“Hot Air Gods”
Last week I posted on using NPR’s “This I Believe” series in the classroom. No sooner had I finished reading Eugene McCarrraher’s “Bah Humbug” response to my post than I picked up the December issue of Harper’s Magazine and read Curtis White’s essay “Hot Air Gods.” This paragraph leapt out:
“What we require of belief is not that it make sense but that it be sincere. This is so even for our more secular convictions. Recently, for example, National Public Radio revived Edward R. Murrow’s “This I Believe” program, thus driving the idea of belief to its trite extreme . . . Clearly, this is not the spirituality of a centralized orthodoxy. It is a sort of workshop spirituality that you can get with a cereal-box top and five dollars.”
Apart from the fact that White throws in with McCarraher in dismissing NPR, the essay is otherwise excellent. Here is some more:
“Once reduced to the status of a commodity, our anything-goes, do-it-yourself spirituality cannot have very much to say about the more directly nihilistic convictions that we should all be free to do whatever we like as well, each of us pursuing our right to our isolated happinesses. . . . Our pluralism of belief says both to ourselves and to others, ‘Keep your distance’ . . . And yet isn’t this all strangely familiar? Aren’t these the false gods that Isaiah and Jeremiah confronted, the cults of the ‘hot air gods? . . . And that is the problem that we ought to have at heart: our richness of belief masks a culture that is grotesquely unjust.”
Unfortunately, the article is only available online to subscribers, but it is worth reading.