My favorite quote of Genovese's has nothing to do with history per se, but is an aside in his groundbreaking 1974 book Roll, Jordon, Roll: The World the Slaves Made. In my quote file, I pull my favorite two sentences --
The truth of religion comes from its symbolic rendering of man's moral experience; it proceeds intuitively and imaginatively. Its falsehood comes from its attempt to substitute itself for science and to pretend that its poetic statements are information about reality.-- but to mark Genovese's passing, here's the full paragraph:
The philosophical problem of religion, its truth and falsehood, represents a domain only partially separate from that of politics. Since religion expresses the antagonisms between the life of the individual and that of society and between the life of civil society and that of political society, it cannot escape being profoundly political. The truth of religion comes from its symbolic rendering of man's moral experience; it proceeds intuitively and imaginatively. Its falsehood comes from its attempt to substitute itself for science and to pretend that its poetic statements are information about reality. In either case, religion makes statements about man in his world -- about his moral and social relationship -- even when it makes statements about his relationship to God. Even when a man's adherence to a religion is purely formal or ritualistic, essential elements of his politics are thereby exposed, for participation in rites normally means participation in social acts that precede, rather than follow, individual emotional response. He enters, usually as a child, into a pattern of socially directed behavior that conditions his subsequent emotional development and that, from the beginning, presupposes a community and a sense of common interest. For good reason the whites of the Old South tried to shape the religious life of their slaves, and the slaves overtly, covertly and even intuitively fought to shape it themselves. (p. 162)
Eugene Genovese, RIP.
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