Advertisement

The Narratives of Religion

  • William Grassie

Abstract

Even as the natural sciences challenge the literal plausibility of ancient religious cosmologies and the accounts of miracles in these narratives, so too the historical sciences challenge the literal plausibility of sacred scriptures as actual historical record. We need to begin by reexamining and rethinking the interpretation of these sacred stories from the bottom up. Believers believe that their stories are true, for instance, that Moses was a real person who led the Hebrews out of slavery and received the Torah directly from God on Mount Sinai or that there really was a Prince Siddhartha Gautama who searched for and found enlightenment in the sixth century b.c.e. Moreover, they believe that contained in these ancient stories is information vital to contemporary humans. In fact, the historical evidence for either of these stories from the ancient past is quite sparse and filtered largely through centuries of oral history, mythological elaborations, and sectarian biases before they were even recorded in written form by religious partisans.

Keywords

Sacred Text Catholic Social Teaching Religious Fundamentalism Social Imagination Dialectical Materialism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 3.
    Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  2. Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, trans. Kathleen and David Pellauer McLauglin, 3 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984, 1985, 1986).Google Scholar
  3. Christian Smith, Moral, Believing Animals: Human Personhood and Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Jerome Bruner, “The Narrative Creation of Self,” in The Handbook of Narrative Psychotherapy: Practice, Theory, and Research, ed. Lynne E. and McLeod Angus, John (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002).Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971).Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Paul C. Vitz, “The Uses of Stories in Moral Development: New Psychological Reasons for an Old Education Method,” American Psychologist 45 (1990).Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Paul Ricoeur, “Hermeneutics and the Critique of Ideology,” in Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences, ed. John P. Thompson (New York: Cambridge University Press, [1973] 1981).Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme, The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era (San Francisco: Harper, 1992).Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Eric Hobsbawn, On History (New York: The New Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    Elsewhere I have argued that interpretation is central to the natural sciences as well. See William J. Grassie, “Reinventing Nature: Science Narratives as Myths for an Endangered Planet,” Ph.D. diss., Temple University, 1994;Google Scholar
  11. Grassie, “Hermeneutics in Science and Religion,” in The Encyclopedia of Religion and Science, ed. Wentzel Van Huysstenn (New York: Macmillan, 2003).Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    Hans Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans. J. Weinsheimer and D.G. Marshall (New York: Crossroad, 1989).Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    Jurgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, vol. 1, Reason and the Rationalization of Society, trans. T. McCarthy (Boston, MA: Beacon, 1984);Google Scholar
  14. Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, vol. 2, Lifeworld and System, trans. T. McCarthy (Boston, MA: Beacon, 1987).Google Scholar
  15. 17.
    Paul Ricoeur, Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1976).Google Scholar
  16. 18.
    Abdolkarim Soroush, Reason, Freedom, and Democracy in Islam, trans. Mahmoud Sadri and Ahmad Sadri (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  17. 19.
    Ralph W. Hood, Peter C. Hill, and William Paul Williamson, The Psychology of Religious Fundamentalism (New York: Guilford Press, 2005).Google Scholar
  18. 20.
    Paul Ricoeur, Lectures on Ideology and Utopia (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  19. 22.
    See Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days, 16 vols. (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1995–2007). As of 2007, some 42 million copies of the books had been sold. The series inspired a movie version, a video game, and many other products. For more information, go to www.leftbehind.com.Google Scholar
  20. 23.
    Alasdair MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy, and Tradition (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990). 81.Google Scholar
  21. 24.
    Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, Salvation (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, [1971] 1973).Google Scholar
  22. 25.
    G. W. F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, [1807] 1977).Google Scholar
  23. 26.
    Sandra Harding, The Science Question in Feminism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  24. 27.
    Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978).Google Scholar
  25. White’s four plots may not be enough. See, for instance, Christopher Booker, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories (New York: Continuum, 2004).Google Scholar
  26. 28.
    Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (New York: Cambribge University Press, 1989).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 29.
    For an extended discussion of Niebuhr’s understanding of sin, see chapters 7, 8, and 9 in volume 1 of Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, [1941] 1996).Google Scholar
  28. 30.
    Jeffrey Stout, Democracy and Tradition (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), 287–88.Google Scholar
  29. 31.
    Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, [1932] 1960).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© William Grassie 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Grassie

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations