Mr. Tripp sent me an email today with a meme from James McGrath’s blog. I thought it was a pretty interesting question, namely, by what three religions (other than your own) are you most fascinated. In what follows, I try to answer as honestly as possible.
With that in mind, I’m mostly interested in the metaphysical and philosophical premises that often lie behind or within various religious traditions. So it is with that qualifier that I can answer the question what are the three most interesting religions.
1. Okay, I know this one sounds like I’m trying to sound all Emo and hip, but Zoroastrianism is a truly fascinating religion, and one that I believe Christianity to be intrinsically dependent on (I believe it’s possible to give a Zoroastrian read to the New Testament). Cosmologically speaking, it presupposes two main gods, one malicious the other benign. The first, Angra Mainyu, is represented by chaos and ignorance; the second, Ahura Mazda, by order and wisdom. The material world is more or less the stage for the cosmic battleground between the two. What is most enlivening about this religion, however, is that it stood as a harsh critique to early Brahmanistic thought, denying against early forms of Brahmanism that death, disease, and decay were a part of the natural order of the world. Zoroastrian thinkers believed these privations to be alien, part of Angra Mainyu’s assault on all things good and living; this critique and its rejection of evil in the natural order is, I believe, a quite hopeful one
2. Again, I’ll risk trying to avoid sounding like I want to sound cool to say that Buddhism has greatly interested and does still interest me. Philosophically speaking, I’ve read a great deal of a Kyoto thinker named Masao Abe, and, as I like to say, I believe that Abe in some ways “out Heideggers Heidegger.” What I mean is that Abe gives a good account of the deep Nothingness to which the philosophical aspects of Buddhism are dedicated. It’s a Nothing beyond all being and non-being; it is an ultimate nihilation that is truly empty of all identity, forming the metaphysical principle to which it seems to me all Buddhist monks aspire as they attempt to lose all forms of attachment. I suppose the reason I find this insight interesting is that it seems plausible, even if my own faith must ultimately deny the ultimacy of this deep Nothingness.
3. I suppose that the final religious standpoint I find fascinating is one that most persons don’t necessarily think of as such, that is, Platonism. It’s hard to call this a religion of its own anymore, especially seeing that it had been so copiously amalgamated into the Christian faith. But Eric Voeglin (here and here) has convinced me to no small degree that this way of thinking deserves to be called a religion unto itself. Platonism more or less presupposes and ultimate orderedness to the cosmos, the highest order of which (at least as Neo-platonists such as Plotinus and Prophry talk about) is a Good beyond being. This Good is ultimate unity, to the point that one cannot eve prescribe of this Good oneness or unity. This Good is an overflowing activity that emanates the cosmos and the rest of nature eternally, of which all social and political orders are themselves a part. Accordingly, Platonism is the attempt to achieve social order by means of establishing an analogical order to that of the cosmos. This fact is interesting to me because early secularizing movements in the West (with which I’m highly sympathetic) attempted to break apart just such analogies.
There it is folks, in all its glory.
I don’t really have anyone in particular to further meme (if I can use that as a verb) on this one, so if you feel like sharing on this matter yourself, feel free to post your own thoughts below or provide a link to your own site in the comments section. I’m also sure James McGrath would welcome your comments.