A reading from "Truth in Religion" by Adler

J. S. Dubreuil
J. S. Dubreuil
Total Posts:  11
Joined  09-06-2005
09 June 2005 19:20

The following is a passage from “Truth in Religion???, by Mortimer J. Adler. I would enjoy hearing some thoughts about the content of the passage, as well as arguments for or against what Adler is labeling, “monoistic materialism??? as being dogmatic. There are some questions I would like the reader to keep in mind when reading this passage.

1. Is Adler’s assessment of Campbell’s view unfair? If so why?
2. If Adler is correct in his assessment then what errors has Campbell made in his critic of religions as being “misunderstood myths????
3. What implication does this have on Secularist views about religions as a whole, or the notion that religions are untrue myths that have kept mankind in the Dark ages?

The following can be found in chapter three “The Study of Religion and Mythology??? pg. 58-60.

“ Professor Joseph Campbell, however, goes much further (when defining the mythology and religion) in his book The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, subtitled Metaphor as Myth and as Religion.
Campbell identified religions with mythologies that are incorrectly believed to be true. The faithful members of any one religious community, subscribing to its own orthodoxy, dismiss other religions as having no truth because they are regarded by them as other peoples’ mythologies. In Campbell’s view, they are correct in that view of other people’s religion, as compared with their own. Since in his term all religions are “misunderstood mythologies,??? they are incorrect in the view that they hold of their own religion, which they misunderstand in exactly the same way. Those whose belief in myths consists in regarding their superstitions, not their religious faith.

{I should note that Adler sees Campbell’s attack on religions as being “misunderstood mythologies??? is akin to Plato’s real reason for throwing the poets out of the Republic.}

The misunderstanding, according to Campbell, consists in “the interpretation of mythic metaphors as reference to hard fact: the Virgin Birth, for example, as a biological anomaly, or the Promised Land as a portion of the Near East to be claimed and settled by a people chosen of God, the term ‘God’ here to be understood as denoting an actual, though invisible, masculine personality, who created the universe and is now resident in an invisible, though actual, heaven to which the ‘justified’ will go when they die, there to be joined at the end of time by their resurrected bodies,??? to which Campbell adds the question: “What, in the name of Reason or Truth, is a modern mind to make of such evident nonsense????

(You can find this passage in Campbell’s book on pg. 55; see also 21, 28, 43, 57, 59-61, 99-100, 111-112, 115. These passages contain other statements to the same effect; namely that no modern mind, instructed by the natural sciences, and especially by the social sciences, could possibly give any credence to the religious beliefs of Orthodox Jews or to the articles of Christian faith summarized by the Nicene Creed.)

“Campbell’s reference to God as masculine, to the resurrection of the body as if that resurrection were physical not spiritual, to heaven as an actual though invisible place, and so on, reveals his lack of understanding of Jewish and Christian theology. In all three of the great religions of Western origin, God is conceived as a purely spiritual being. Not having a body, God cannot have gender. The conception of God as a person is not anthropomorphic. Angels are also conceived as persons, and man as having the lowest degree of personality; yet Campbell uses the word “personal??? as if it had anthropomorphic connotations.

As for heaven, Campbell obviously is not cognizant of Augustine’s interpretation of the opening words of Genesis: “In Augustine, the word “heaven??? in this statement does not mean a physical place of any kind whatsoever, but the realm of purely spiritual creatures as opposed to "earth," the domain of corporeal or material things. Heaven is an invisible realm, not a place, in which God and the angels have their existence.

Professor Campbell was undoubtedly a very good social scientist in the field of cultural anthropology. But his competence in dealing with philosophical matters, especially in the field of philosophical theology, is highly questionable. His judgment is this area reflects the dogmatic materialism that is so prevalent in contemporary science, especially in the behavioral science. Monoistic materialism is dogmatic precisely because it is as unprovable as any article of religious faith.???

Total Posts:  379
Joined  05-06-2005
13 June 2005 06:08

If Campbell erred it was only in failing to acknowledge that while the majority of christian belief does fit his description, there are a few who don’t subscribe to the concept of a physical heaven or a masculine god.