Packed Like Incoherencies In A Tin Box

So for all of you indignant readers of zoomtard, here is a useful chronology of what went wrong at FEMA and therefore, why the Katrina clean up was such a shambles. The Bush regime has got to take a final punishment beating one of these days. Clinton gets made lame over oral sex but knowing the state of US culture today, Bush will come out of this literal stagnant swamp smelling like roses.

However, for all of you who don’t live in Lousianna, consider Stigmund. He is the latest horse to be added to the stable of furiousthinkers. He is the best Irish blog with a green site. Yeah, you heard me Caoimhe. I don’t want to worry anyone but do you remember that movie, Single White Female? Stig might be Jennifer Jason Leigh to Caoimhe’s Bridget Fonda. But he would be a funny transvestite.

Remember yesterday I linked you to this interview with Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke by the Christian magazine Third Way? No? Oh well. I did. Yorke says some very interesting things and I want to arrogantly deconstruct them now to show that although I can’t sing and he is probably really aggressive in a fight, I am still taller than him:

I still cannot understand -- I wish I could -- why all the religious movements can’t sit down together and say, ‘OK, now this is what we have got in common: this, this, this and this. OK, there are some things we disagree on, but your figurehead and your figurehead and your figurehead are basically the same person, just at different points in human evolution. So, why don’t we agree that it’s the same person and we’ve got more in common than we have not in common? And now let’s stop fighting!’

This is a really common view expressed by Yorke. I am sure most people agree with him. I think the reason most people agree is out of a sense that there is too much arrogance in the mainline religions’ claim that they have absolute truth. We are suspicious of such huge claims. We know what they lead to- marginalisation, moralism, greed for power and many other bad bad things. So I would harbour an educated guess that Yorke is motivated in his comments by a desire to be tolerant. This view, which is called religious pluralism, runs into some philosophical difficulties however. What begins as an attempt to be tolerant ends up being the exact opposite- it is in fact the most intolerant position of all. How can I say such a thing? Let me explain.

If you gather a Muslim, a Christian and a Buddhist in a room and don’t have a punchline at the end of it you should be ashamed of yourself. No, seriously, if you gather a Muslim, a Christian and a Buddhist in a room, one simple monotheist, one complex monotheist and a functional atheist, you would have some explaining to do to get them to agree that they all believe the same thing. What are you really saying is “I have perceived a truth that you have overlooked, which is your views are not incongruent as you each felt but actually perfectly complimentary”. It is an arrogant thing to tell someone what they actually, really believe.

But then again, if you were right about what they believed, that would be permissable, if done gently. But a Muslim’s belief is founded not on a moral code, but on a proposition about God- that he is One and soverign. The moral code is a consequence of this. A Christian believes that God is One and soverign but in a way that is almost reprehensible to an Islamic theology. Christians certainly can’t forego the Christ-divinity which is the heart of their belief and from which their moral code springs without losing the Christian part of their belief. A Muslim and a Christian won’t agree that they believe the same thing “behind it all”. Their argument is watertight. The fact is, they aren’t being stubborn or narrow minded, they just don’t believe the same thing. The Buddhist comes and tells them to forget their conceptions of God entirely. Surely there’ll be no reconciliation by adding that third man.

So what Thom Yorke is actually saying is that he knows much better than everyone in Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, even better than Buddha, Mohammed and Jesus, who were clear that they felt they had revealed the one true path. This view is often expressed by the metaphor of ultimate reality being like the peak of a mountain and the different religions being different paths leading up that mountain, taking different routes but heading in the same direction. Thom Yorke then, must be in a celestial helicopter, hovering above even the peak of ultimate reality to discern what the Muslims, Christians and Buddhists failed to discern- that they were all in fact one.

And this is where the intolerance of pluralism comes to the fore. I am a Christian. I believe Jesus was God and all that jazz from the Bible. I have reasons for my beliefs but I can’t claim from my faith an influence over the Buddhist and the Muslim. By stating Jesus is Lord, I in no way impinge on the Muslim who says Jesus was a prophet and the Buddhist who says Jesus might not have existed. We disagree, fundamentally, but we should be tolerant of each other’s beliefs. We would be warping our doctrine if we were to be intolerant. I can be a Christian and leave other faiths to their own devices. But the pluralist position sets itself up in a position of power from the get go. If we were to have a pluralist society who adopted the views Yorke espouses out of a sense of tolerance, it would be deeply intolerant to all faiths because it stops them from being themselves. It doesn’t just discriminate against one belief but against all of them. Any of their distinctives are wiped out. The Christian is told that his belief system is not about Jesus being God but about being nice to people. The Muslim is told that his belief system is not about worshiping and serving the One True God but about being nice to people. Of course, there would be positive side-effects. The Scientologist is told that his belief system is not about thetan levels in the blood but about being nice to people, which is surely an improvement.

So in search of tolerance and an environment where everyone can express their belief freely, Yorke would unintentionally create an intolerant soceity where no one could express their belief sincerely. Weird, eh? The freedom to disagree is neccessary for tolerance.

Your Correspondent, borrowing a few things without asking. Your clothes. Your boyfriend. Your life.

4 Responses to “Packed Like Incoherencies In A Tin Box”

  1. Adrian Mee says:

    I love you, Zoomy. But you’ve misinterpreted what Yorke said. He’s not saying ‘let’s amalgamate all monotheistic religions into one’. He’s just saying Christians, Muslims and Jews are worshipping the same God, share many beliefs and ever a fair few sacred texts. If this is the case, then why can’t we look past our differences and stop all the fighting and the killing and the foom?

  2. […] In my last entry I wrote about Thom Yorke’s well-intentioned religious pluralism that leads to absolutism. Because there are only a handful of you out there and I am talking into the grand exapanse of cyberspacial indifference I thought I would continue that theme and hopefully nail it. […]

  3. zoomtard says:

    He isn’t saying that at all Adrian. He is actually claiming that all belief systems, the monotheistic ones, the pantheistic ones, the atheistic ones and the batshit crazy ones are all going in the same direction.

    Even if you were right, it is still intensely patronising and most importantly, intolerant. Its also plainly wrong.

    Might be shit on philosophy and politics but I do think he’s great at music.

  4. […] I spend a lot of time thinking about whether it is arrogant or unreasonable or unbelievable of Jesus to claim that he is the one and only way to approach God. I write about it alot on Zoomtard too. But I think I have an answer that might have some real depth in it. I therefore am almost sure that when I go to seminary I will discover that someone else thought of this first. Back in the 800s, John Damascene came up with a term to describe the Trinitarian nature of God called perichoresis. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? It is the Greek word for dance (peri meaning round and choresis meaning dance) and it describes what the three persons in the One God do all the time. Well, maybe not in a céilí dance sense like you are no doubt imagining but rather, as Barth puts it the dance: asserts that the divine modes of existence condition and permeate one another mutually with such perfection, that one is as invariably in the other two as the other two are in the one. […]