Simply put, Elaine Pagels has forgotten more about the events surrounding the founding of Christianity, including the spectacular multiplicity of sects that exploded in the deserts of the Middle East at the same time, than Ross Douthat will ever know, and to lump her work in with the popular fiction of The Da Vinci Code is to attempt to blame Galileo for Lost in Space. – What’s Wrong with the Ross Douthat Creed, by Charles Pierce
The boys love to argue with Ross. He provides a wide target, which is just one reason. Another is he’s impressed with his own fancy pants philosophies, no matter how unwittingly hilarious they are to ponder.
Pierce knows his religious patter, and I’ve read Elaine Pagels, have some of her books in my library, so this was a delicious hike into Why Do Men Like Ross Douthat Have Any Intellectual Clout At All?
That he writes for the New York Times is the short answer. The longer one for this discussion is more complicated and it centers on the fact that women aren’t seen as religious scholars, with men keeping women out of the holy hills and dales of man theology.
Unfortunately for Douthat, his religious hallucinations are showing him up. The final insult in thought comes from The New Republic:
ROSS DOUTHAT’S ANALYSIS of religion in America is more sophisticated than the analysis of, say, Rick Santorum–but not by much.
That’s the review opener.
More from Pierce’s brilliant Douthat evisceration:
[...] The Didache comes up because Douthat is opposed to abortion. Period.
Too much of the book is simply a culture-war text gussied up in a chasuble. Douthat is extremely bothered by people who claim to seek enlightenment from a “God Within,” and outside the framework of preferred ecclesiastical constructs. (In this, he risibly cites Deepak Chopra and Elizabeth Gilbert – and Oprah Winfrey! – as somehow being American religious figures.) Can you find spiritual enlightenment outside of a formalized religious structure and, having found it, can you still be a Catholic, or a Jew, or a Presbyterian? An interesting question that Douthat simply ignores. But he also gives a good leaving-alone to the born-again evangelical experience of a “personal Lord and Savior.” (Apparently, a God Within is fine, as long as He’s wearing a Douthat-endorsed logo.) As Winters points out, he’s drunk deeply of Michael Novak’s neoconservative Catholic capitalist malarkey, which is how Sister Gilbert, and Father Chopra, and Pope Oprah I get blamed for the irreligious consumerism of American society. (He also quotes David Brooks to back himself up, which is a dead giveaway.) This passage is a remarkable three-rail shot in which the conservative religious historian manages to blame his idea of “heretical” religious liberalism for all the sins of capitalism without ever mentioning any of the large American business concerns that spend billions turning a buck on those heresies…
The sentence I highlighted above is important, because if women want any spiritual empowerment that’s fueled to our frequencies we sure as hell aren’t going to find it in the halls of organized religion that men built.
The reason it was constructed, beyond concentrating wealth and power, was to keep the girls in our place, which was never next to men as equals, something that has always been organized religion’s dividing line on piety.
Yesterday I quoted an article that stated that the real war on women was in the Middle East. That’s only half true. The war on women blasted off with the last stake laid at Christ’s crucifixion, a barbaric act of torture, which we all know the Douthat set loves. It’s the moment the boys started crafting the tale that led to Douthat’s delirium.
The whole Jesus forgiving a whore chapter was simply meant as a warning, you see, because we all know your average man is no Jesus, so sinning women better watch out.
That means you, too, Oprah.
As for Elaine Pagels, she had the audacity to translate and contemporize the whole thing, the witch.