I don’t know about any of you, but writing about religion or books concerning religion always makes me feel a bit hesitant and nervous. The main reason being that I don’t want to hurt anybody, nor do I want to get into endless debates on what religion is & isn’t and what it is or isn’t supposed to do. I’m always scared that people will take my views on religion (and the related topics of culture and politics) the wrong way.
I tend to embed religion in its context, because I believe the time, place and other interactions in the milieu religious people live in (culture, politics, etc) influence religious attitudes. Fundamentalist (by which I do not mean terrorist, but people who take scriptures literally) always make me feel a bit uncomfortable. Maybe that’s because I was raised by parents who were both brought up in a strict catholic family and ‘escaped’ these surroundings during the 60/70′s, they subsequently raised me with an atheist/agnostic outlook on life. Or maybe it has to do with my education: both my religious classes in high school and my university classes have focused on a post-modern and/or anthropologist approach. This might lead to views that could be offensive to some people who are highly religious and I’m just never sure how to deal with that. I get that to some people I might be touching their most important convictions and I wouldn’t like to be told that “it’s all relative” either. Actually, I have a deep respect for people who are religious and are able to feel thus supported by their beliefs. Also, I know that not all religious people are offended by contextual thinking and many share views on religion being defined by historical and cultural context.
It’s just.. You see how many things you might need to say to make sure you’re not offending anyone? To explain what your perspective is and why? This is what scares me about writing about religion. I think it might be an even more “controversial” subject than politics. A group of freemasons gathers in a building across the street from my parents, and they once told my father that there are two subjects they never discuss, religion and politics, because it can only lead to arguments and hurt. It is sentence that I’ve memorised well and it pops into my head every time I am about to publish something about a book on religion.
Yet, books about religion seem to gather a lot of attention (only look at the debates surrounding Philip Pullman’s new book) so I’m guessing there’s a world of people out there who does like to read and write about (and discuss?) religion. Some recent talks with Nymeth and Violet on twitter led to Violet’s interesting point that even (or dare I say, exactly those) self-proclaimed atheist enjoy reading about religion. Somehow, this cannot but cheer me. I’ve a bachelor in history and an (almost) bachelor in religious studies and yes, us students hear a lot about how religion is not dead, but there isn’t a lot of interaction about it outside of the classroom. Book blogging had made me realise that there are a lot of people who might not consider themselves religious, but still like to read and learn about the subject. And I have to admit that I really enjoy reading everyone’s reviews and thoughts on books about religion.
Still, that little sentence that any discussion on religion or politics might inevitably lead to arguments and hurt seems to be stuck in my mind forever. This does not mean that I will not write about it, it’s an inevitable subject to me anyway, since I’m currently doing a master on religious studies from a historical perspective.
Not so much as an afterthought, but as something I’ve been thinking about ever since I started blogging, I am joining the World Religion Challenge hosted by BiblioFreak . I´m taking the Unshepherded Path (Also Known As: The Don’t Tell Me What to Do Path), which means you get to “read as many books as you would like about whatever religions you want.”. Why this path, as it might seem the easier? Well, I’ve just explained that I’m doing a 2-year master programme at a religious studies faculty (master is the equivalent of graduate school, I’ve been told) which means all the required reading I do is on religion. I’d like to keep the challenge-reading fun for myself and thus decided not to make myself read a book on every religion, but just read books on religion that look good to me at that time. I’d like to read at least 5 though, so that’s a goal I’m adding.