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Humanities and Religion (3)

The archenemy of religion is often portrayed to be Sciences. But the fact is that science and religion often can manage amicable relations, while the relationship between the Humanities to religion is truly stormy. Exploration.

Be Nietzsche and a Talmudist
Continuing on Thomas Mann’s quote (have you’ve missed the previous parts? Read “Religion and Humanities”, part 1 and 2) Does one has to be a “politician” to be religious? Do you need to close eyes in order to have faith?
It is of course challenging. How one could possibly study the Talmud and read Nietzsche’s Dawn of the Idols? How can one stretch its mind that much, embrace the two, and success to inherit from both worlds, without paralyzing himself intellectually? Is that what the Genesis call the fruit of the knowledge of Good and Bad? But still, open your ears, make you weak through your faith, attackable, vulnerable, and courageously defend it with your mouth and tong, but don’t become a turtle that dodges attacks by avoiding them.
And even if one could, another problem stands in our way : time. This is the rational argument given by some more religious open-minds against the study of Humanities : if one wants to live an intellectual life has not enough time in his life to be busy with both Jewish and others non-jewish authors and books, and has to make a choice, and if he is sincerely and devoutly Jewish could not choose other intellectual vocation than that of studying jewish sources and texts… For Judaism is so rich already. Judaism not only provides its own answers to many questions, but more significantly is a tradition, already a civilization, with its own conception of the intellectual pursuit, defined by so many questions that are its own, but also its history, tensions, characters and methods.

Truth is (maybe) Divine, but conviction is human
The Humanities and religion play in the same field. They fight for the same areas of human lives, they compete for human’s imagination, compete for the satisfaction of man’s curiosity regarding its individuals and collective origins and destiny, for man’s thirst for meaning. So much is not true for sciences which exposes the physical workings and mechanism of the words, but has to pretention upon meaning. Some might be willing conclude about some meaning of meaninglessness of the worlds as derived from scientific discovery, but hopefully, the two realms might stay hermetically closed off to each other.
But for Humanities and Religion, one mut only gain and not loose by connecting them together. Humanities and Religion are the two roots that provide the sap to meaning in life. Surely, their answer clashes, but their methods, as I said before, do not. Nw reading methods of literature can illuminates the reading of the Bible. Some might find find some parallel between the story of Babel and totalitarianism. The Bible sometimes gives challenges to some philosophical problems (see how the myth of Caïn and Abel has been fruitful in contemporary continental philosophy, for example with René Girard).

The only imperative for both religion and and humanities is to never close you off : if it means something to you, then you need to take it into account. Humanities and Religion are here to make you resist the despairing sirens of the sciences when it invades the fields of meaning and sense, and attempts to make you think that language is meaningless, that life is purposeless.



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Anaël is a PhD student in Philosophy of Religion in Paris. She lived the past years in Jerusalem. She writes about literature, religion, philosophy.