Aspirations – which aspirations…

Aspiration is now the hornet buzzing word, and, of course, a topic relevant for anywhere in the world, not just the UK. What could be wrong with that? Nothing, unless someone asks any awkward questions about what sort of aspirations people are encouraged (or allowed) to have. Capitalism does not claim to deal with what can loosely be called spiritual aspirations, except for providing funding which may have strings attached. But political conservatism in most countries (not just England) assumes this presents no problem because orthodox religion(s) will take care of the spiritual dimension. Sorry – it won’t.

I suspect there are many reasons for that, but I wish to highlight just two. First, I don’t buy the notion that religion in particular causes wars, oppression, and intolerance, but it clearly fails to prevent them, and evil in the widest sense of that word. Even tranquil Buddhists sully their reputation in Burma and Sri Lanka. The very fact that the world’s religions share many common values also means they share the failure to make them effective in any consistent way. Sadly, it is not enough to focus on the great work done by so many people under the auspices of religion because charity carries tensions of its own, especially as, like state welfare, it connects with power and dependency. Second, monotheistic religions in particular with their idea of the just, omnipotent, and omniscient Creator, carry paradoxes which the greatest thinkers have never been able to resolve conclusively, most obviously in connection with ‘free will’ and evil. John Milbank may think we need not worry ourselves so much about paradoxes, but in ordinary life when two statements don’t match up we smell a rat somewhere. In the same breath, we are being asked to place our trust in God. It all comes down to the question of trust in the end.


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