Never Could Learn to Drink that Blood and Call It Wine: Bob Dylan as Prophet of the Postsecular
Jeffrey Green (University of Pennsylvania)
Jerusalem Lecture Series in Political Thought
This essay examines Bob Dylan’s religious ideas. It argues that Dylan does not provide a stable message about what kind of religious faith to adopt, or whether to adopt one, but an abiding ethical meaning of his spiritual meandering is that it gives prophetic voice to what so far has been a merely philosophical notion: the postsecular idea that both religion and non-religion are coequal alternatives, neither of which is natural, modern, or better than the other. Dylan’s most distinct prophetic function with regard to religion is not to convert the non-religious to God, but to inspire greater respect in the non-religious for the dignity, integrity, and plausibility of religiosity. Dylan achieves this not through dispassionate argumentation in the manner of a philosopher but through personal testimony, demonstrating that the respect of the non-religious for religiosity is properly grounded, not in generosity or tolerance toward some radical other, but rather in the ever-present possibility for religiosity all of us possess, even if only some actualize.