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Monday, 23 January 2012

Religion as idolatry

I am continuing to meditatively read Nicolas Lash's beautifully written lectures, Holiness, Speech and Silence: Reflections on the Question of God. Much of what he has to say on 'religion' turns on its head most of the commonly held assumptions in contemporary discourse about the meaning of the term.
Most religion is, of course, idolatrous. We ascribe divinity to, we treat as sacred, a vast diversity of ideas and institutions, peoples, place stories, customs, which are, at worst, destructive of ourselves and of the world in which we live, and, at best, ambivalent intimations of where true holiness, beyond all our construction and imagination might be found. 
Thus it is that the great religious traditions of this world function as schools in which people learn that there is no feature of the world - no nation, institution, text, idea, ambition - that is, quite simply, sacred. To be a pupil in these schools (and all the teachers in these schools are pupils too) is to learn that we are called beyond the worship of the creature; to learn that that alone is truly 'holy', is quite beyond location and imagination, radically transcends the secular in which we live and die, bearing the gift and burden of contingent freedom. It is within the world, in all the world, in all we think and do and say and see, achieve and suffer, and by no means only in some small margin of the world which people, these days, call 'religion', that we are required to be attentive to the promptings of the Spirit, responsive to the breath of God. (39-40)

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