Friday, 12 July 2013

Part XLVII - Religion and the Military

This is a series about a book, Theory of the Leisure Class, written by American economist Thorstein Veblen and published in 1899.   Chapter Twelve is titled Devout Observances.

It’s easy to get kind of lost in all the apparent side-topics Veblen discusses in this chapter but just remember that religion, sports, gambling, military, etc. are all occupations that Veblen has placed firmly in the camp of the leisure class. Indeed, the Queen of England holds many honorary military titles  and is also 'Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.'

In an earlier post we touched on the military style of some young peoples’ organisations promoting religion and sports.  Veblen was also concerned about the military leanings of these organisations.  If you read about the beginnings of the Boys’Brigade here in Britain, the military background is obvious. 

Veblen reminds us of his earlier explanations of priest, ie leaders of religious services, in the role of vicarious leisure and vicarious consumption.  He also says there is a war-like facet of some religious observances.    
“…in characterizing the divinity and his relations to the process of human life, speakers and writers are still able to make effective use of similes borrowed from the vocabulary of war and of the predatory manner of life, as well as of locutions which involve an invidious comparison.”

I must admit, this hymn sounds pretty military to me:

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord: He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword; His truth is marching on.” 

Have you ever noticed this link between religious and military thinking? 


Beryl said...

One thing religion used to have in common with the military is the insistence on male dominance. But both organizations are relaxing that a bit. (Although not nearly enough.)

Shelley said...

Beryl - Good point, I hadn't thought of that. Women vicars are becoming quite usual here in Britain, particularly in the Anglican church. I suspect it means that this is a role that is losing its high status. Yes, the military does admit some women, but by all accounts they are treated in a shocking manner and I've yet to see a really high-ranking female officer (not that I follow these things closely, mind).

Gam Kau said...

Well, there certainly has been a lot of death in the name of religion. And religion dictates morality and culture and in providing leadership, there does seem to be a link to war-like thinking.

Shelley said...

I've always thought it interesting that Britain - whose Queen is also titular head of the Church of England - considers itself a secular country; whereas the US values separation of church and state and declares itself a Christian nation. Although perhaps this declaration is made by the more vocal Christian segment? Here in Britain religion doesn't seem to have much bearing on the culture or the morals. I'm certainly no expert on the subject but my sense is that Britain's history and its politics have more influence on her morals and her culture. This is one reason I'm so fascinated by the two world wars and the period between - that time shaped Britain like no other and made her do a right-turn from her course; actually, that really ought to be LEFT-turn!