The Corner

Nomos & Voodoo Atheists

From a reader: 

Mr. Goldberg,

 

Your use of the word “vast” to describe the numbers of people who believe in the supernatural but ridicule traditional religion is accurate.  I will always remember attending a Western States Speech Communication convention in the late 1980′s.  The guest speaker was a lovely gentleman from Africa who was discussing Nomos as a factual reality in the life of many native Africans.  He talked about the spirits within the words, the spirit life that is part of all African languages, and how the spirits guided Africans in all communication and life.  Everyone applauded, embracing his use of the spiritual within his address, commenting on his profound and wise words.  The next day I was having lunch with a department head who specifically asked me to join her.  I had interviewed for a position at her college and she was finalizing the details for my final interview.  We were laughing and having a tremendous time as we discussed the previous day and various papers.  Finally she brought up the closing address by the gentleman from Africa. She went on and on about his use of nomos, the spirit world, and the profundity of having spirits guide communication, language, and life.  I casually commented that I thought the enthusiastic acceptance and applause for his spirit filled viewpoint was very interesting. I laughed and said, “I wonder why a person who says the same thing about the Holy Spirit isn’t regarded with equal esteem.”  Major blunder.  She did not share my amusement at all and ended the lunch quickly.  I never heard from her again.

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