The Camille Paglia Argument

Recently I had a discussion on Facebook with a Catholic friend. It began as a comment from her joking that I need to go to confession. I responded by explaining how Catholic confession is not supported by scripture. After going back and forth discussing whether or not one should respect faith without evidence (which I do not), she responded by saying:

I think you are short-sighted on the subject of religion. There are many deep truths and mysteries to every faith. You are really only scratching the surface by focusing on the negative.

I get this a lot. This obsession that I am focusing on the negative. It may appear that way but the reason I talk about the negative is because it NEEDS to be talked about. We can no longer, for the sake of humanity, bury our heads in the sand about the dangers of blind faith. I will also add that any positives gained from religion exist outside of religion. I and all the millions of non-believers are proof of this. Good also existed prior to God and religion. It is in our species best interest to get along and we knew this before we invented gods.

When I asked for evidence for the so-called “mysteries of faith” the response I got was this:

Mysteries don’t yield “evidence” in the traditional sense. Camille Paglia is an intellectual/atheist who has some interesting things to say about religion. You have the right to express your point of view, but when you take on thousands of years worth of traditions, you should be well-informed on the subject, and that is quite an undertaking. Good luck.

She than posted a link to the video below.

First, I love when theists use an atheist for their argument. It makes things so much easier. Second, the statement which suggests that I am not “well-informed” on the subject of religion and its history is just silly. Read my blog. The concept my friend appears to be defending is that religion is beneficial as well as holds some kind of secret knowledge and truth that can not be put into words.

In the video, Camille Paglia states that “religion has been overwhelmingly beneficial to humanity.” It upsets me when theists cherry pick statements by atheists to support their religion. Those ignorant of what she is talking about run with it and think that the actual belief in the dogma is what she is referring to.. That is not what Paglia is talking about.

Paglia is an atheist. She doesn’t believe that the ‘belief’ in gods or Jesus is what matters. What she is talking about is the iconography of religion. She is talking about religion in an anthropological and historical context. I can not argue this point. I encourage people to study the history of their faith. The study of the origins of religion will ultimately lead to atheism. Even in this video she discusses the evolution of the Christ figure.

mythmaker-the-life-and-work-of-george-lucasPaglia believes George Lucas is the most important artist of our time. I couldn’t disagree more. Joseph Campbell also used Star Wars as an example of the modern myth. When I was younger, before the Star Wars Special Editions and the Prequels, I would agree. But Lucas has lost his Myth Cred. Disney, now being in charge of the Star Wars franchise might give it another chance at being special.

The way Paglia and Campbell look at Christianity is the same way they look at ancient Greek and Roman myths. The same way they look at STAR WARS. You could rewrite her statement to read “Star Wars has been overwhelmingly beneficial to humanity” without changing the meaning. To suggest that Paglia believes that faith in these religions as truth is to be completely unschooled in comparative religion.  Anyone who thinks this needs to actually open a book besides the bible.

I like to say that to cite Camille in a religious debate is an Argument from ‘ARThourity.’ It’s a combination of art and authority — yeah, I just coined that. Religion is important in understanding our species. The study of it can help us understand us better. But it doesn’t need to continue to exist to learn from it. We don’t have to fight World War II all over again to study and learn from it. Loving religion, its art and its history, through a secular lens can be very beneficial to society and this is what Paglia is talking about in this video. She does not in anyway think we should take myth as fact. Joseph Campbell said it best:

Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble. (emphasis is mine)

To have watched the interview of Camille Paglia and think she thinks religion as fact is beneficial is to complete misinterpret her statement. This is what happens when religious people cherry pick quotes from atheists in support of religion.


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