Monday, July 17, 2006

Killing the Buddha and Post-Ideological Religion

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If you are serious about studying religion, you need to read this book. Granted it's not the most scholarly production in the world - no footnotes, et. al., but this book paints a new form of scholarship. If you thought you'd seen raw authenticity in religious thinking, 'you ain't seen nothin' yet.' I'm absolutely engrossed in this book - but I've surfaced long enough to post some connections with post-ideology.

Killing the Buddha, and its offshoot website, works on a simple premise. If you meet the Buddha and the road to enlightenment, kill him. Why? Because that's not the real Buddha. This applies to Judeo-Christian religions as well: if you think you've found "God," you probably haven't. In order to find the "real" God, we must do away with any preconceived notions of what God must be like. This smacks of Paul Tillich's "God beyond God" -type theology. But, that being said, it's crucial to post-ideological thinking. God's name has been used throughout history for many things good and many things evil. We humans try to encapsulate God into what we think God should be - and that's idolotry. God is beyond our small minds - and we must always keep that in mind.

Killing the Buddha advocates striking down this type of idolotry and seeking a more authentic religious experience. This experience is grounded on the belief that there is nothing wrong with being critical. For example - why do children die? There is no reason or justification for these tragedies. Should we let God 'off the hook' because God is God? Or, as God's children, are we not more authentic to go with our emotions and cry out in pain. Should we not "show" God ourselves in our pain? It is, at least, a more honest relationship with God. I think the moderation practiced by most Christians is faulty at best. What do I mean? If we're happy, we should pray prayers of thanksgiving and joy. If we feel pain, what is wrong with telling God in the most authentic way we know? Don't misread me: I'm not advocating cursing God. Far from it. Rather, I'm suggesting that we tap into our honesty and attempt to have a real and authentic relationship with our Creator.

Maybe these are the first steps toward thinking post-ideologically about religion (baby steps?). Anyway, if you've taken the time to read all of this post, spend another 30 seconds telling me what you think. Peace.


At 3:06 PM, Blogger John P. said...

I am anxious to hear what you think when you are done...there is so much about that book that I love. The chapter titled Gospel is worth the price of admission. But i wont spoil it for you.

it is certainly "post ideological" in tone (though i must admit, the term is new to me). However, because KtB (book and website) is collaborative and ecumenical in orientation, it seems less of a critique of this religion or that religion as it is an examination of american relgiosity as it happens on the ground...the danger (in my opinion) is that such critiques often lead people toward the belief that "religion is better when it only involves me and God." I was as much perplexed/depressed by the dysfunction of relgious community in the text as i was enlightened and inspired by the truthfulness of it all.

the question then is, how are we (a post-ideological christian community?) to respond to such a critique?

At 1:48 PM, Blogger D.W. Congdon said...

This book sounds very fascinating, and I can almost guarantee that I would like it. Perhaps I will pick up a copy soon and give it a read.

John, you make an interesting point. If I read you rightly, you are saying that a possible outcome of a post-ideological embrace of religion is a turn toward individualism and voluntarism -- i.e., "I" pick what "I" want to believe in.

I have a sense that the object of the post-ideological critique in KtB is not communal or institutional faith (in which families are reared within a specific believing community) but rather civil religion as the adoption of one particular religious framework as the framework for an entire culture or ideology. In other words, I think a post-ideological faith would become more communal in more healthy ways, precisely because it would no longer be a means toward an end (e.g., civil peace, political reforms, etc.) but an end in itself.

At 1:53 PM, Blogger D.W. Congdon said...

John, I can understand your comment better in light of the previous post, which seems to lead in that problematic direction: that the individual Ego is the center and basis for it thinks and believes; the Ego conditions thought, because it is free to do so.

James, is this what you are advocating?

At 10:27 PM, Blogger John P. said...

I think you read me correct for the most part...

My fear is that the critque of religious ideology found within KtB would lead some/many into an even more pronounced individualism (already an epidemic in our country). I do not think that the authors (or guest authors) explicitly advocate this kind of radically individualized religiosity. They may, in some places, critique that very thing! However, again, it seems like the American reflex from a critique of an religious community is to say that "its just about me and Jesus (or Buddha, for that matter)."

This, i simply cannot, my question then is what does a post-ideological community look like? are religious communities necessarily ideological?

after all, the book is about two guys who travel the country to experience american religiosity for themselves!

nonetheless, it is a must read and one of my favorites.

At 4:05 AM, Anonymous philip said...

Come on chaps are you joking? Religion became an entirely individual affair with Luther, who made his neurotic concerns about his own salvation the worry of everyone. Protestantism is anti-community in essence because it turns the rejoicing in the Lord element of the New Covenant into obsessive self-examination about ones own salvation - the mythic assurance - and subtly a continual judging of others whether they are sound Christians. The result America which even turned the truly terriying insights of Freud into self-obsessional me me me pschoanalysis.

At 3:44 AM, Anonymous John said...

As long as the ego creates "religion" it will ALWAYS be ideological--ALWAYS and INEVITABLY.
The ego is also inherently godless and moment to moment actively separating itself from the demand for open hearted vulnerability.
These related essays give a unique understanding of the limits of conventional religion and its root motivations.


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