Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Theology Type One

Consider two theologies. In the first, you are warned that you are mortal, but within the confines of mortality you have almost no divinely mandated limitations or boundaries. In the second, you are directed to deny your mortality, but while you are alive your conduct is strictly circumscribed and restrained. The former, even if it is symbolized by unreal gods who represent the many manifestations of life in this world, is a realistic perspective. Man does not strive to be something he is not and cannot be, either during life or after, and therefore does not try to alter or limit himself. The second, which is perhaps symbolized by a god who many even today acknowledge as real, is idealistic. Man strives to become immortal and in the meantime attempts to transmute himself into something alien while alive. It is a religion that requires a system of spurious epistemology, because its goals are unrealizable. If we are bound and determined to deny our mortality, falsehood becomes a necessity. It takes over our process of thought and shapes our idea of mankind, in this world as well as the next.

A third theology starts with the second but abandons the symbolic god and the belief in immortality. It does not, however, give up the idealized vision of mankind in this world. Free of its symbol its priests assume divine power themselves.They see the human species as a fresh lump of clay, with no limit to its potential shape. They begin to mold monsters of all kinds and proudly call them the product of knowledge and enlightenment. If their creatures resist and try to resume a realistic shape, they squeeze, knead, and twist until the resistance subsides.

Today there is opposition and hostility between theology type two and theology type three and also between different versions of theology type two. The various disputes, however, are one of a kind, because they are invariably idealistic. That is to say, they rely on an idea, a mental image, of what man ought to be, and they regard what he is as something to be judged and overcome. We are as far away from a realistic discussion of ourselves as we are from Homer, where theology type one reigns supreme, and where people live and die within the full and unapologetic range of what it means to be human.

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