Re: Religion and the Sixties

Karl Slinkard (kslinkar@LIBRARY.BERKELEY.EDU)
Tue, 10 Nov 1998 10:05:38 -0800

Mr. Manning:

I agree with your premise that for many of us, the sixties were a
period of spiritual awakening, especially the notion that "Eastern"
religious and spiritual teachings had something to offer our
(typically) rather narrowly focused Eurocentric Judeo-Christian world
view. I would question, however your assertion that "'The Sixties'
"...encompassed one of the most eventful awakenings of humans, perhaps
'the' most eventful, since the days of the Paris Commune in 1848'...."
Of course, it depends on your perspective, but in the U.S., the Civil
War changed an awful lot, then there was WWI, which in Europe wiped out
most of a generation of young men and profoundly altered not only
European culture, but the culture and status of colonialized people
and incidentally, ushered in Communism as an effective force on the
world scene for the first time. I think to a large extent, the
sixties were a relatively minor reaction downstream from WWII and
Korea and the economic surge they gave the US allowing those of our
generation the luxury of experimenting with new lifestyles.
(Remember, the Vietnamese Liberation Movement predated WWII, but got
an enormous boost from the Second World War. We really didn't get
involved until the end of WWII). It was our time, and it had a
profound impact on us, but I would not overrate it historically, as I
believe you have.

Secondly, I think your diatribe (I use the word advisedly) on religion
betrays your own biases in these areas. The case can just as easily be
made that the religious mythologies were transformed by tribalists (today
read "nationalists") to their own ends unimagined by their originators, and
it was the Judeo-Christian ideas themselves that offered a critique and a
way back from the horrible uses to which they were being used. That
nativists and fascists today and then cloak themselves in a twisted version
of religious doctrines is not at issue. Much of what you seem to dislike
about Christianity, for instance, developed when it was adopted as the
state religion by the Roman empire and was twisted to serve the needs first
of Constantine and then later Roman emperors and their bureaucracy. That
is the institutions themselves were already xenophobic, class-ridden, etc.,
and they transformed the religious ideology to suit their own needs, and
used the might of the Roman state to hunt down as "heretics" all who
disagreed with that formulation. The Nag Hammadi texts and other sources
recently discovered (since WWII) show that pre-Constantine Christianity was
a much more diverse and egalitarian religion. But even Constantine and his
ilk were never able to stamp out completely those transforming and
egalitarian elements which continue to crop up again and again to confound

It is no accident, that the Black revolution began in black churches (and
still continues much to this day.) Even the corruptions of religion such
as the Black Muslims, etc. show that demagogues had to manipulate real
religious symbols to gain a hearing in the community. It wasn't until the
Black Panther Party that an essentially secular political organization had
any success within the Afro-American community.

Religious myths are the way in which most people organize their world
views. Even secularists, organize their world views around essentially
unprovable myths. It is not our religious myths which destroy us, but our
fears and our greed. Fearful and greedy men sometimes use those myths to
try and blind us to their ambitions. Sometimes, for a while they succeed.
But those same religious myths are the sources of our rebellions against
those greedy and fearful men as well.

I do not have time or energy to refute your thesis point by point. But I
think you are erecting a straw man, and you need to read your history a bit
more closely.

Karl Slinkard

Neely Karl Slinkard

3. Jesus said, "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the (Father's) kingdom
is in the sky,' then the birds of will precede you. If they say to
you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the
(Father's) kingdom is within you and it is outside you. When you know
yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are
children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you
live in poverty, and you are the poverty."