Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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michael Reynolds

Interesting. I think it will bother the true believers more than it does me.

I do think religion can serve a purpose. I don't personally need it, but then I'm not loaded down with the resentment that the author seems to think is common to all people.

Still, I suppose religion may be of value to some people, rather like collecting Hummel figurines or doing a bit of therapeutic woodworking.

I think the one thing I would demand from organized religion is that they get back into the business of financing a new generation of Michelangelos and Bachs. Better architecture, better music, that's the price I'd like the religions to pay in exchange for their right to scold and denounce and wear funny hats.

There. Was that Arrogant Atheist enough?


I talked about it, too, per your advice:


And anyone who has admiring things to say about Nietzsche and Wagner in the same paragraph makes me a little nervous, whatever else they may say.


"[M]aking religion purely anthropological turns it into only a human need, a survival mechanism, an inspired (but not divinely inspired) projection of the collective human psyche to keep it from self-destructing."

Perceptive. That's exactly what makes it accessible to me.


I read the article only very quickly but it seems to me that the primary hero of the article is niether Wagner nor Nietzche but, rather, Rene Girard.

Girard is a French public intellectual (a member of the French Academy) and internationally renowned anthropologist who, as detailed in the Scruton piece, developed a scapegoat theory of religion: tensions build up in the crowd and the crowd resolves the tension by displacing it onto a scapegoat. Girard came to see Christianity as an exception in the history of religion in that the sacrificial victim – Christ – is seen as just and wrongly victimized whereas in all other religions the sacrifice of the victim is seen as justified and the sacrifice therefore is experienced as assuaging guilt. Girard concluded that in reversing the meaning of sacrifice Christ revealed what had been “hidden from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 13:35). This led Girard to enter the Catholic Church, where remains to this day.

I find Girard’s scapegoating theory quite powerful but, personally, it plays virtually no role in my belief that the Catholic Church teaches the truth. Four hundred or so years before Christ, Plato had a presentiment of Christ that Girard picked up on only after the fact:

“Take the just man, simple and generous, who as Aeschylus says, does not want the appearance but the reality of justice. Let us take away then all appearance … Let him be naked of all but justice that he may be proven in his justice by the fact that he be not softened by dishonour and its effects, but unwavering unto death, going through life in the appearance of injustice but in the reality of justice … the just man so disposed will be whipped, tortured, enchained, his eyes will be burned out and at the end of all his sufferings he will be crucified ….”

The Republic, Book II

Horace Jeffery Hodges

I posted a piece on August 11th that I spun off Scruton's essay, then followed it up with several more on Girard.

Interesting stuff. Scruton's and Girard's, I mean. As for my own musings, well...

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Now if you all were regular readers of Zenit, the Vatican News Agency, you'd already know about Rene Girard. He came to my attention when late last year I saw the following article based on a Zenit report:

Christian Renaissance Coming, Predicts French Academician

Philosophies and ideologies are almost dead, argues well-known anthropologist René Girard in a newly published book in which the French Academy member predicts a new Christian cultural revolution that will make the Renaissance "seem like nothing".

In a book published recently in Italian, Verite o fede debole. Dialogo su cristianesimo e relativismo ("Truth or Weak Faith: Dialogue on Christianity and Relativism"), Professor Girard writes that "we will live in a world that will seem and be as Christian as today it seems scientific", Zenit reports.

"I believe we are on the eve of a revolution in our culture that will go beyond any expectation, and that the world is heading toward a change in respect of which the Renaissance will seem like nothing," Girard says, who was elected in 2005 as one of the 40 "immortals" of the French Academy.

The book, which is the product of 10 years of discussion between the French thinker and Italian professor Gianni Vattimo, theorist of so-called "weak thought", transcribes three debates between the authors on topics such as faith, secularism, Christian roots, the role of the Gospel message in the history of humanity, relativism, the problem of violence, and the challenge of reason.

In the book, Professor Girard argues that "religion conquers philosophy and surpasses it."

He says that ideologies and political theories are "almost dead" and confidence in science "has already been surmounted."

"There is in the world a new need for religion," the French thinker said.

In regard to moral relativism, which is defended by Professor Vattimo, Professor Girard answers that "I cannot be a relativist" because "I think the relativism of our time is the product of the failure of modern anthropology, of the attempt to resolve problems linked to the diversity of human cultures.

"Anthropology has failed because it has not succeeded in explaining the different human cultures as a unitary phenomenon, and that is why we are bogged down in relativism.

"In my opinion, Christianity proposes a solution to these problems precisely because it demonstrates that the obstacles, the limits that individuals put on one another serve to avoid a certain type of conflicts."

The French academic continues: "If it was really understood that Jesus is the universal victim who came precisely to surmount these conflicts, the problem would be solved."

Professor Girard is the latest in a series of eminent theologians to hold Chair No 37 at the French Academy.

He succeeds Dominican Fr Robert-Ambroise-Marie Carre who preached retreats for Pope Paul VI. The chair was earlier held by notable Vatican II figures Cardinals Jean Danielou and Eugene Tisserant.

[Not what you wanted to hear, I know, but hey, I wasn't the one who brought up Rene Girard.]


Jeffery: You too! See?


"religion is not the source of violence but the solution to it—the overcoming of mimetic desire and the transcending of the resentments and jealousies into which human communities are tempted by their competitive dynamic."

There is so much wrong with this theory. For one thing, non-religious people don't have any special problem with violence. And many relatively peaceful primitive societies have been studied, so intense intra-group violence is not universal. And social animals all control their violent impulses instinctively. As social animals, we are programmed to avoid harming members of our own species.

The idea that primitive humans are intensely violent and competitive is a common misconception. But actually, violence and competition increased as civilizations evolved and became more complex, and as groups increasingly competed for agricultural and grazing land. Agriculture made it possible for populations to expand, which intensified competition for land.

Primitive hunter-gatherers were religious. They believed in spirits and magic. They had witch doctors who cured illness and bad luck by searching the spirit worlds for the cause.

The root cause and explanation of all forms of religion is the reality of super-physical worlds and entities.

No, I can't prove that my opinions are absolutely correct. But I could cite lots of references to back them up.

19th, or early 20th, century European writers had very little knowledge of non-European, or non-human, societies. They generalized from their own highly complex and stratified, intensely violent and competitive, civilization.

And "enlightened" thinkers never get tired of explaining away the supernatural.

The simplest explanation for the origin of religion is that people were experiencing things that actually exist.


"My conservative friends have taught me that Rousseau is evil, because a) he's the one who taught that nature is good, including human nature, just let it grow wild and everything will be fine,"

Nature and human nature are good, but neither is meant to grow "wild." Like the birds who are genetically programmed to learn a song, but not a particular song, humans are genetically programmed to be indoctrinated into some kind of society. Our nature is to be nurtured into responsible adulthood.

People are "good," in that nature has programmed us for survival. We naturally try to do whatever feels good, because what feels good -- in a natural setting -- promotes the health and well-being of the individual and the group.

But doing what feels good does not simply mean following biological drives. It also means doing things that will get you love and approval from your social group. And that means being indoctrinated and following the traditions.

Human societies are complex and doing something that makes us feel good for one reason often makes us feel bad for another reason. We constantly make difficult moral decisions.

So we end up feeling bad, inadequate, and incomplete. With good reason, since our lives are so much more complicated than what evolution has prepared us for.

At the same time, we have a powerful need to believe we are good. So we all inevitably become self-deceiving hypocrites.


I don't know about one point you make, real. Plenty of tribal societies made war on other tribes, got their wives by kidnapping, and ascribed all illness to witchcraft by other individuals suspected of wishing them ill, whom they in turn attacked with witchcraft. I think you make a mistake in idealizing "primitive" societies. I don't doubt that they had some good and powerful things we've lost; they also had a lot of crap we're well rid of.

And, depending on terrain and resources and other factors, some were peaceable but many were not. Maybe they built tribal cohesion by turning their aggression outward, at the "others." Every American Indian tribe called themselves "the People" or "the Human Beings" and their chief rivals "the Stinking Dogs" or something along those lines. We may have social-animal instincts not to harm our own kind, but being able to see all humans as our own kind is a very recent and still far from universal development. We used to practice and still do practice what the psychologist Erik Erikson called "pseudospeciation" with our customs, our costumes (that must be the same word, no?), decorations, rituals, languages, etc. and to dehumanize those who were different from us.


Equating what feels good with what IS good is the great Rousseauian mistake.


No, I am not idealizing primitive tribes. They had the same kind of territorial and self-protective instincts as any other social animal.

But the greater intelligence of humans made them too successful as hunters and caused them to invent agriculture. The result was increased competition between tribes. Within a tribe, however, social instincts would still control violence.

The 19th century writers had no conception of social instincts, and that was my point. They thought it was natural for humans to live alone and had to suppress their nature to live socially. The opposite is true. Freud, for example, based most of his theories on incorrect ideas about human nature, and nature in general.

I am not idealizing nature and I do not think nature is a lovey-dovey matriarchal pacifists' heaven. There are people who take that kind of view now and they are just as wrong as the 19th c thinkers.

The reality is something else, which I have been trying to describe. Social animals are naturally social. Love comes as naturally to them as hate. But I am not denying hate.

It is not an either-or choice.

And I was not saying the magic practiced by witch doctors is all lovey-dovey either! The world of magic and shamanism -- what little I have read about it -- is horrific.

I am certainly not promoting some rosy view of nature and human nature, amba. Just trying to question some of the very common misconceptions. Not that I have the answers, but I have tended to question the prevailing assumptions and look into things.


Anyway, my point was that controlling violence can't be the reason for religion. Religion existed long before human societies became intensely violent. And people who are not religious are not more likely to be violent.
And even if religion did help control violence (which I am sure it doesn't), that would not be a justification for religion. We can't believe something we think is false just because we think believing it is helpful.

The central point of religion is that there are worlds beyond our physical world. The purpose of religion is not to make us behave -- social animals all follow strict social rules. We don't need religion to make us love our neighbor -- loves comes as naturally to social mammals as does hate.

Religion comes from humanity's relationship with whatever is beyond our world, good or bad.

Morality is not the essence of religion -- that is a common misconception, especially among secular humanists. Currently, progressives are trying to re-define religion as secular humanism.

Religion and morality are combined in the Judeo-Christian bibles because in those days EVERYTHING was combined with religion! There was no separation of church and state! The laws written by Moses comprised the legal code. Moses was the religious leader, the military leader, and the judge, all combined.

Now we separate things. But we mistakenly think that religion is essentially a moral code because it included morality in ancient times.

In yoga, having a clear conscience is a prerequisite for enlightenment. So immoral, inconsiderate, behavior is an obstacle to religious progress. I think that is the reason Jesus emphasized loving others, even enemies. A soul full of hate and resentment gets stuck in this world, is unable to escape.

So yes there are connections between religion and morality, but there are connections between religion and EVERYTHING. Morality is just one little part of it.

And, as I said, religion did not evolve as a mechanism for controlling violence. Those mechanisms were already programmed in the DNA. Konrad Lorenz studied the behavior of wolves, for example, and saw this very clearly. And there is the more recent study of chimpanzees by Frans de Waal which shows the same thing -- instinctive avoidance of violence. Sure they fight all the time, but they are very careful not to cause lethal injuries.


Anyone who is interested in viewing religion from an anthropological perspective might be interested to know that the Catholic Church always has taught that the Mass is a sacrifice. The Catholic Mass is the renewal of Christ's sacrifice through the offering of bread and wine, which are the body and blood of Christ. A chief complaint of traditional Catholics about the new Mass is that it fails to properly preserve the sacrificial nature of the Mass (I am not saying I agree with this complaint).

Mel Gibson's movie Apocalypto has a very compelling scene of human sacrifice. In it, the Mayan religious leader who is leading the ceremony repeats verbatim some of the Catholic Liturgy of the Eucharist (which is the part of the Mass that is a sacrifice). No reviewer I know picked up on this, probably because few reviewers are familiar with the Catholic Mass.

We of course today find something primitive about sacrifice. But there is also something true about it. St. Augustine said we offer sacrifices to God not because God needs what we are sacrificing -- obviously He doesn't -- but as a means of expressing our humility. Christ's sacrifice also was to atone for sin (but, interestingly, Girard objects to viewing Christ's sacrifice as atonement for sin -- even though Jesus said that he was offering his body and blood "so that sins may be forgiveness"). Deepening the mystery further is the question of why Jesus said we must eat his flesh and blood -- and emphasized we must eat his actual flesh and blood and not just symbols of them. I don't know if there is any anthropological theory about that. The Catholic answer is that, as Jesus said, we live not by bread alone, but by the word of God, and Jesus is the word of God made flesh, he is the bread of life.


Mel Gibson's movie Apocalypto has a very compelling scene of human sacrifice. In it, the Mayan religious leader who is leading the ceremony repeats verbatim some of the Catholic Liturgy of the Eucharist (which is the part of the Mass that is a sacrifice). No reviewer I know picked up on this

That's just amazing.


So is the notion that you have to eat someone's actual flesh precisely because it isn't ordinary flesh -- it has become a spiritual substance, or is the paradigm of the physical permeated by the spiritual. So bread and wine turn into actual flesh, but actual flesh which comes "top down" from the Word rather than "bottom up" like regular flesh. It's sort of a double transubstantiation -- like wine (in the mystical, metaphorical sense Sufis use) was turned into blood twice.


That is, God did it before the priest did.


Wow Amba I don't know -- you posit some very interesting ideas, and I think there is some truth in them, but you operate on a higher analytical plane than I do. I'm not sure that Catholic dogma on the Eucharist and what Jesus said about the matter are comprehensible on an intellectual level.


Sometimes just before I receive the Eucharist, I begin to cry. I don't why exactly -- it's an overwhelming feeling of truth and love.


I mention the latter only to make the point that receiving the Eucharist is not an a theoretical or intellecual exercise -- and I think that is one of the reasons for it.


There are places where you have that feeling of being closely approached by a vast love. that could well be one of them.


Because you are formally inviting it, opening yourself to it, and that's what it takes.

michael Reynolds

Does the eucharist come in a low sodium version?

Ruth Anne

Amba: jumping in here, kinda' late. Please forgive. The Eucharist is also seen as our pascal sacrifice. Christ is the unblemished Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. On Passover, it isn't enough to slaughter the lamb and spread its blood on the lintel [huh, a sort of cross], but the family must also consume the lamb. Jesus came first to the Jews, so that imagery, and fulfillment of the exodus [out of death into life] was not peculiar to his earliest followers.


Ruth Anne, the observation about God requiring the Jews to consume the lamb is quite a good one. May I ask how it first came to your attention?


(I mean I know it's in Exodus; but I had never linked it to the question of why we eat Jesus's body.)

Ruth Anne

From Scott Hahn's book, which I don't own or didn't read, but which he was discussing extensively on EWTN.


Thanks Ruth Anne. (Where I live EWTN isn't offered. I've only seen it once.)


Andrew Sullivan apparently is "tying the knot" to the man he will be calling his "husband." I just read his post about it (linked to above, if the link fits), and in it he says:

"I bawled through the last same-sex wedding I went to. You fight for something, never expecting it to happen, let alone to you, and then it does, and it can overwhelm."

Goes to show how much tears, whether they be his or mine, mean.


Goes to show how much tears, whether they be his or mine, mean.

Remarkably unimaginative, that--or mean-spirited. Either way, what specifically would you like us to take from the observation?


I believe the theologian Inge said something to the effect that what makes a religion successful is not that it teaches the truth, but that it suits the needs of its followers. If we make of religion whatever we choose to make of it, then he's right - it's all about us, and not about any objective, external truth. Indeed, even considering religion in this light reduces its stature, making discipleship a project of scientific inquiry rather than the worship of the divine.


Reader Jam, I was only pointing out that emotion is a poor guide to truth. It was not offered as a display of the virtuosity of my imagination and is obviously not any more uncharitable to Andrew Sullivan than it is to myself.

The charity with which your comment was offered is another matter. Would you recommend that I adopt it as my standard on a going forward basis?


Jesus wept.

Poor guide to truth?


is obviously not

NOT obviously, Dan. This is where you consistently err.


That is, it's NOT *obviously* "not any more uncharitable to Andrew Sullivan than it is to myself [yourself]."


I am more than willing to talk with you about my own failings, in terms of "charity" and many other areas. Admit them and confess them.

Are you?

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