Monday, 19 January 2015


Steve Wiggins over at Sects and Violence in the Ancient World has posted some musings on the movie Divergent. Here's an excerpt.

"As I watched the movie I thought about religious groups that preach self-denial. Granted, I'm only one person, but growing up that was the message I continually heard loud and clear in the teachings of Jesus, according to the Gospels. Deny yourself so that others might have more. The deeper I became involved with the church, however, the rarer I found such behavior. By the time I reached college, I still hadn’t figured out that religion had become an industry, like any other. A service industry, to be sure, but it still had CEOs and treasurers and, increasingly, political power. The political seduction of religion already had a history by the time I became aware of it, but I still believed that self-denial was at the core of true religion... 
"Is there a place in the world for those who legitimately want everyone to share? I think that every time I find myself driving. Behind the wheel, selfish maneuvers that lead to little, if any, ultimate gain seem to be deeply embedded in those who want to get there first. Abnegation, it seems, is a danger on the road. Driving, it seems to me, is a real test of someone’s religious convictions." (Read the full post)
I'm not all that comfortable with terms like 'abnegation' (from the movie) and 'self denial' in that they imply a world-denying asceticism. But if we're talking empathy and selflessness, which are both relational terms, then I'm fully on board with these sentiments.

As for the comment about the "religion industry", gotta add an 'amen'.

1 comment:

  1. There is the Unitarian view that all possible paths in life lead back to God. People have sought spiritual enlightenment in numerous ways, including the polar opposite approaches of asceticism and the overindulgences of hedonism. Frankly, at this point, I don't believe in a one size fits all approach. I believe life is about stretching, thinking outside of one's comfortable "box", and attaining personal growth, hopefully being considerate and attentive towards the others who surround us on our journey.

    A spoiled rich person might learn great lessons from a period of asceticism, just as one who has lived in abject poverty would broaden horizons if given an opportunity with some of life's niceties. Unless reversed, poverty destroys the human spirit in many cases, as can great wealth and the undisciplined usage of it. Some people need greater structure, while others would experience a growth spurt given greater freedom.

    One of life's great conundrums is that people who want to learn need teachers; however, any teacher one could find has a set of limitations that will eventually act as an impediment. Teachers can also mislead. I am sure that there are others out there who really would like to learn more than what one's fellow man can teach one. Satisfying that natural hunger is the elusive part.