On Needing Substantial Philosophy and Theology

Shallow philosophy and theology turn me off. I like things to be substantial, sophisticated, something I can sink my teeth into.

The response here might be that no matter how substantial a perspective is, it may still be incorrect. And of course, I likely hold my fair share of shallow perspectives on issues, so there’s that. (Honesty!)

However, my response, in turn, would be that the more substantial (and reasonable) a perspective is, the more likely it is to be correct.

I borrowed a book by Karen Armstrong from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship’s library: The Case for God. A few pages into the introduction, I found that Ms. Armstrong and I already share a number of overlapping perspectives. She really makes a strong case that explains the context of modern fundamentalism and the New Atheists- something I can appreciate as context is often ignored in this era.

Of course, ignoring context can often be the problem in any era, so there’s that, too.

Anyway. Shifting gears.

Today’s talk at the UU was about the possibility of reincarnation. Only so much information can be packed into a single talk, and reincarnation is something that’s of interest to me and my husband alike, but one thing that invariably comes up with reincarnation is the idea of karma, the law of cause and effect.

The trouble is that karma almost invariably becomes a watered-down notion that accounts for the good and evil of this world- that people who live terrible lives in this lifetime did something bad in a past life, and people who don’t suffer and have great lives did something good in a past life.

The problem is this can cause people to completely eschew responsibility for making a better world for others or turn a blind eye to suffering- “You are suffering for your evil; you deserve to be poor/homeless/in terrible illness/have heartbreak.”

Of course, the truth is that karma isn’t so simplistic as that.

And the truth is I recently heard a talk by Professor Christine Hayes of Yale University on the Book of Job, which in turn translated to a mind-blowing revelation of about the Jewish worldview and what the Book of Job actually states and means. Professor Hayes offers us a substantial view of the Book of Job and what the Tanakh as a whole means- something not afforded to me in my childhood learning.

So we’ll go there for next blog, hopefully.

Speaking of “shallow,” my blogs haven’t been terribly in-depth, but that’s because I don’t want to overwhelm anyone in terms of length. Blogs that are too long will turn people off the way shallow theology and philosophy turn me off.

So keep reading so I can keep writing.

Steve

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