Letter II to Alex: On Community, Churchgoing, and Literature

A portrait of American author Herman Melville


You are right and, if you will allow me to generalize that writers tend not to be churchgoers, I would like to share my thoughts.

There is little community in intellectual and academic circles compared to those of the church…not that one cannot belong to both. Indeed, being an atheist or something other my whole life, and now searching for community in academia, I assure you there is little. The peer-reviewed journal is the closest to a potluck we have and the dishes do not taste of love. No, they are pungent! At worst, you may sense your colleague spat in their dish hoping you and your thesis would have a great bite of it. Still, if only to find the most abhorrent plate, we do have a common goal: the pursuit of truth and wisdom. So fill yours.

But I would hardly be a tutor to leave you with that, no? So here is my advice: go to church if you are seeking fellowship (you may also find something more to believe in). And if you’re not looking for fellowship, go to church. Believe me you’re likely to feel robbed of an education if you don’t and, in a few years, you will find yourself a frequenter to the abbreviated bible: the footnotes. Yes, perhaps out of pride and spite I also gave up church and the books. But nobody warned me that Melville would allude to Jonah and the Whale, and Ishmael, and Elijah, and Job, and Nineveh, and all the grand tales.

Still, let me not just advise you to study the bible, but to become a student of all the texts. Indeed, nobody told me Thoreau was a student of Hinduism. Sure, I could have guessed that Japanese literature would be Buddhist to some extent, but I never could have guessed I would tire of turning to the endnotes. So heed my recommendation to learn of all faiths, or don’t. But I’m sure if literature could be measured like a recipe, you would retrieve your recipe from the ancient books.



2 thoughts on “Letter II to Alex: On Community, Churchgoing, and Literature

  1. What do you think of the present wave of podcasts as a form of intellectual community? Circles like Joe Rogan and Lex Fridman where great thinkers come and discuss not only their work and their philosophy but allow said ideas to be critiqued as well. Could that be the potluck?


    1. Joe, thanks for checking it out.

      I think that is a great place for intellectual community. I’m a huge fan of YouTube and internet academia because of its high accessibility.

      But it has its limits. As far as having a good conversation or critique, I think you’re ripe to be disappointed communicating with strangers on the internet (you know how the comment section looks). I would say the conversation mainly takes place between content creator and viewer (and likely the viewer will only be discussing with themselves).

      Now, take a video and send it to your friend? And follow that up with some chat? Excellent.

      But specifically talking about religious studies in my essay, and how fundamental that is to philosophy and literature, you will have to dig deeper than the Rogan experience to really get in there. But I’m sure there are plenty of podcasts on religion which would be a great substitute to actually going to church. In my work, I’d like to say “going to church” was more a reference to simply studying religion in a variety of forums (church groups, podcasts, etc.) and the church experience.

      Appreciate the comment


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