In 1972 or 1973 as a young man, going to University, I watched a very interesting television show. It was called “The Religious Quest in the Modern Age”. It consisted of some lectures delivered by Dr. Carl Ridd a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Winnipeg. I was never a student of his. It was about a a series of lectures on modern philosophy and literature all relating in some way, to religion. It did not have a lot to say about sacred texts—directly at least. It was not that kind of a religious quest. But Ridd was brilliant and riveting.
I was transfixed by the lectures and found them deeply interesting. The lectures I thought were sort of a summary of a course he taught for a number of years at the University of Winnipeg. He had fascinating things to say about the books. I was completely hooked.
Astonishingly, the shows were shown on Saturday mornings. I only saw a small number of them. Maybe 2. I heard about the series by accident. I think we only had 3 TV stations at the time on our small black and white television set I had “borrowed” from my sister Diane. But the ideas were exciting. I was mesmerized I wanted more. I was dumbfounded when the series ended. I was immeasurably jealous of the students from the U of W who got to participate in the entire series. I have been haunted by the memory of that course ever since.
Then during the time of Covid, in the winter of 2021, with little to do, for some reason the idea came into my head that I should teach myself the course. Carl Ridd was long since gone. I knew a couple of old friends who had attended the U of W during those years and had an interest in such topics, so I reached out to them to see if any of them had ever taken that course. Sure enough, 2 of them had. And they shared with me that they had loved the course and gave me their recollection of what books he taught. I had a vague idea from my recollection of the few shows I had seen on TV. Together with their recollections I decided to embark on this spiritual journey. I ventured out on my own personal religious quest in the modern age. Frankly, I was wildly excited by the project.
They used to say there are 9 million stories in the naked city (New York City). They could just as well say there are 8 million spiritual journeys in the naked city. I know we used to think there was just one. The holy book we were taught by our parents. Nothing else mattered, so we were taught. I was brought up in such a home. But that really is a narrow point of view. There are as many quests as there are people, and some are very interesting. I want to share some of the more interesting quests.
Ridd taught some of the great books of the 19th and 20th centuries. He talked about books by Camus, Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky and many other great writers. To my surprise he left out some books that ought to have been included. I will include them. So, I have made my list of books inspired by Ridd but not chained to him.
To my surprise I found I had read a good number of the books Ridd taught. That is fine. Good books are worth re-reading. In fact, I have already started that project of re-reading classics and it will fit in just fine with this one.
I will also add books to the list that have been written since he taught the course. There have been some amazing religious quests since then.
I invite you to join me on this spiritual journey. I think it will be very interesting. I will, I promise, it will be a meandering journey. There will be many stops to permit pondering and mulling things over. I also can’t entirely stop other topics I want to post about such as politics and religion, social democracy, books, and films, and the like. There will be interruptions.
On this journey we will consider religion from many different points of view. Maybe even yours! Some will be sceptical. Some will be strange. All, I think, will be interesting. All will show a desire to explore the quest for religion in the modern age. Please join me on this quest. I think it will be worth the trip.