1000 Wells

Written on November 27th, 2006 by Shawn Anthony

Richard A. Shweder: Atheists Agonistes: “A deeper and far more unsettling answer, however, is that the popularity of the current counterattack on religion cloaks a renewed and intense anxiety within secular society that it is not the story of religion but rather the story of the Enlightenment that may be more illusory than real … Science has not replaced religion; group loyalties have intensified, not eroded. The collapse of the cold war’s balance of power has not resulted in the end of collective faiths or a rush to democracy and individualism. In Iraq, the ‘West is best’ default (and its discourse about universal human rights) has provided a foundation for chaos … Even some children within the enclave are retreating from the Enlightenment in their quest for a spiritual revival; one discovers perfectly rational and devout Jews or Hindus in one’s own family, or living down the block. If religion is a delusion, it is a delusion with a future, which it may be hazardous for us to deny. A shared conception of the soul, the sacred and transcendental values may be a prerequisite for any viable society.” (Source: NYTIMES)

10 Responses to “Why Are The ‘Enlightened’ So Conspicuously Up In Arms?”

  1. Science has not replaced religion

    Nor does it want to. Science is in search of facts and truth by testable methods. Religion search for truth by untestable methods and without evidence. Science examines, changes and is continually disproving and proving itself. Religion simply wants to believe.

    If religion is a delusion, it is a delusion with a future, which it may be hazardous for us to deny.

    Also hazardous to enable. The division of humanity by to whom and how you pray cannot have any unifying force.

    A shared conception of the soul, the sacred and transcendental values may be a prerequisite for any viable society.

    I have neither a soul nor “Sacred” values yet I consider myself a moral person.

    Halden

  2. Halden, you wrote: “Nor does it want to.”

    Perhaps someone should tell Dawkins, and his Brights?

    You also wrote: “Also hazardous to enable. The division of humanity by to whom and how you pray cannot have any unifying force.”

    Religion - at least Christianity - is so much more than that, Halden. Besides, humanity is divided by more than just religion. In fact, 9/10 anthropologists will tell you that religion is an expression or reflection of cultural components and building blocks that were/are inherently different from other people groups by default. It is not religion that makes people different Halden, normally different cultures result in different religions (the truth inherent to these religions can be tested and critically weighed). In other words, people are divided up nicely thanks largely to culture. This statement speaks nothing to the fact that God spoke his revelation of Jesus Christ in a ‘language’ inherently accessible to humanity through the very process (that’s another post and all about a conceptual ‘redemptive analogy’ rooted in a Triune God). You could remove religion and still find serious divisions. Where in the world did this idea that the whole world could/can be unified come from anyway? It sounds to me like you are discarding religion in the name of a very, very weak presupposition and/or assumption that will not and can not be realized without forcing upon people the very - THE VERY - thing you cite to be detrimental in religion (think about it). Make sense? Religion isn’t going anywhere. A third great awaking of Christianity is coming soon.

    Also, I think the point of Shweder’s article is less about the defense of Christianity and religion in light of Dennett, Dawkins and Harris, and more about the utter failure of the so-called enlightenment worldview and philosophy as concerns the very foundations and/or fabric of society (i.e., human nature). Secularist morality sounds good on paper, or delivered from a secular pulpit (is there such a beast?), but people are beginning to become cognizant of a very, very uncomfortable truth of life: secularism presents its audience with a terribly shallow view of the larger world of human interaction and reality. It is only a matter of time before it unravels and people are left hollow … searching for the God they thought they didn’t need anymore. This fact is time tested and true.

    Shawn

  3. Perhaps someone should tell Dawkins, and his Brights?

    Illuminating in an effort to eliminate is different from replacing.

    humanity is divided by more than just religion.

    This is very true, and in light of our differences (many of which we cannot change ie race, geography) why impose upon ourselves another? Why choose something that tells us to kill those that do not believe the same as we?

    normally different cultures result in different religions

    Yes different religions evolved differently in different cultures. There are many arguments as to how this may have happened, a way to bind together unrelated people and have them cooperate is one example, but it maybe time to see beyond the hocus pocus and the three in one to see that we can cooperate and be fair and kind without the threat of angering “Our Father”.

    You could remove religion and still find serious divisions.

    Once again I completely agree but it is time to move on and concentrate on what binds us and not what divides us.

    the utter failure of the so-called enlightenment worldview and philosophy as concerns the very foundations and/or fabric of society (i.e., human nature). Secularist morality sounds good on paper, or delivered from a secular pulpit

    The problem here is that Secular Socities do appear to be more moral. The Journal of Religion and Society has preliminary results from studies showing that the more Religious a society is (or at least claims to be) the higher rates of homicide and abortion. One only has to look at the beacon of Christianity that is the United States to see that Religion isn’t fooling anyone anymore

    secularism presents its audience with a terribly shallow view of the larger world of human interaction and reality.

    I am unsure as to how you can perceive free will, The infinite expanded Universe, a 4 billion year old earth and Evoutionary Biology shallow compared to the “God did it” world view of the Believer but I guess I never really bought into it.

    Halden

  4. Yeah, I read that Journal of Religion and Society article awhile back. It has its problems. It asked if theism makes society sick but really didn’t talk about what theism really is, or toward which “theism” they were pointing toward. Is it pointing toward a largely generic and inauthentic American Christianity? If so, then of course it will not make much difference in society (but is the society Christian?). Is it speaking of an authentic and deep Biblical Christianity? I don’t think so, especially in the case of the USA. It also really didn’t go to far into the “ills” defined. In fact, it seems to be a study limited to specific and individual ills (micro). The entire globe (macro) is wracked with war and economic injustice resulting in starvation, sickness, etc. Europe’s near total secularism isn’t helping eradicate these things at all! Not at all! Human social interaction on both scales has not been affected whatsoever by secularism, and it will never be. In fact, it all seems to be getting worse! This realization is the point - THE POINT - of the NY TIMES article I linked to in my original post.

    Socially, how does secularism itself fair? Not well, I’d wager. This is OK though, because an authentic Christianity is all about neighbors. A study on Christian theism in light of this identifiable truth and on the larger social scale (micro and macro) would be interesting.

    Halden, you ask: “I am unsure as to how you can perceive free will, The infinite expanded Universe, a 4 billion year old earth and Evolutionary Biology shallow compared to the “God did it�? world view of the Believer but I guess I never really bought into it.”

    The original article I linked too summarized it really well. The “God” in the creation specific entities you cite above is so much more than the creation process itself. God is not limited to scientific discussions regarding creation. You seem to be framing the entirety of theism around this one discussion. What about the totality of human life? There’s way more to human life and existence then “The infinite expanded Universe, a 4 billion year old earth and Evolutionary Biology,” but that is what secularism itself is limited too, at least in light of Dennett, Dawkins and Harris. This is the shortcoming of secularism, and the exact detriment toward which the NY TIMES article points.

    As far as the “The infinite expanded Universe, a 4 billion year old earth and Evolutionary Biology” is concerned, however, I would say that this issue all comes down to faith. You put yours in the above - which is not something you can really touch, see or handle, and even if it was it could change at any given moment. You heard it from other people and adopted it as your system of belief. It takes faith for you to invest your worldview into transient theory and evolving science. I put my faith in God. I appreciate and respect science for what it is and for the specific purpose it serves (a great purpose it is too), but the purpose is not holistic given the totality of our human experience and reality. You yourself said science was/is not trying to replace religion. I would say that’s great because it can not. It serves a totally different purpose.

    You are talking mystery when you talk creation and universe, Halden. It’s way bigger than you or I can imagine, I bet. So, how can one use what little knowledge we have about the universe to disprove God? There so much more to learn about the never-ending universe, right? Or do we have it all right now? Have we exhausted knowledge? The very idea seems so presumptuous, not to mention hubris laden. The rest of human reality and existence, however, points to a strong need for God.

    I find the idea that all of our existence can be reduced to chemical process and firing synapses to be utterly void of authentic meaning. We are just flesh bags running on chemical processes, right? This is where the secularism of the folk identified in the article is leading, and it will fail.

    Shawn

  5. you state that Secularism is not helping with societal ills, I guess this is a matter of perspective because I see it as helping a great deal. I too support more study into the effects of religion on a larger scale and it is in fact the conclusion put forth by Dennett in Breaking the Spell. He advocates the study of religions effects and roots as well as calling for more, not less, religious education in schools.

    There’s way more to human life and existence then “The infinite expanded Universe, a 4 billion year old earth and Evolutionary Biology,�? but that is what secularism itself is limited too

    Yes, secularism is limited to Human knowledge because that is all we have to go upon. Life and the Universe as we know it is all we can logically base ourselves upon. You seem to be confusing Faith and Belief. I have belief in a naturalistic and scientific view of existence because it has been tested and discussed by multiple independent sources that provide evidence to their conclusions and an ability to correct itself. Faith requires belief without evidence or proof, it requires belief in a book that procalims itself to be the word of god with no corroboration, this I find limiting.

    You are talking mystery when you talk creation and universe, Halden. It’s way bigger than you or I can imagine, I bet. So, how can one use what little knowledge we have about the universe to disprove God?

    I do not have to disprove things I do not believe in, the onus of proving the existence is on the believer. I do no ask Bishops to disprove Black Holes I ask Hawkings to prove it, I do not ask Imams to disprove evolution I ask darwin to prove it. As to all the knowledge about Life , The Universe and Everything? I do not claim to have it all, no one I have ever read did, but I prefer to look for answers that to settle on supernatural ones.

    Halden

  6. Right on, Halden. It is a matter of perspective. I have a difficult time making myself the standard for all that the universe is and/or could be. I think the attempt to do so in and of itself is so limited. I am going to die and be put in a hole; I’m not the standard for the universe and all of its mystery (mystery we have not even begun to tap or even become aware of yet). Secularism - at the least the sort you cite - limits my standard for the universe to me … myself … and I. What a warped trinity that is, my friend.

    Human knowledge, as limited as it is, still contains and addresses much, much more than science alone. There is love, relationship, ethics, family, birth, death, conviction, the need for ritual, transcendence, etc., etc. God is all through all of it too. It seems to me that hardcore secularists look at the most difficult and mysterious aspects of our human existence (science and the universe) and throw out God based upon a seriously premature and abstract analysis of it. All the while they ignore the rest of our human existence, while never asking what relevancy God plays in those areas of life and existence. It all sounds like a knee jerk reaction to me.

    You wrote: “You are talking mystery when you talk creation and universe, Halden. It’s way bigger than you or I can imagine, I bet. So, how can one use what little knowledge we have about the universe to disprove God?”

    Your answer to this questions tells me that you misunderstood my question. I was not asking you to prove God at all. Also, if you - or Dawkins, Dennet, etc., are going to say there is no God, then you should be prepared to prove it, if you are so dedicated to the scientific method. My point was that the secularists cited in the NY Times article do run around and attempt to disprove God and religion in general. They do so based on the most minuscule bit of scientific knowledge (in relation to the universe in its entirety). We may appear to have advanced slightly in knowledge when contrasted with our ancient ancestors, slightly. We still exhibit, however, the same tendencies toward injustice, war, murder, selfishness, etc., etc. We exhibit all of these things in spite of our slightly advanced knowledge in science. That is the point being raised in the NY Times article. It is a point secularists will have to deal with as best as they can with what they have limited themselves to work with in the real world.

    You see, I’m a big, big supporter of science. Science doesn’t threaten my faith at all. I find more of God in science. Science reveals God. Science alone is not, however, THE - capital “T” - answer for humanity. The secularists will fail if this is the strategy. The NY Times article suggests the failure has already begun here and abroad.

    Shawn

  7. Human knowledge, as limited as it is, still contains and addresses much, much more than science alone. There is love, relationship, ethics, family, birth, death, conviction, the need for ritual, transcendence, etc., etc. God is all through all of it too.

    Science can indeed answer many of these questions. Love, relationships and ethics all assist in the basic need to propagate genes. Humans have evolved to feel love in order to first bond with a mate, procreate and share the cost of ensuring the survival of off-spring to propagate their genes. Ethics ans morality evolved to ensure that we mutually support members of our species to provide an environment that can lend itself to our genes surviving. Death needs no explaining it is the end, we return to the same state we had prior to being born. You see god, I see electrical impulses dictating human behaviour…Tomayto/Tomahto.

    Your answer to this questions tells me that you misunderstood my question. I was not asking you to prove God at all. Also, if you - or Dawkins, Dennet, etc., are going to say there is no God, then you should be prepared to prove it,

    To be a purist I would be Agnostic, but I and the men you mention do have a strong inclination to belief that their is no god. This belief is based on the ability to logically explain most things attributed to a supernatural god and the inability to prove he exists.

    We may appear to have advanced slightly in knowledge when contrasted with our ancient ancestors, slightly. We still exhibit, however, the same tendencies toward injustice, war, murder, selfishness, etc., etc. We exhibit all of these things in spite of our slightly advanced knowledge in science. That is the point being raised in the NY Times article. It is a point secularists will have to deal with as best as they can with what they have limited themselves to work with in the real world.

    I think despite the best efforts of religion and secularism we will never completely eliminate the ugly side of the human animal. You speak again of the limits imposed by secularistss on themselves and I do not see these limits, other than we must work within the confines of our universe and our minds but so does a religious man, does he not?

    You see, I’m a big, big supporter of science. Science doesn’t threaten my faith at all.

    This unfortunately is not the stance of many religious people that have inspired the rise of a more militant Atheism. One simply has to look at the movement to include creation (and it alternate version ID) and young earth in science classes to see that religion is trying to encroach on science just as science is accused of doing so to religion.

    Halden

  8. I think we have reached an immutable impasse, my friend! You place your faith in secularism and science; I place my own in God. Right on … If we lived in the same country it would be time for a beer now. Relationship should be the priority in discussions such as this one. :)

    So, with love I say: until the next post, stay sharp and be well my friend.

    Shawn Anthony

  9. I agree. We have stated our points in what I found to be a refreshing and honest way while still maintaining respect for this I tip my hat to you.

    Halden

  10. Right on brother … and I do consider you as such, in spite of characterizing differences of ideology that we share (we do still share!). Keep on my friend.

    Shawn

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