Random AsidesReligion

The Revelation of Knittingness

Religion and knitting. Two of my obsessions in one. How can I not post about this? But I am out of time (I wrote this before I left on Sunday) and so I will just refer you here, where revere has some comments on PZ‘s quote in Expelled about how religion should be more like knitting.

So in the spirit of summer laziness, here’s what I like about the knitting analogy: it suggests the conditions under which religion would be relatively harmless, maybe even useful. Knitting is a private, or at least personal avocation. Knitters don’t want everyone else to be a knitter. They are satisfied to knit on their own or with other people who like to knit. A knitting club. It’s social. Knitting is a way for many people to relieve tension, or, when times are tough, to occupy themselves. For these people, knitting is comforting. If you’ve ever seen the products of really good knitters, it can also be creative, so knitting is a source of creative inspiration. Knitting is socially acceptable. It doesn’t set a knitter apart from their non-knitting fellow citizens. Whether you are a knitter or not isn’t a matter of personal worth. It is assumed that knitters are just as good people as non-knitters.

Excerpt continuation and video clip below the fold.

In short, knitting is unobjectionable because it is kept personal, it is not the source of invidious distinctions, it can be fun and lead to pleasant social interactions, it is a comfort for many people, and is a source of creativity and even inspiration. If religion were like knitting, I wouldn’t object to it.

But religion isn’t satisfied to be like knitting. It’s even outraged to be compared to knitting. Religion takes its knitting needles and uses them as weapons, not to knit with in private but to attack others in public. So while religion isn’t really like knitting, I agree with PZ. If it can attain the Revelation of Knittingness, there might be hope for it.

For more about how knitting can replace religion and be a source of spirituality, see The Knitting Sutra and Knitting Heaven and Earth (the second is one of my favorite books and I can’t recommend it enough) by Susan Gordon Lydon and Mindful Knitting by Tara Jon Manning. 


Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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  1. Wouldn’t it be great if religion was more like knitting? Wouldn’t it be great if neo-nazi philosophy was more like NASCAR? Wouldn’t it be great if child porn was more like The Simpsons?

    All obviously true, to the point of not saying anything interesting.

  2. OK, so maybe it’s more accurate to say “wouldn’t it be great if religion had these specific aspects in common with knitting”, but it doesn’t exactly make the most poetic simile, now, does it? Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

    Anyway, I was surprised to find a section on gardening in one of my meditation books a few years back. Gardening doesn’t strike me as being very meditative. At the time, I found it too much like… work. And the bugs get to me pretty bad.

    But it’s true that certain activities, like gardening, or knitting, can be quite relaxing, and perhaps even therapeutic. So maybe there’s something to it. But they’re not exactly my cup of tea.

    So I think it’s an apt analogy overall.

  3. The Revelation of Knittingness- I love that phrase. Calm, relaxing, creative, what’s not to love?

    Though I have to say, all those “knitting spirituality” books hold not a bit of interest for me. I have some sort of mental block for the idea of reading about meditation.

  4. Knitting Heaven and Earth is a memoir so you might like that one. The author gets a little woo in there now and then, but mainly it’s about her life, her bouts with cancer, and how knitting has helped her through the deaths of several loved ones.

  5. Anyone who thinks religion should be more like knitting has obviously forgotten about the Great Crochet Fracas of 1876. Those where dark dark times.

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