Although I find his critique of the religious ideal as an unhelpful (even unhealthy, perhaps?) attempt to escape the unavoidable sufferings of conscious human existence refreshing and heartfelt, I can’t help but feel that it’s somewhat misguided, for two main reasons: if we understand it in the strict way, it can only make sense with regards to the predominantly causal religious currents inside spiritual traditions, with their emphasis on teachings and practices basically focused on explaining and experiencing the unmanifest; if, on the other hand, we interpret it more widely, such a criticism may also be convincingly applied to other expressions of human thought, such as art’s attempt at immortality through the artist’s works, science’s continuous search for increasingly abstract levels of unified causality and even philosophy’s most ancient enquiry into the deepest wisdoms regarding existence itself.
Furthermore, his claim that religious ideal must forcefully be centered around the transcendent as an end in itself (and the immanent only as a means towards that end) seems almost anachronistic in face of the many theological and philosophical reconstructions that these very religious traditions have been experiencing since at least the onset of modernity, and especially since Nietzsche’s denunciantion of religious “other-worldliness”.
So, in summary, even though his criticism is most pertinent, if taken strictly it doesn’t really seem to apply to religion per se, but only to one of its time-bound expressions (mythic-literal causal?), and if taken widely it should include all manifestations of that state+stage combo, not only the religious ones.
I’d love to hear any thoughts on the matter, since I’m truly enjoying Hagglund’s book!