I don't understand E.L. Doctorow's essay "Why We Are Infidels". Please help me understand it, because I have to compare and contrast this essay with Salman Rushdie's "Imagine There's No Heaven." Thanks for the help!


Here it is, in my opinion:

<<The term, however, may be justly applied to all of us, including the most pious and monogamous among us, because of a major sin committed over 200 years ago, when religion and the American state were rent asunder and all worship was consigned to private life. It was Jefferson who said, "Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry." And while it is precisely because of this principle of religious freedom that we enjoy such a continual uproar of praying and singing and studying and fasting and confessing and atoning and praising and preaching and dancing and dunking and vowing and quaking and shaking and abstaining and ordaining, a paradox arises from this expression of our religious democracy: If you have extracted the basic ethics of religious invention and found the mechanism for installing them in the statutes of the secular civil order, as we have with our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, but have consigned all the doctrine and rite and ritual, all the symbols and traditional practices to the precincts of private life, you are saying there is no one proven path to salvation, there are only traditions. If you relegate the old stories to the personal choices of private worship, you admit the ineffable is ineffable, and in terms of a possible theological triumphalism, everything is up for grabs.>>

Is this the meaning you took from the essay?

that's directly from the text

I read "Why We Are Infidels" several times, but I still don't understand it.

The link Bob posted didn't have the whole article on it. But the first paragraph probably gives us the best example of what the whole thing means:

"But I think, given the variety of religious practices in our country, including that of Islam, that the term infidel as it has lately been applied to us probably does not refer to any particular religion we may as a nation subscribe to but to the fact that we subscribe, within our population of 290 million, to all of them."

He's saying the reason some might find America as a nation of Infidels is because we aren't a nation of one religion. We're a nation of many and, as he points out in what little I read, we are a nation that even was arrogant enough to invent some of our own.

If what was said here does not clear it up, what I would do is read through it and the moment you come to something you don't understand, ask about that particular line/phrase/paragraph. It may help you understand the rest of it. I've noticed this in reading. If I don't understand one point, it's almost like my mind is subconsciously thinking about what that meant even as I read on and I don't understand anything else.

Once I go back and clear up what that one part means, I can read and understand it more easily.


That's strange. If you google "Why We Are Infidels" and click on the same link, it gives you the whole paper.

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