Thursday, 13 February 2014

RELIGION'S POETRY

RELIGION'S POETRY COULD STILL TOUCH US

A page from the Epilogue of Richard Holloway's Leaving Alexandria - A Memoir of Faith and Doubt:
Like other human enterprises, religion grew out of the human predicament. We are thinking animals. We may even be the only thinking creature in the unimaginable vastness of the universe, which means that in us the universe is thinking about itself, maybe for the first time! And we can’t stop doing it. It comes with these big self-conscious brains of ours from which also come science and philosophy. And art! Art is what our imagination has conjured up to express the wonder and terror of life; the stories we have told ourselves, the dreams we have dreamt, the longings and fears we have woven together. And the great gallimaufry we call religion is one of art’s great imaginings.

Don't abandon it, ... but don't listen to its mad voices 

Religion is human, and like humanity it is both a glory and a scandal. It is full of pity and full of cruelty. Just like us. So is the Bible. If only we could stop using it as if it had any more authority than Shakespeare or Proust or Elgar or Gauguin or Tolstoy or Nietzsche! It belongs with them, with its yearnings and crucifying certainties. It was human, all-too human.  Don’t abandon it, any more than we ought to abandon the other flawed cruel epics of the human imagination: but don’t listen to its mad voices. 

 A space to listen and wonder in 

In my walks I discovered my real dilemma. I wanted to keep religion around, purged of cruelty, because it gave us a space to wonder and listen within.  Purged of the explanations that don’t explain, the science that does not prove, the morality that does not improve; purged in fact of its prose, religion’s poetry could still touch us, make us weep, make us tender, and take us out of ourselves into the possibility of a courageous pity.


March 9th [NOT at Wychwood Library]
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Richard Holloway's book was the subject of our February discussion at Wychwood Circle, which left some intriguing questions still to be answered. 
On Sunday, March 9th, we were due to welcome Dr Nicola Slee to the library in Milton under Wychwood (OX7 6LD) to address the topic of POETRY AND FAITH, but she has had to cancel. A poet, theologian and author of such books as Faith and Feminism, Nicola Slee had promised us "a consideration of the contribution of poetry to Christian faith and life, illustrated by reference to the work of 20th and 21st century poets". 

Please see the next post for an alternative venue on the same date. 

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