How the 19th Century Saw “Spirituality” Begin to Compete with “Religiosity”

In The Religious Revolution, Dominic Green argues that “modern spirituality”—as opposed to more traditional religion—came into being in the second half of the 19th century. Green draws a line that runs from such figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Friedrich Nietzsche to the situation in the U.S. today, where ever-fewer people attend church but very large numbers practice yoga or believe in reincarnation. John Wilson writes in his review:

Green tells us, “I call the modern transformation of inner life the Religious Revolution,” and what he means by that includes much more than clichés about “spiritual but not religious.” Consider the concluding paragraph of the prologue: “This [that is, the period between 1848 and 1898], is the age of the Religious Revolution. It is also the age of science and race. This is the age of the Religious Revolution because it is the age of science and race.” Hence a book that includes Charles Darwin and Theodor Herzl.

Much as I learned from Green’s book and delighted in it (“The summer sensations of 1884 were the slow martyrdom of General Gordon at Khartoum and two images of feminine power, anonymous, mysterious, and dressed in black”), I couldn’t help but brood about the way he simply leaves out all sorts of things that might seriously complicate or even disable his thesis. After all, the 50-year period that he focuses on saw the explosive growth of Christian “foreign missions.” While Green mentions missionaries here and there in passing, one would hardly guess from his account the long-term impact of the missionary enterprise. If we are going to talk about “modern spirituality,” don’t we have to include the experience of Christians today in Africa and China and South Korea and Latin America (for instance) alongside that of the one in three Americans allegedly believing in reincarnation? And what about Islam in the 21st century?

Please don’t suppose that I am at all idealizing these religious communities, any more than I would idealize my own (evangelical!) Christian community here in the United States. But they are indisputably examples of “modern spirituality” that differ markedly from those Green prefers to highlight.

Read more at National Review

More about: American Religion, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Spirituality, Theodor Herzl, Yoga


Planning for the Day after the War in the Gaza Strip

At the center of much political debate in Israel during the past week, as well as, reportedly, of disagreement between Jerusalem and Washington, is the problem of how Gaza should be governed if not by Hamas. Thus far, the IDF has only held on to small parts of the Strip from which it has cleared out the terrorists. Michael Oren lays out the parameters of this debate over what he has previous called Israel’s unsolvable problem, and sets forth ten principles that any plan should adhere to. Herewith, the first five:

  1. Israel retains total security control in Gaza, including control of all borders and crossings, until Hamas is demonstrably defeated. Operations continue in Rafah and elsewhere following effective civilian evacuations. Military and diplomatic efforts to secure the hostages’ release continue unabated.
  2. Civil affairs, including health services and aid distribution, are administered by Gazans unaffiliated with Hamas. The model will be Area B of Judea and Samaria, where Israel is in charge of security and Palestinians are responsible for the civil administration.
  3. The civil administration is supervised by the Palestinian Authority once it is “revitalized.” The PA first meets benchmarks for ending corruption and establishing transparent institutions. The designation and fulfillment of the benchmarks is carried out in coordination with Israel.
  4. The United States sends a greatly expanded and improved version of the Dayton Mission that trained PA police forces in Gaza after Israel’s disengagement.
  5. Abraham Accords countries launch a major inter-Arab initiative to rebuild and modernize Gaza.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security, U.S.-Israel relationship