Monday, April 02, 2007

Elaine Pagels in Salon

Yet another pointless religion article in Salon today. This time on the so-called Gospel of Judas and an interview of Elaine Pagels by Steve Paulson. First Paulson gets things off on the wrong foot by lazily writing:
As almost every child knows, Judas was the disciple who betrayed Jesus, selling his life for 30 pieces of silver. If there's an arch villain in the story of Jesus, it's Judas Iscariot.
Speak for yourself Steve. In my childhood, Pontius Pilate was the big villain, but that's neither here nor there. The point is that it's never safe to assume a universalist perspective when it comes to religion. My own child knows nothing of Judas.

And then in the article itself, Pagels has a lot of wishy-washy pointless things to say. My issues are these:
  • From what I recall of my College reading, Judas as always been a complex and complicated character, so there's nothing really new with regard to the idea of a Gospel of Judas.
  • Pagels has nothing to say about the theological or historical implications to Christianity.
  • Anytime she starts to say something interesting she weakens her position with a lot of caveats and rationalizations.
  • She takes pot-shots at Richard Dawkins without any justification or rationale.
Her basic argument is that everything in religion is a metaphor and doesn't necessarily need to be taken literally, except for the times when they are miracles and can be taken literally if you are so inclined.

It's basically the "what's the harm" argument. Sherlock Holmes may be a fictional character, but if you want to go to London and take the tour of 221B Baker Street, "what's the harm?"

For a better take-down, I recommend the always astute Pharyngula.