Mortified But Good | Bleader

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mortified But Good

Posted By on 04.14.10 at 06:55 AM

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monk.jpg
September 10, 1897. Those Russians had the whole mad monk thing down cold, did they not? No jolly fat friars and tonsured tipplers for them. It was just one gaunt, bearded, self-flagellating mystic after another. Gotta respect the level of quality control.

A cool thing about 19th-century newspapers is how forthright they are about drawing the line between acceptable expressions of religiosity and crazy, toxic ones. The key phrases were "religious delusion," "religious enthusiasm," and "religious excitement." Those last two sound like they might be good things but they weren't. It's a paradox of secularism that we're much more reticent about classifying expressions of faith as benign or nuts. Even "fanatic" is by and large a word for the editorialists, not reporters.

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