Monday, April 15, 2013

Books I've Read

In addition to writing one book, and reading probably hundreds of police procedural/thriller/life in America novels during my stay in Bakersfield, I did manage to read something really worth all the effort.  Actually, three worth that effort.

I'll comment on just one this blog; and get to the others in subsequent posts. This one tops my list; not just of books I've read these last two years, but, I feel,books I've read up to this point in my life: "Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age," by Robert N. Bellah.

Let me say first of all that this is the book Bellah was destined to write, that only Bellah could have written--and that I am glad he wrote.  No one more than me wanted this book to be written.  And, I say this humbly, had he not gotten around to writing it, I would have been forever sad that I did not possess the learning nor the skill to explore in such depth and wisdom the topic he did.

Do I have a personal stake in this book?  I do.  Let me explain.  Over the course of the last ten years or so I have drifted away from not only organized religion (i.e., church), but also the god of organized religion--a personal god, or god as a person, or however one wants to say that. The language, and the history of that language, means less and less to me; although I still pay attention to it and use it as I understand it to be and have been used: as a way of talking about something that is not able to be talked about, yet still needs to be talked about because that is the way we as humans deal with our thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

I have read other books on the topic of religion and evolution; and I have been a student of the theory of the 'axial age' since I first learned about it from Roland Murphy in an Old Testament course in the seminary.  But I must admit to not paying attention to either my teacher or my subsequent reading; because it was not until I picked up this book and read the table of contents that I saw what I needed to see--namely, that alongside the axial ages in ancient Israel (the prophets), China (Confucianism and Taoism), and ancient India (Hinduism and Buddhism), Bellah explores the axial age of ancient Greece (culminating in Socrates and Plato).

I had found my home.

That's what I felt after reading the book. I do not disparage the insights and meaning of the simultaneous axial ages; but I know now that for me my world turns on the myths and meanings and memes first hammered out by the pre-Socratics, then Socrates and Plato and Aristotle, then taken up by Albertus Magnus and Aquinas and Anselm, and in our times by Metz and Rahner and Bultman and Moltman and Gilkey.

And, to my real point, this is the language I am trying to keep alive in the face of the fundamentalist rant. Read the book, Bellah,s 'Religion in Human Evolution.'  For this is the language he has spoken all his life.  Perhaps you will find a home, too.

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