She’s a “gender nonconforming entity” who grew up in Eisenhower’s America (as talked about in this video interview with Libertarian magazine Reason) a writer, cultural critic, university professor, lesbian feminist who celebrates masculine values (and men that exhibit them), lapsed-Catholic-turned-atheist (as she discussed with America magazine), straight talker and deep thinker — and she’s my fellow small-town, Upstate New Yorker.
Camille Paglia has the rarest of qualities: intellectual honesty, and the ability to respect and appreciate beliefs she doesn’t hold, and those who do hold them.
In a bracing interview at Salon, Paglia takes on the “smug, snarky, superior tone” of Jon Stewart and damns the “shockingly unprofessional” mainstream media silence over the Planned Parenthood videos. She also renders opinions on Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, and explains why most liberals and some conservatives only get half the story (since liberals dominate the media, their views are harder to miss).
You may not always agree with Paglia, but you’ll always appreciate where she’s coming from — and she’d do the same for you. I’ve been reading her for years and have learned a lot, particularly about the role of art in culture. And even if I don’t see things her way, I always admire her insistence on clear thinking, common sense and plain speech.
Here are excerpts of the Salon interview dealing with religion, starting with her views on such “new atheists” as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens.
I regard them as adolescents. I say in the introduction to my last book, “Glittering Images”, that “Sneering at religion is juvenile, symptomatic of a stunted imagination.” It exposes a state of perpetual adolescence that has something to do with their parents– they’re still sneering at dad in some way. Richard Dawkins was the only high-profile atheist out there when I began publicly saying “I am an atheist,” on my book tours in the early 1990s. I started the fad for it in the U.S, because all of a sudden people, including leftist journalists, started coming out of the closet to publicly claim their atheist identities, which they weren’t bold enough to do before. But the point is that I felt it was perfectly legitimate for me to do that because of my great respect for religion in general–from the iconography to the sacred architecture and so forth. I was arguing that religion should be put at the center of any kind of multicultural curriculum.
I’m speaking here as an atheist. I don’t believe there is a God, but I respect every religion deeply. All the great world religions contain a complex system of beliefs regarding the nature of the universe and human life that is far more profound than anything that liberalism has produced. We have a whole generation of young people who are clinging to politics and to politicized visions of sexuality for their belief system. They see nothing but politics, but politics is tiny. Politics applies only to society. There is a huge metaphysical realm out there that involves the eternal principles of life and death. …
The real problem is a lack of knowledge of religion as well as a lack of respect for religion. I find it completely hypocritical for people in academe or the media to demand understanding of Muslim beliefs and yet be so derisive and dismissive of the devout Christian beliefs of Southern conservatives.
Click here to read the rest.
The mature ability to disagree civilly and still offer respect to others — including doing them the courtesy of actually knowing something about what you’re criticizing — is rapidly disappearing from our fractured, angst-ridden society. Universal agreement is impossible, but good manners and education are not.
Exposing yourself only to those who agree with you can stunt intellectual growth and leave you entirely unarmed when your beliefs are seriously challenged. But these days, if you seek something worthwhile on the other side of the fence, you may wind up mostly with rants, diatribes and the adolescent sneering Paglia references.
I can imagine few things that would be more entertaining than sharing a meal and lively conversation with Paglia. We’d likely still part on the opposite sides of many issues, but we’d learn from each other and probably find we have more in common than we expected.
The list of people I think that would happen with is getting shorter every day, and that’s a shame.
Paglia also probably wouldn’t mind a bit if you prayed for her.
Image: Wikimedia Commons