« Deuteronomy -- II | Main | "Raving Atheist" Not Enough of an Atheist? »

July 29, 2006

Author Needs Advice

It is hard, upon occasion, to figure out what works. To write is, of course, to struggle with such occasions: to rewrite, polish and, often enough, toss out. But it strikes me that this blog might make it possible to improve the process by inviting others to weigh in. So, herewith, my first attempt to seek advice on a potential passage in the book.

The subject is the effect of the advent of writing on disbelief. Obviously, writing did much to strengthen, harden and spread beliefs. But I'm arguing that writing's propensity for encouraging analysis (through its ability to record facts and make words objects of study) may also have made possible new ways of questioning beliefs.

My struggle has been trying to determine whether this passage from the oldest Indian religious text, the Rg Veda, qualifies as a (very early) example of the application of critical analysis to religion:

This world-creation, whence it has arisen,
Or whether it has been produced or has not,
He who surveys it in the highest heaven,
He only knows, or ev'n he does not know it.

I love the passage, but is this analysis or just wondering? Does it succeed in demonstrating my point?

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at July 29, 2006 9:40 PM


Both, it is analytical wondering.
I always am suspect of translations of words so close to poetry, but those english words show me critical thinking about belief. I would call this an agnostic questioning of belief in a creator and creation.

Posted by: Jay Saul at July 29, 2006 11:35 PM

Not to nitpick but, as Jay said, the quoted passage is certainly an example of agnosticism . . . but you were asking if this might be a "critical analysis of religion." It seems to me that questioning creation and questioning religion (the worship of a diety) are two different items.

In other words I'm not clear on which theatre you are operating in.

Posted by: whymrhymer at July 30, 2006 3:50 AM

One would assume there's a large body of commentary on this text among historians, religion and literary scholars... curious what your research has revealed from those who've studied it (esp in sanskrit) and who, unlike the majority of us, are conversant with its multi-layered contexts? It's cool for you to invite people to help you think about actual passages/problems in the writing, and i realize you're going for a generalist study here, not an academic one but... most of us could only speculate on such a question? is this what you want?

Posted by: JM at July 30, 2006 8:45 AM

How can you have creation without a creator?

Posted by: Jay Saul at July 30, 2006 4:37 PM

I have spent a good part of my day reading your back pages here. Lots of very interesting stuff (and free ringtones too!). And the links make it go on forever....

You could edit a book just from the blog, "Converstation Among The Godless".

Posted by: Jay Saul at July 31, 2006 6:36 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)