Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Virtue of Reasonable Absurdities

I'm afraid Umberto Eco is right about this:

Human beings are religious animals. It is psychologically very hard to go through life without the justification, and the hope, provided by religion.

It doesn't mean you should rush into the nearest church and throw yourself on the altar. It does mean that if you choose to live a secular lift, and especially if you want to be proud that you have cast out all that old baggage of religion, be aware that you've left a rear window open in your head. And be alert to what the winds might waft in through it.

The "death of God", or at least the dying of the Christian God, has been accompanied by the birth of a plethora of new idols. They have multiplied like bacteria on the corpse of the Christian Church -- from strange pagan cults and sects to the silly, sub-Christian superstitions of The Da Vinci Code.

"Himmler and many of Hitler's henchmen," he reminds us, "were devotees of the most infantile occult fantasies," although that is not his point.

I was raised as a Catholic, and although I have abandoned the Church, this December, as usual, I will be putting together a Christmas crib for my grandson. We'll construct it together - as my father did with me when I was a boy. I have profound respect for the Christian traditions - which, as rituals for coping with death, still make more sense than their purely commercial alternatives.

I think I agree with Joyce's lapsed Catholic hero in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: "What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?"