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Post Re: A quibble
Quote:
The big question that strikes me in reading the introduction (and this is perhaps something she tackles in on of the early chapters) is that of how Ms. Armstrong defines fundamentalism. Does the phrase "militant piety" cover it?

...

We might as easily class the Amish as fundamentalists, and wonder how they bear comparison. Such violence is the product, says Armstrong, of "only a small minority of fundamentalists" -- how then are the other so-called fundamentalists "militant?"




To battle against perceived injustice or 'attack' does not necessarily require that guns, bombs and physical fighting of any kind be utilized. To be militant does not imply that fighting will ever take place, but that those taking a militant stance are prepared to fight for what they believe in. This fighting can take the form of flying airplanes into buildings, or by the appointment and stocking of a government with crusaders who will push a faith based agenda and stigmatize any who show any dissent. It can take the form of blowing up abortion clinics or by subjugating the advances and promise of true scientific research while attempting to force teachers of true science to include a prejudiced, faith based, fictional account of the origin and proliferation of life on this planet in school curriculum.

Using the Amish...is it not militant to totally close your society off from the influences of the modern world, smack dab in the middle of that world? They are peaceful only because 'we' leave them alone...if 'we' were to force them to give up their ways, I am sure there would be a fight, for there would be a crisis for them to respond to. Right now, the crisis is manageable, but when lines are crossed, reactions can be harsh. The problem on the large scale is that we are in a global society now and every action by one party affects the lives of all others.

Armstrong admits that the term Fundamentalism is not a word that can be easily translated among the different faiths, as it is a word of Christian origin, and thus it is hard to actually define it adequately. She acknowledges that in the parlance of our times, the term is "here to stay" and thus must be addressed. So instead of this being a case where Armstrong is hoist on her own petard it is, rather, an honest attempt at fitting a word to a paradigm where it may not otherwise fit.


Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of Pain

HEY! Is that a ball in your court? - Mr. P

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Sun Jan 23, 2005 11:19 am
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Post Re: A quibble
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It seems more likely that, for Armstrong, fundamentalism stands out most starkly when placed against "the painfully acquired insights of liberal culture". The error is perhaps one of structure only -- she has begun her introduction with what appeared to be a formula equating fundamentalism with militant behavior when, in fact, the portrait she hopes to paint is of fundamentalism as an extreme form of conservativism.


Conservatism in the George Bush sense? From what I read, Armstrong states that Fundamentalists are not "conservative and wedded to the past" rather their "ideas are essentially modern and highly innovative". I really do not think she is championing a "liberal culture"...but what is wrong with a culture that is generous, educated in the liberal arts and open anyway? I digress...


Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of Pain

HEY! Is that a ball in your court? - Mr. P

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Sun Jan 23, 2005 11:22 am
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Post Re: A quibble
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When Armstrong summarizes the renewal of religious belief as a "remarkable success" for the fundies, implying that their efforts have made religion "a force that no government can safely ignore," she clearly intends to suggest that religion would have continued its declining prevalence in modern society had it not been for fundamentalist efforts. I'm unconvinced. Even attempts to cite the fundamentalist vote as the principle reason behind Bush's re



Sun Jan 23, 2005 11:26 am
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Post Re: A quibble
MadArchitect, I have some responses to your posts. Are you sure you can't read the whole book? I think I payed much closer attention while looking for what you were talking about. I'll start by responding to this comment from you:
Quote:
Such violence is the product, says Armstong, of "only a small minority of fundamentalists" -- how then are the other so-called fundamentalists "militant?"

Militant doesn't necessarily mean violent or a military style group. I think she is using it more along the lines of "active, determined and often willing to use force" or "aggressively active (as in a cause)."

Mad Architect also wrote:
Quote:
We might also question her assertion that "in the late 1970s, fundamentalists began to rebel against this secularist hegemony and started to wrest religion out of its marginal position and back to center stage." This claim makes sense if you're willing to assume that all religious believers after a certain period during the 20th century are, to some degree, fundamentalists. If you're not willing to assume that, however, you have to ask how religion could make such a strong resurgence on the strength of a pious minority alone.

I disagree. A group doesn't necessarily have to be large in order to have an impact on politics. It's not that fundamentalism has converted a majority of people, it is that fundamentalists have made religion a topic in politics and elsewhere, forcing people to think of it and deal with it in a public arena instead of only in private.

Armstrong's broader point that Fundamentalism is here to stay and we need to understand it in order to deal with it is true.

I don't see where you are getting the idea that Armstrong sees fundamentalism as a process. She hasn't made any claims that all fundamentalisms end in militant rebellion. What she is saying in that section is that although many of the movements that are called fundamentalism maybe should be called something else, those fundamentalisms have what she calls a "family resemblance" and says Marty and Appleby argue they follow a certain pattern. When Armstrong writes, "Eventually they fight back and attempt to resacralize an increasingly skeptical world," I don't think she is referring to fighting with guns. I think she means something more like efforts by Christians to include their god in their everyday lives, like the Christian bank someone posted an article in a different thread. One of the functions of religion is to provide a difference between the sacred and the profane. From reading the summary, what I got from it is that one of the characteristics of Fundamentalists is that they are overwhelmed by the increasing amount of profane in everyday life and fundamentalism is partially an attempt to bring back the sacred. I think her words "fight back" refer to these attempts, not to violence.
Quote:

On the political level she talks as though the shift away from strictly agrarian culture largely nullified monarchy.

I didn't think she concluded this at all. What she writes is:
Quote:
This enabled them to build the first civilizations, develop the arts, and create increasingly powerful polities: cities, city-states, and, eventually, empires. In agrarian society, power no longer lay exclusively with the local king or priest; its locus shifted at least partly to the marketplace, the source of each culture's wealth.

That is not saying monarchy went away. In the first sentence she doesn't even mention what type of government is ruling, but is saying that the areas that were ruled over grew larger than the small areas that could be controlled previously. The second sentence is saying that LOCAL power holders in agrarian societies no longer had a monopoly on power. This is hardly claiming that monarchy is being nullified.

As for your question about Armstrong's sources on her conclusions about the crusades, she cited the book she wrote on them as a source, so her sources of information for her knowledge about them could probably be found in that book. It's title is "Holy War: The Crusades and Their Impact on Today's World."




Sun Jan 23, 2005 7:28 pm
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Post Re: A quibble
Scrum...let me just say Great Post!

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I disagree. A group doesn't necessarily have to be large in order to have an impact on politics. It's not that fundamentalism has converted a majority of people, it is that fundamentalists have made religion a topic in politics and elsewhere, forcing people to think of it and deal with it in a public arena instead of only in private.


Exactly my point when I said that Christian Fundamentalists helped GWB get re-elected. It is the influence they are exerting, while stigmatizing all they find offensive (Stern, Stem Cell research, Intellectuals, anyone NOT GWB or part of his gang), that is pushing religion, their religion, back to center stage when it should be anything but. We are getting sidetracked. Secular society is where we were and where we should still be heading toward.

What scares me is that people do not see the forest for the trees. Our attention is focused on aggressive fundamentalists, yet the most dangerous kind of attack is the one no one ever sees coming and, after it has been executed, no one recognizes they have been attacked.

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of Pain

HEY! Is that a ball in your court? - Mr. P

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Sun Jan 23, 2005 8:12 pm
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Post Re: Introdux
misterpessimistic:



Wed Feb 02, 2005 1:53 am
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Post Re: Introdux
I am sick and will respond fully later...but I would like to know what agenda you see being pushed.

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of Pain

HEY! Is that a ball in your court? - Mr. P

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Wed Feb 02, 2005 12:37 pm
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Post Re: Introdux
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The difficulty is often in discerning when the violence is a result of the religion, and when it is a result of other factors. After all, you must bear in mind that religion never exists in a vacuum.


Of course. Nothing exists in a vacuum. Politics is just another method of coping and controlling, just as religion is. Those in power use them to control, those over-powered to cope. But there are instances of pure religious transgressions against humanity, secularism, modern civilization AND the teachings of the religions themselves. I think the examples I gave are showing the religious variety.

Baruch Goldstein's massacre of 29 Arabs, while they observed the Feast of Purim at the Tomb of the Patriarchs has nothing to do with politics. 9/11 had to do with politics, but because of the disdain Muslim extremists have for the pervasiveness of American culture. So there is a political flavor, but religion is the main reason. In any even, so long as religion is the foundation or the facade, it is still used as a weapon. Guilt by association. Religion blinds people and makes the wrong seem right. Killing in any gods name is wrong and honestly thinking that you (not YOU, you...but you in general) have the right to force your beliefs on anyone else is an insult on many levels.

Quote:
There are indications to the contrary. If nothing else, her subtitle suggests that she is attempting a history not of a particular branch of fundamentalism, but of fundamentalism plain and simple.


Well, fundamentalism in the three major religions. But how can you discount her attempt at explaining that fundamentalism is not a term that can be applied easily to the different faiths. Yes, she settled for the accepted term, and explained that there are certain 'family resemblances" among the faiths, but she did offer the caveat that this is not an easy subject. This to me shows at least an attempt at forthrightness.

I asked in another thread...but what agenda do you realize from your observations?


Quote:
In terms of politics, I don't think it's necessary that all political bodies tend toward secularism as the U.S. has, in ideology if not practice. But I do think it's important that there be at least one nation that maintains a secular stance and is powerful enough to harbour and protect others from a coersively religious state.


We were that secular nation and that is the nation I was proud of. Now I am not so sure.

Now we have GWB and the Neo Conservatives pushing CHRISTIAN religion at any and every opportunity. We have text books being desecrated with creationist crap and scientific research being held at bay due to religious concerns. We have the separation of church and state that served us so well for so long being @#%$ with. We have a war machine increasing deficits and cutting taxes in a bread and circus atmosphere that so many are buying into. We got our new enemy and we have our new Crusaders to smite the heathens. Yay!

We are at war with Islam, we have always been at war with Islam. Russia is our ally, they have always been our ally.

Now...where is that victory gin?...


Mr. P.




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The Pope of Literature


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I would like to know what agenda you see being pushed.

I'll address the more recent post later on when I have time. I did, however, want to tackle this one before I log out for the night. My answer will, of course, have to be somewhat provisional since I'm only a third of the way through the book, and I reserve the right to modify my view as more evidence crops up.

As Ken Hemingway has pointed out, Armstrong is clearly arguing for the necessity of myth, even in the logos-dominated modern world. But I think she's also arguing for a rather rigid compartmentalization of mythos and logos. This plays both ways. On the one hand, she's arguing that our rejection of mythos has depended in large part of by the mistaken notion that myths are inherently destructive. Observe the proper boundaries between myth and reason, she says, and that destruction will cease. On the other, I think she's arguing for the compartmentalization of the two in order to preserve mythos from unfair comparison.

Honestly, I'm not sure these ideas have as much to do with fundamentalism as she implies. The more she pushes the mythos/logos thesis, the more I tend to think that her stated goal of writing "a history of fundamentalism" is an excuse to argue for the necessity of mythos. After all, her introduction of the mythos/logos distinction was somewhat artificial: it came not from any suggestion within the evidence itself but from her assertion that the spiritual life of the premoderns was fundamentally different from that of moderns. While presenting a picture of the historical development of fundamentalism, she is simultaneously arguing for the validity of religious belief by structuring for it a presumably proper context.




Thu Feb 03, 2005 12:50 am
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