Our Town
Posted: 03 October 2008 11:42 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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I just saw Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town.  I trust most of you red-blooded Americans are familiar with it. 

There is something about this play that bothers me.  It is a beautiful, powerful, thought-provoking, moving play about life and how often we take it for granted and fail to really live it.  But Wilder chooses to make this point by looking at life from the point of view of fully aware dead people.  The Narrator makes a little speech in the third act about how “we know it in our bones that there si something about us that’s eternal.”  Later one of the dead people says to her newly dead daughter-in-law that she just not look back at her time on earth, but look forward to what’s ahead.  What’s ahead for a dead person?  This was clearly a reference to the Resurrection of the dead, wasn’t it?  The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised and all that…

The same point could have easily been made without resorting to Christian dogma.  And it has been made - by Lynn Redgrave in her one-woman play (whose name I forget).  In it she recounts the life of her grandmother, how she was a little girl, grew up, married a man she did not love, never had an orgasm, was not close to her children and suddenly she found herself to be an old woman, thinking “There was so much I wanted to do; I thought I had more time, I thought I had more time!”

And frankly, that is a more powerful message.  If there is something in us that’s eternal, that lives on, that what’s the big deal about living?  If there is something to come, if eternity awaits us, what’s the big deal about wasting our lives?  Life is a mere Augenblick in comparison with “whats’ to come”, eternity.

So, is this religious worldview really that deeply ingrained in the American mentality?  Do most Americans really see life through the lens of Christian dogma?  And if so, could this be an indicator that the de-Christianization of America is going to take much longer than it did in Western Europe?

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Posted: 04 October 2008 12:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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“De-Christianization”?  This may take a while in the US.  I recently visited France and noticed how many abandoned churches there were, so I asked why, and the answer was during the French Revolution many churches were destroyed because they represented the power that, along with the nobility, held down the peasants.  The US has no comparison.  And as long as religion is specifically excluded from state sponsorship and is optional then Americans will be free to indulge to their hearts’ content.

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Posted: 04 October 2008 03:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Skipshot - 04 October 2008 04:03 AM

“De-Christianization”?  This may take a while in the US.  I recently visited France and noticed how many abandoned churches there were, so I asked why, and the answer was during the French Revolution many churches were destroyed because they represented the power that, along with the nobility, held down the peasants.  The US has no comparison.  And as long as religion is specifically excluded from state sponsorship and is optional then Americans will be free to indulge to their hearts’ content.

That’s interesting.  So you think France’s turning away from religion was largely a reaction to the Church’s (perceived) oppression?  And so, if I understand you correctly, in the USA where no religion is imposed on anyone or used by the government to control the masses, Americans will not have a reason to rebel against religion - as they do not perceived it as being an oppressive regime. 

Hm.  So, are you saying that France’s abandonment of religion is really a reaction against religion, rather than a triumph of reason vs faith?  Does that mean that the French have largely turned away from God because they are mad at the church?  Does that mean that it isn’t reason that defeated faith?  Are the French faithless simply because they were brought up in a secular atmosphere?

I have never been to Western Europe, so I don’t know what it’s like.  I hear that the Western Europeans have largely turned away from their traditional religion and that the churches are empty.  But I also hear that Catholicism is a big part of the culture.  How is the Western European psyche different from the American one?  Both cultures appear to have deep roots within Christianity.  Why are they so different then?

Please know that none of the above were meant as challenges to what you said, but are honest questions.  Please ellucidate grin

Thanks,

Rami

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Posted: 04 October 2008 05:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Forgive me for giving the impression that my answer was authoritative, the intent was to offer another reason for greater secularization of Western Europe, yet the reasons must be more complex than what I offered.  The explanation for the abandoned churches was news to me and put another piece of the puzzle together.  I’m sure that reason is a part of the equation, especially since it’s homegrown enlightenment and not imposed by outsiders.  Perhaps Europeans in tossing off the religious yoke have found that the religious threats of certain decline and anarchy have failed to materialize, begging the question, “What use is religion?”

As for religion in America, I offer that the old religious tactics for believing (all morality is based on it, without religion anarchy would prevail, prevent encroachment of foreigners and their strange ways, defend our way of life, it’s the way we’ve always done it and if it works for me then it must work for everyone, the thinking is done for you, don’t step out of line if you know what’s good for you, peer pressure, etc.) are still effective since religion hasn’t taken a role in the power structure, and, as power structures are wont to fail from time to time, religion hasn’t been caught up in the failure.  Also, since religion is not state sponsored and protected then it falls in with a capitalist mindset of self-correction, meaning if a religion is wrong in some way or one doesn’t agree with it (pedophile priests, celibacy, too strict, too liberal, etc.) then one is free to search for a religion which is tailored more to one’s taste.  Thus, for the most part, Americans view religion as mandatory since there’s no excuse for not finding a church in the religious marketplace.

Note in posts by believers on this forum they don’t understand why an atheist would say no to all religion.  They would rather an atheist believe in any kind of higher being than nothing.  I don’t watch much TV and so I don’t see a reason to pay for it in the form of cable or satellite, and many friends wonder why I would cut myself off from its glories - some have even offered to pay for a year’s worth of cable just so I could see the light.

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