A couple of “Really? Is that actually true? Do you really know what you just asserted?” items from a review of three books on god, meaning, what to do without god, emotional needs, and the intersections between them all.
In the aftermath of the French Revolution…
The fundamental tension, however, remained unresolved: between, on the one hand, the views of an expanding educated class who saw the many holes in Christian doctrine, and on the other, the people’s need for guidance and meaning that the Church had long fulfilled.
It had? Really?
I don’t think so. I think Stephen Cave is reading backward, from the way people view religion now, and assuming that’s the way they viewed it then. But I don’t think the 18th century Catholic church in France did fulfill the people’s need for guidance and meaning, any more than a boss does that for the workers now. I think that idea is a very contemporary, cozy view of religion which makes sense at a time when religions have to work to appeal to people, but makes much less sense for a time when religion was pretty much mandatory. I think the 18th century Catholic church in France was a great deal more about telling the people what to do than it was about fulfilling their need for guidance and meaning. (Of course, you can translate “telling them what to do” into “fulfilling their need for guidance” but it’s a considerable cheat. It wasn’t “guidance,” it was orders. Much of it isn’t “guidance” even now.)
The inspiring stories of the world’s holy books are about troubled souls courageously choosing the rugged path of righteousness over wickedness and temptation.
They are? Really?
I don’t think so. A lot of the ones in the bible are about loyalty to the tribe and its god versus other tribes and their gods. True, there are also some stories about chaste, loyal-to-the-tribe young men resisting wickedness and temptation in the form of some whorey slutty woman trying to lure them into whorey slutty sex, but there’s more fighting and plotting and revenge among the men. Righteousness doesn’t really come into it most of the time.
It’s the pious orthodoxy of the moment: that religions have always been what some of them try to be now, and that they are fundamentally about meeting people’s needs as opposed to controlling them.