Something my Dad wrote for FC...check it

Discussion in 'Religion & Philosophy' started by Blur, Jan 6, 2007.

  1. Blur

    Blur iPimp

    Reasonable Faith In Today’s World

    Rebecca Newberger Goldstein wrote in the July 29, 2006 editorial section of the New York Times about the 350th anniversary of Baruch Spinoza’s excommunication from the Jewish community of Amsterdam. Her article suggests that religious belief breeds intolerance, while reason and science promote tolerance.

    Like many atheists and contemporary rationalists, Goldstein recommends a return to something like Spinoza’s idea of “universal reason†and a secular rationalist politics as opposed to politics grounded in religion.

    While we all agree that a greater portion of reason and tolerance would be a good thing in today’s world, the re-thinking needed to get us there must go deeper than a return to some form of 18th century reason. In fact, the re-thinking must go far enough to embrace religious faith, rather than reject it from the outset through a narrow definition of reason, if we are going to create genuine cultural understanding that could bring Muslims, Jews, Christians, scientists, and politicians into a constructive dialogue.

    What is needed is a new set of ideas that break out of the modern framework and build a real bridge for cultural understanding across current divides. The major frontiers we face are cultural and spiritual, and until we deal directly with human culture and spiritual life, all our advances in technology, economics, politics, and science are at risk.

    Dramatic changes in global politics, economics, technologies, and our scientific picture of the world, combine with the global resurgence of religious faith to demand a deep re-thinking of our ideas of reason, history, faith, and politics. Both East and West suffer at this time from threadbare concepts created centuries ago, in contexts long vanished, and left on autopilot. The breakneck pace of global change and social integration now make that old cultural “software,†not just out of date, but destructive. Something new must be created.

    Let me illustrate this very briefly with a quick history of what happened in modern culture in the West. Bluntly put, the universal reason, science, and universal political order (peace) posited by rationalists like Descartes, Spinoza, and Kant simply never materialized. Universal reason was supposed to provide an objective method for resolving all genuine difference of opinion, and from this method, a universal science was to emerge and to serve as the basis for a universal society free of intolerance, violence, and inhumanity. Kant eulogized the coming “universal peace,†and Hegel thought he saw its commencement in, of all places, 19th century Germany!

    However, the project did not survive even its first generation of advocates. Spinoza immediately rejected the Cartesean framework for such universal rationality and each great rationalist from Descartes to Hegel in turn created his own, competing variant. Thomas Kuhn has shown from the history of science that scientific method did not provide a universal method for resolving disputes, even in science itself, much less in society. Modern history further underscores the failure of the project with an almost unbroken series of ever more brutal and devastating wars over the past four hundred years. If anything, the rationalist project has increased violence, and its technology has vastly expanded the capacity to harm and kill.

    So, after over four hundred years of rationalist effort, no system of ideas, method, or universal peace have emerged. Add to this failure the critique of rationalism by romanticism. Romantic thinkers rejected reason as the basis of universal human understanding and community, and replaced reason with deep feeling and imagination. More recently, in the 20th century, romanticism gave way to the bleaker vision of existentialism, with its celebration of teeth-gritting choices as the basis of humanism.

    Post modernism trumps all these versions of modernism with a critique that purports to show that reason, feeling, and existential choice are all masks for power and dominance. For the post modernist, reason, feeling, and authenticity are each flawed and incapable of being universalized. With the zest presumably displayed by fundamentalists looking for sin, postmodernists are relentless in un-masking the various forms of power hiding under the banners of reason, feeling, and choice. All that can be universalized on the postmodernist view is the structure of power, dominance and submission, victims and their oppressors. Postmodernists are today’s ruthless puritans.

    If one doubts that postmodernism can have practical effects, simply watch the “debate†on cable television, watch political spokespeople repeat “talking points†without variation and as if deaf to any counterpoint, or read the work of writers and journalists. In the world of today’s politics and media in the West, there is neither a commitment to truth, feeling, or authenticity, but rather a commitment to narrative and to making one’s own narrative dominant.

    Western culture today is an incoherent set of ideas and reflexes, which we use selectively, as they serve our purposes. We appeal to a concept of universal reason, when we feel threatened by conservatives or by religious intolerance. We use bits of romanticism when we fear that science or economics are going too far in controlling our lives. Existentialism occupies less space in our daily lives, except as a trope of drama on television, the cinema, or theatre. Increasingly, postmodernism dominates. Narrative is everything and people enjoy freedom to adopt any narrative they choose and to seek to make their narrative dominant as an exercise of freedom and power. This is why alternative narratives (like pseudo science of extraterrestrials, and pseudo histories like the Da Vince Code) develop great followings without any historical or rational basis.

    The urgent need, and the exciting possibility is that we might think outside the modern and postmodern “box†and forge a new culture and synthesis that re-integrates understandings of science and religion, art and politics, technology and humanism, economics and culture, East and West. The philosophical ideas that originally divided these fields from each other are no longer valid. And in today’s world, it is dangerous and destructive to continue to play with these ideas as “narratives,†or to set these ideas in conflict with each other.

    The outlines for creating such a synthesis is discussed in the recent book Renewing American Culture: The Pursuit of Happiness. This book outlines a rational basis for a new cultural synthesis that grows out of the genetic code—“life liberty and the pursuit of happinessâ€--of American culture. The book also offers 39 Propositions as a framework for action by a new generation of young leaders and thinkers.

    Watching the Middle East go up in flames, as world leaders fumble for any response, raise fears of a coming global conflict. As James Billington, Librarian of Congress, wrote in the Introduction to Renewing American Culture, “we must renew our culture, if we are to avoid a clash of civilizations.†The need could not be more urgent.

  2. Merc

    Merc Certified Shitlord V.I.P. Lifetime

    I'm going to reread this, but for now I have a bit to say.

    Blur, does your father seem to want a government with religion intertwined? If so, I don't know if I can follow it. While rationalists may not have done a great job, neither has religion. More people have been killed in the name of a God(s) than for any other reason. What people lack is the capacity for tolerance.

    When you're raised in a religious home and you get used to the daily life with religion involved, it's quite odd to imagine others living differently. It can even be frightening to those that were not raised with the knowledge that people live in different ways that there are people who believe in other deities. The problem is that there isn't one collective belief system, something that will never happen. As long as people keep trying to bring their faith into the government, people will resist. I was raised Christian and I still am to a degree, but I hate the fact that Bush leads like he's sitting in the chair left of God and to the right of Jesus.

    Why do I? Because I know it's not fair to those who are not Christian to be ruled over by a Christian. If George Bush announced tomorrow that he was actually a Muslim, I can guarantee you that he would 'mysteriously' die of food poisoning of 'accidentaly' step in front of a bus.

    I'll type more once I've read it again.
  3. shookem

    shookem Guest

    I'll have to re-read as well (I'm at school now) but it seems to me at least that we don't need to re-write the the rules of faith interaction and learn from places in the world that already embrace a multifaith society.

    Honestly though, I know I'm on the wrong side of the globe but how often to you hear about a Hindi bombing a zoroastrainist?
  4. Blur

    Blur iPimp

    My dad's responses:

    Thanks for your thoughts. Actually, the core idea here is that we cannot begin to build a more tolerant and inclusive world if we define "reason" so narrowly that no form of religious thought can even be considered as rational. Taking that narrow position immediately cuts off the possibility of real dialogue with most of the people currently living in the world, the overwhelming majority of whom believe in the existence of God. Actually, more people have been killed in the name of secular political ideologies than in the name of religion, when the actual numbers are reviewed. And more people have actually been taken care of through religiously grounded institutions--hospitals, schools, social services--than any other sector.

    I'm not advocating a complete integration of religion and politics, and not endorsing Bush. I am defending the founders' idea that good polity is build from three major sources--Christian scripture, scientific rationality, and tradition (expecially the English Common Law tradition). When done right, policy is an organic blend of these forces and cannot be pulled apart. Our politics are being pulled apart today by people who want one of these three to be the ONLY source of policy. Liberals want reason only; fundamentalists want religion only; and conservatives want tradition only. These need to be re-integrated, I believe.

    Thanks, I am advocating a sophisticated new synthesis of religious, scientific, and cultural thought. A good model is the Helensitic period and the early years of the church. And actually I have a good friend at Notre Dame who teaches a class on various forms of religious fundamentalism. Among his students recently was a Hindu terrorist group. Their class project turned out to be a presentation on how to build suicide bombs.
  5. Nosferatu_Alucard

    Nosferatu_Alucard Undead Intellectual

    Haha Blur, that's so sick that your dad posted. Have him join. Haha. That would be sick. I need to re-read it as well. But we can not have religion and government one in the same. It would be total chaos. One religion can't domitate or be favored over others. Doesn't it say anyways in Bill of Rights (yeah, yeah I know. I need to brush up on my important document skills) or something that we can't do that?
  6. Darkbain

    Darkbain Musician of the B.W.

    right religion isnt something to be mixed with the goverment. religion is something that should be seprat to each individual and wat thier beliefs r wether u believe in buddah or god, or any other deities it should be to u and anyone else who belives it and i personaly think its wrong to push ur religion on someone. and that would more than likely happen if u mixed the two.

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