Friday, April 30, 2010

My Last Word On The Habermas Business

I think one reason - beyond the obvious defects - this blog just doesn't generate comment threads that stretch on forever is I am not in the business of continuing arguments. I realize others find it annoying, even (gasp!) somehow against the spirit of the internet. After all, isn't shouting at one another with our keyboards what the internet is all about? Why else is there a CAPS LOCK key?

As far as the recent business related to a Stanley Fish article reporting on a symposium including Jurgen Habermas and respondents on the place of religion in society, I really have only a couple things to say, then I really am quite finished, unless someone wants to send me the book in question so I can read what Habermas and his critics are actually saying, rather than read about it second-hand.

First of all, I see no reason why I, or any other person, or Church for that matter, should look at Habermas' attitude with anything other than disdain. Please note, the entire "proposal" consists of Habermas, occupying no role other than a semi-public intellectual from another country, grudgingly accepting that (a) religious life is an on-going reality; and, therefore, (b) it might be a part of our public conversation, as long is it dresses well and doesn't say a whole lot.

I guess, after a bit more thought, my own response would be, "Uh, Jurgen, who died and appointed you public discourse monitor?" Last time I checked, no individual, group, community, what-have-you has to pass a litmus test to be a part of the never-ending discussion, debate, and power game concerning how to be a good society. Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples - these are part and parcel of our lives, the lives of our fellow citizens. Whether Jurgen Habermas accepts that or not, or understands it or not, these folks have a seat at the table just because. Indeed, Habermas pose of intellectual (and, always lurking behind that, moral) superiority should be greeted with a heart chuckle at best. As soon as he can explain - without reference to denigration - why it is there are millions, perhaps billions, of human beings who actually believe in a set of religious doctrines as a real, living guide to their life, and that as parts of religious communities they are vitally concerned with the larger public good, I think he should have a Coke, a smile, and shut up. It's really that simple.

The idea that a European intellectual actually would deign to grudgingly admit that religious folks have a place at the table might sound all wonderful. Why, however, would any self-respecting member of any religious community want to be apart of a larger discussion of which Jurgen Habermas is a member, let alone leader, considering his attitude?

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