Hermann de Dien: Our bodies are more than just DNA.  They are sacred

Hermann de Dien: Our bodies are more than just DNA. They are sacred

Based on the new book by Hermann de Dien, Roman Catholicism, an incredible religion, Editor Eric De Smet had a conversation with the author.

Herman Dedin • “Religion is basically a part of human life. Everything revolves around wonderful things that have deep meaning to us and are too valuable to do what you want with them, like the human body. Since the 1980s, some Lovin philosophers like myself no longer practice the traditional philosophy of religion. Religion is now seen and studied as an intrinsic human phenomenon, closely linked to symbols and rituals. What matters in religion is not science or mastery. It is a very specific domain of life, belonging to meaning, like ethics or art. My previous book Ritual fits into this school of thought.

What is the purpose of what you call the Leuven School?

Each of Leuven’s different colleagues is interested in a broad, humanistic, scientific view of religion in his own way. When you look at religion this way, you realize that there is absolutely nothing strange about it. It fits perfectly with normal human ways of meaningful work. Take dealing with the human body. Scientifically speaking, bodies are just natural things. But that’s not the case in the intersubjective world: the human body is still a sacred thing there, and even dead bodies deserve respect. Religion confirms this. Under the influence of modernity, this holiness is under pressure today.

We read: “Religion can live perfectly, even if from a strictly rational point of view its statements seem complete nonsense.”

This is a quote from the Polish-British philosopher Leszek Kolakowski. There are things in human life that are fundamentally unscientific and show us that there are very different kinds of understanding, certainty, and doubt. Religion can survive in a world dominated by science precisely because science is not everything: it does not answer the deepest questions of human life.

Our bodies are more than just DNA. They are sacred.

Or take the religious concept of immortality. This is not a pseudo-physical concept. In the second part of my book, I distinguish between religion and mere belief. Religion is not a set of irrational beliefs. It is primarily about worship service: kneeling in front of someone.

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You make strong statements: “Surrendering to demythology and desecration will not stop the decline of Catholicism, but will only strengthen and accelerate it.” What do you mean?

“By ‘demythology’ I understand the attempt to adapt religion to modern visions. It is impossible and disastrous. I am reminded of the writings of the late Father Roger Liniers, who regarded the God-man Jesus as a mythical figure. He had good intentions, including helping older believers not Loss of faith, but good intentions is not the same as true insight.Demythologizing is based on a deep misconception about what religion is.People want to reconcile faith and science, but the creation story, for example, is not scientific information and ignoring the historical truth of the Exodus story does not affect its deeper meaning .

There is more religion than you think. Churches are emptying, but religion is creeping up where it can’t go.

After the 1960s, a break occurred, causing people to leave the church en masse, but the popular allegiance remained the same. There is a huge need for something that should not exist anymore, but, says Kołakowski, that need will be filled again.

Roman Catholicism stands or falls with the sensuality of the liturgy and sacraments celebrated in the community, you write too.

We have lost the sense of sacredness. The liturgy is connected with sensuality: the whole person is touched, in heart and soul.

Catholicism in our regions has become too mental.

I admire the liturgical and Gregorian experiments of the Dutch comedian Herman Venkers. My colleague in Antwerp, Walter van Herck, points out that understanding religious language requires familiarity with religious practices, rituals, attitudes, and connection with sacred objects… The deeper ground is a true connection to the sacred. If we can maintain that, religion will continue to exist.

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Hermann de Dien, Roman Catholicism, Incredible Religion. If you order via www.halewijn.be you will receive a 10% discount in May.

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