Welcome to my blog where I will post commentary on issues ranging from fiction to public policy. Tucked away in the Idea Boxes are “how to” tips on a variety of projects that have become part of our family’s culture over the years. I hope you’ll find some useful ideas there. My blog will take you through the fantastic journey of writing and publishing fiction, as well as commentary on politics, cultural trends, book reviews and family.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Marilynne Robinson on Culture and Religion

In an age when secularism and intellectualism are twin watchtowers against the encroachment of religious values into American politics, noted writer and scholar Marilynne Robinson provides both a defense and a critique of the role of religion in modern life in When I Was a Child I Read Books.

Known primarily for her fiction—Homecoming, Gilead and Home, all critically acclaimed—she has released a series of essays on American culture, politics and religion that reflect her exceptional insight and intellect.

Robinson’s principal thesis is that modern American life has been dumbed down and diminished not only by corrosive politics, materialism and marginalization of education, but also by turning our backs on all things sacred and beautiful, “everything in any way lofty.”  She blames both the secularists and the churches for this. 

She describes religious faith as something other than “a crude, explanatory strategy that should be supplanted by science” and argues that science and religion “should not be struggling for the same piece of turf.”

“Modern discourse is not really comfortable with the word ‘soul’ and in my opinion the loss of the word has been disabling, not only to religion but to literature and political thought and to every humane pursuit.”

Positing that “the language of public life has lost the character of generosity and the largeness of spirit that created the best of our institutions,” she makes the case for religion as a way to disrupt the constraints of “grasping materialism.” 

 “I realized gradually that my own religion, and religion in general, could and should disrupt [these] constraints, which amount to a small and narrow definition of what human beings are and how life is to be understood.”

In describing the soul as “the masterpiece of creation,” Robinson makes a cogent case for the importance of religion, like art and music, as a path to wisdom and to understanding the beauty and mystery of life.

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