On Armstrong: Metaphorical Amnesia
In reference to Tibor Krausz’s review of The Case for God by Karen Armstrong, James from Washington State writes (he says, at 3 am):
The discussion of Ka
ren Armstrong’s book brings to my mind the thoughts of the New Testament Jesus scholar Dom Crossan.
He points out that the Age of Enlightenment gave us reason, science, and logic, but the human spirit often got a bit waylaid by the side of the dusty road.
It was in the Enlightenment when we began to decide that people in the remote past told stories that we were now illuminated enough to recognize as primitive and literal. What we failed to recognize was that the ancients told rich, sophisticated, metaphorical stories, and that we of the Enlightenment had become ignorant enough to take them literally.
Some of us hew to the sane, sensible, and steady path while others embrace a more lyrical existence. And these latter folks are definitely NOT like Peter Bell in Wordsworth’s poem who saw
“A primrose by a river’s brim
A yellow primrose was to him,
And it was nothing more.”
Do any believers believe their beliefs? Did the Greeks, as Paul Veyne once asked, Believe in Their Myths? His answer, like James’ letter, suggests that the answer requires us to spend more time thinking about what we mean now by believing than what they, whomever they were, supposedly believed. Another James, William James, would alternatively prod us this way: what does and did belief do to us and for us?