A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

In following the discussion with folks who participate in the God Not God debates I thought I'd post on angels and demons. But instead of debating whether they exist or not, I'd like to focus on what such belief says about the way we orientate ourselves to this world.

Angels as it plays out in our culture, are creatures which tell us that there is something in this universe which is personally responsive to us, which seeks our betterment, which may protect us from harm, that has concern for us. In a world filled with angels the cosmos is not indifferent but is for us.

Demons point to that in the world which seeks to frustrate us, blocks our goals, hampers us in the development of our possibilities. Whether personal or not it's experienced as a limit. That doesn't sound like Rosemary's baby but it is the language pentecostals frequently use.

What is of interest is the way in which some people appear to be overly fixated on one or the other. That is the world is taken to be filled with benevolent powers or the world is a place which is generally against us. Something false about the world seems to be said when either is the case.

If the world is conceived as only a place for benevolent forces, it's hard to make sense out of the evil and the tragedies that mark our world. If the emphasis is on demonic struggles, good things in life are largely ignored. The world instead presents us with both as realities which ought to be taken account of.

To do so does not require belief in angels and demons as existent creatures. It only suggests a particular attitude we can take to the world we live in. Angels and demons are ways of speaking and taking up such an attitude but other language can and does point to the same issue.

2 Comments:

At 11:16 AM , Anonymous I Am said...

I agree with your basic point about the inherent problems of living life with too much optimism or pessimism. The world is full of both great good and great evil, however you may define those terms. However, I think the existence of angels and/or demons is a critical question. If they are simply taken as symbols, they can do no more harm than any other mere metaphors. However, if they are taken to be actual beings, the antrhopomorphization of good and evil, and the imbuing thereof with will and consciousness turns optimism into blithe helplessness and pessimism into infernal paranoia. Bias, in either case, becomes debilitating mental illness as a result.

 
At 11:38 AM , Blogger Dwight said...

I'd agree to an extent. I don't think believing in angels and demons as beings is enough to do that, but it does appear to be the road for a good many folks. Some use other terms like fate but the result is the same.

It may be that treating angels, etc. as metaphors at least gets us to the place of opening up questions such as what features of experience are they highlighting?

Some might take a metaphor or a myth to mean falsehood in which case we never get to the questions either because they are simply dismissed. It's the problem of how to take myths seriously even if not literally, thus the next God or Not discussion...

 

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