The Religious Sense

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Chapter 9: Preconception, Ideology, Rationality, and the Religious Sense

We have seen how the elimination or substitution of the questions leads to desperate consequences like the loss of identity, solidarity, and freedom. If these are so contrary to our desires and our nature, then why do we hold these unreasonable positions? Giussani claims there is only one adequate answer: "the domination of preconception, the tyranny of prejudice" (94).

As we have already discussed, preconception can be positive. It allows us to quickly evaluate things and ideas. The problem comes along when we make this initial reaction, or first impression, the final criterion for judging reality. By holding on to preconceptions, we lose the ability to truly analyze something and be open to new possibilities of understanding.

Ideology is the accumulation and synthesis of preconception. It is a "theoretical-practical construction that is based upon an aspect of reality," (95) instead of accounting for all of reality's factors. Ideologies are deceptively destructive because their origins lie in experience but eventually isolate some factor of reality without considering others. One example is that we can theorize about the problem of "poverty" and still forget about the real person who is suffering. Then "poverty" becomes just an issue or marketing tool for a political candidate to use. Rose Luxembourg wrote of the "creeping advance of the theoretician," which Giussani says, "gnaws at the root of and corrupts every authentic impetus and change" (96).

Reason is the antidote for both preconception and ideology. Preconception, at a basic level, holds us back from knowing reality as it truly is. Ideology does the same thing, and allows dangerous philosophies to persuade entire societies and cultures to impose restraints on what reason is capable of, choking our knowledge and understanding. The religious sense "appears as a first and most authentic application of the term reason because it never ceases responding relentlessly to reason's most basic need, for meaning" (99). It lets us be open to what is different, unforeseen, and infinite.


  • Hi,
    I'm Massimo Bionaz, a friend of Father Boniface that gave me the address of your blog. I think you are doing a gret job! You have a deep and true understanding of Giussani. I belong to the CL movement since 1995 and I have read "The religious sense"
    many times (It is definetively the book from Giussani that struk me more and it changed a lot the way I was looking to reality!). There is a friend of mine (a priest) in Peoria that met the CL movement a year ago and now he is devoting a lot of his life in Giussani ideas. He start a "School of Community" (as CL call the weekly meeting to follow Giussani steps) using "The religious sense" and he has a lot of people coming! Maybe you can keep in touch with him. His name is Charles Klamut and his e-mail address is My e-mail address is or also
    Keep in touch!

    By Anonymous Massimo, at 1:37 AM  

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