I would not agree that the ancient stories and “metanarratives” of our past have been “dismissed by most academics,” as there are large swaths of academia which are still dedicated to studying those stories. Nor would I agree that most of those academics do not see the value in using these stories as a model for how to live our lives, though they are not as evangelical about it as Peterson is.
I would agree with you that Peterson almost certainly believes in Christianity only as a useful myth rather than literal truth, and yet I feel I should point out that Peterson himself seems reluctant to admit this at times. When Sam Harris pressed him on this point, Peterson waffled and they got into an hour-long discussion over the definition of “truth.” That, to me, seems evasive.
As a writer, I do not think that Peterson is overstating things when he speaks of the value of stories, I just don’t value the Christian myth more than I do any others.
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I absolutely reject the idea that “the social and civil structures of Western Civilization” … “were built on the spiritual and philosophical foundations laid down by Christianity.”
At least, I reject it in the sense that all other value systems are inferior, and that no other value system would be capable of producing a society as advanced and enlightened as Western civilization is — because that is what people like Peterson and Ben Shapiro mean when they say that Western civilization is built on Judeo-Christian values. They are making that claim within the context of their larger point, which is that Western civilization will fall apart if it turns away from those Judeo-Christian values, and more toward a system of secular values, as we currently are doing.
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I would halfway agree with the likening of Peterson to Thomas Jefferson. Neither of them are fundamentalists, and yet they both still see value in the stories.
The difference I see between them is that Jefferson did not shy away from speaking out against fundamentalism.
And while Peterson does (at times) acknowledge that he doesn’t share the fundamentalist outlook, he does seem strangely willing to ally himself with the fundamentalists.
There is an opportunity for Peterson to embrace Sam Harris’s critique of fundamentalism, and to marry it to his own mythological interpretation of Christianity. But he resists that.
And I suspect that Peterson’s reason is that he believes fundamentalism is a necessary evil. I suspect he believes most people are incapable of seeing the value in the myths unless they also believe they are literally true. Peterson sees that value, because he’s educated and enlightened, but most people are irrational and dumb, and so for the Christian myth to survive, people need to believe in it literally.
And so he allies himself with the fundamentalists instead of with their critics.