Sunday, May 22, 2011

Defining Ignorance

Brother Larry has assigned the three Marsh Associates summer reading. I have decided to tackle, "The Religious Case Against Belief," by James P. Carse, first. As of now, I am about forty pages in. Before the book even starts, though, it creates a schism, that as a future minister (Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise), I feel an involuntary reaction to rectify the problem. The schism rests on the divide between religion and belief. Carse posits that religious groups have diverged from their original purpose, which was to facilitate spiritual growth in the form of ignorance.

Now, as a student, ignorance is not a word I feel comfortable having thrown around so cavalierly. Carse, however, defines ignorance in three ways: ordinary ignorance, willful ignorance, and higher ignorance. Ordinary ignorance being unconscious of something because of ordinary circumstances, willful ignorance being the refusal to seek out information that could correct or reform a current idea, and higher ignorance being the continual search for a higher understanding with the foreknowledge that one will never know everything.

Carse explains that religion once promoted higher ignorance, but now fosters mostly willful ignorance. It makes sense- what with last weekend's supposed end of the world, that Carse makes this claim. So, how, as a minister, a Methodist minister even, will I ever be able to fulfill both my obligation to the doctrine of the church as well as facilitate this higher ignorance. Are the two intrinsically opposed, or can the two be reunited under the current system? This is what I hope Carse will address in the coming chapters: how a large system can facilitate higher ignorance on a meaningful level for individuals.

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