Reading With God

A friend just sent me a fascinating article about concepts of religion in the work of Hunter S. Thompson which appeared in a provocative, opinionated online journal about Catholicism, GodSpy: Faith at the Edge. Surfing this site, I also noticed an external link to a review of Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons. This article, which critiques Wolfe’s work in a spiritual context, appears in an online publication called The New Pantagruel (apparently a reference to a Rabelais classic), subtitled “Hymns in the Whorehouse”.

I have to feel pleased at the idea of unconventional new religious publications discussing authors like Thompson and Wolfe. Spirituality seems to be playing a bigger and bigger role in our current apocalyptic age, and the least we can hope for is a healthy, vibrant interchange between the world views of religious devotion and literary experimentation. Do you think these two world views can co-exist? And do they co-exist in your own thoughts? We’d like to know.

14 Responses

  1. Ecumenical MovementThe
    Ecumenical Movement

    The Ecumenical Movement generally exists within the varied denominations within the umbrella of Christendom. I think it is a good example to all religions because it seeks to find common ground and consensus instead of accentuating differences. I see the word “Religion” as referring to the institution itself, the rites and services and the physical houses of worship. I see spirituality as a very deeply personal and intimate thing. I see it as one’s relationship with a higher power (if one is so inclined to believe in one) and one’s soul, spirit and fleshly mortality. I think that someone who adheres to an orthodox religion whether a Hasidic Jew, a Southern Baptist or a Jesuit Catholic can be very spiritual, but also think that an agnostic, atheist or secular humanist can be spiritual as well. I certainly think that spirituality and literature can co-exist. two of my favorite novels are The Chosen and The Promise by Chaim Potok. He shows that despite deep rooted spiritual and cultural differences between factions they can still peacefully co-exist. I hope that religious tolerance will again flourish in the U.S.. Sorry if I offend anyone, but I think our current administration is anti-intellectual, anti-arts (including literature), wholly disregards civil liberties, is warmongering and most of all is religiously narrow-minded. I am sorry, but I think that someone like Pat Robertson poses just as much of a threat as an Islamic Jihadist. Let’s just hope that by 2008 we can move back into a climate of tolerance and peace.

  2. i believeThere is
    i believe

    There is something…
    I can’t explain it…

    in the energy which jumps back & forth between our brain synapses…

    There is a cycle:
    first, superstition.
    Then logic.
    But then I find that logic doesn’t explain everything, so I am back to the other thing which I no longer think of as superstition – maybe spirituality – but when I try to apply this spirituality, I do it as logically as I can…

    so it goes in circles really…

    I read that Hunter S. Thompson left a one-word note in his typewriter when he shot himself. The one word was “counselor.” This can have at least three meanings.

    Counselor is a term for an attorney, and we all know HST referred to his “attorney” in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.

    Also, there are drug counselors.

    And finally, there is a verse in the Bible, Isaiah 9:6, which says,

    “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

  3. On the SlateActually, my next
    On the Slate

    Actually, my next project is a new novel centered around the themes of Good vs. Evil, God vs. Satan and how humankind fits in. It will be in a ‘futuristic’ setting, though vastly unlike the conventional use of the word. The future will be from the past – the earth being transformed into a Garden of Eden and …. well, I’m giving too much of it away.

    Point being, I certainly believe these worlds can not only coexist, but even broach the mainstream. (Look at The Da Vinci Code and The Left Behind series for examples).

    We live in a world view where religious devotion can mean, unfortunately, the taking of innocent lives – we better find a way to start writing about it in order to encourage coexistence in general.

  4. I agree that Christian
    I agree that Christian fundamentalists who want to base all laws on the Bible, or their interpretation of Bible scripture, are just as bad as any other religious fanatics, whether they be Islamic or something else. The Christians like Pat Robertson would have our lawmakers enforce his congregation’s beliefs. It might start with outlawing abortion and then move against sexual orientation and then any literature in general that they didn’t agree with. Pretty soon it would be like a Nazi occupation.

  5. A Skeptic’s Eyes Wide
    A Skeptic’s Eyes Wide Open

    When I was ten or eleven, at the local Methodist church were what was called children’s sermons. One day the minister floated an old-style disposable razor blade on the surface of the water in a glass and explained that faith could keep things afloat or something like that which I can’t remember exactly, but I do remember my retort: “The surface tension of the water molecules keeps it floating! When the surface tension isn’t broken, water bugs can walk on the water and you can float needles.” “Needles are hollow,” was the pastor’s comeback. I knew that was a lie. Science was true. Science put heroes on the moon when I was seven.

    Hume might have called my reaction animal faith. I had these ideas before I’d ever heard of him. A year or so later after the razor blade lie, I was shocked to find out that the sun wouldn’t last forever and, then realized it was so far into the future that I wouldn’t be around so it wasn’t my problem.

    Godel made a formula which claims it can’t be proved in any system and if you could prove it to be true, then your system would be false. So Bertrand Russell’s
    legendary grade school tizzy, when he became upset because his teacher couldn’t give him proofs for his times tables, was justified because even the foundations of arithmetic may be mystical as Pythagoras claimed.

    I’m a pragmatist and I believe in ideas that work and use experience as my metaphysics and can live without fundamental foundations and mysticism. I just don’t believe there’s a reason for everything, as many are proud to claim because the opposite is true. The trite reasons given for everything have no fundamental foundation.

    As for literature, anything that works is good; but don’t spoon feed me your worldviews nor disguise your propaganda as prose.

  6. Yeah. Someone I know at work
    Yeah. Someone I know at work said New Orleans was “punished” for their “lifestyle” (whatever that means). I expressed my disagreement and asked this person to explain why other areas in the country were “getting away with it” just because they weren’t built in a bowl-shaped dip of land right beside the ocean. They have decided to shun me, no doubt secure in their knowledge that one day the sun will super-nova and burn me up for being snide.

  7. Speaking ofI just read what
    Speaking of

    I just read what may be Hunter’s final written words on

    “No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax — This won’t hurt.”

  8. Thanks for posting that. I
    Thanks for posting that. I had not seen it yet and I’m always eager to read anything by or about HST.

  9. For the recordI believe
    For the record

    I believe Pantagrueling is defined by Rabelais in the prologue as the act of drinking alcohol and reading, which he recommends if you are reading his work. I think Thompson would have appreciated this act, especially coming out of the early 16th century.

  10. When did religion, often
    When did religion, often aligned with a concept known as faith, and literature become mutually exclusive endeavors? A simple review of the works of William James or Rollo May, if not (gulp) the epistles of Saint Paul himself, should be enough to dispel the notion that cogent literary achievements are not strictly the domain of lost prodigal sons. Just as religious “narrow mindedness” is not a condition that only besets the “religious right.” Extremist thought ought be fought where ever it is an obstacle to group and individual self-respect and tolerance for all belief systems.

    Furthermore, even though there have been moments when I have understood and fully appreciated the practice of their being fed to the lions, I have yet to hear of any contemporary fundamentalist, civilian Christians, hijacking commercial airlines for use as missiles of mass destruction or being responsible for the ruthless slaughter of innocent human beings.

    “How long must I suffer oh Lord, how long? And where will it end?”

  11. Diagnostage, I personally
    Diagnostage, I personally with you. Of course, going way back in time, literature and religion were born together, and they grew up together too. Still, in our own time, I’m not used to seeing religious publications discussing writers like Hunter S. Thompson. Maybe I just haven’t been looking in the right places. I’m certainly not saying this represents something new under the sun — but if it does represent any type of new trend, it’s a new trend I like.

  12. literary experimentation /
    literary experimentation / worldview

    It seems problematic at the least to invoke a dichotomy between belief and literary experimentation. It’s hard to see “experimentation” as a worldview. The writer may see human beings as degraded animals beyond redemption or as “beings of light,” (or in terms suitable to Hindu, Christian, Jewish, or ethical humanist orthodoxies) and still favor literary experimentation. Experimentation seems to be an approach (or a collection of approaches), not a worldview.

  13. Image JournalHere are more
    Image Journal

    Here are more links for the (rather large) nexus of faith and the arts:
    is explicitly about the arts
    is “a journal of mere Christianity” that describes itself as “eclectic.
    is the blog for Touchstone Magazine.
    is the Web site for the monthly First Things, which is focuses on religion and the public square and includes both book reviews and poetry.
    is Terry Teachout’s excellent column on the arts and frequently has a spiritual bent.

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