Thursday, September 19, 2013


Yesterday, I quoted Ronald Dworkn's definition of religion, as reported by James Carroll:
Religion is a deep, distinct, and comprehensive worldview: It holds that inherent, objective value permeates everything, that the universe and its creatures are awe-inspiring, that human life has purpose and the universe order. A belief in god is only one possible manifestation or consequence of that worldview.
"Religion is a deep, distinctive and comprehensive worldview." Yes.

"It holds that objective value permeates everything." The word "objective" here seems problematic. It smacks of tablets from on high. I would delete it. Value is something the religious person intuits. It is a human construct, perhaps shaped by natural selection, and in that sense inherent in nature, but not independent from nature, which the word "objective" needlessly suggests.

"That the universe and its creatures are awe-inspiring." Yes.

"That human life has purpose." Yes, it is part of the religious instinct to believe that human life has purpose. But that purpose does not come as a set of revealed instructions. It is formulated as a result of biological and cultural evolution. It is negotiated between the individual and society. Do good and avoid evil. Leave the world a better place than you found it.

"The universe [has] order." And disorder. As a species, we walk a tightrope over a chasm of extinction, exploiting the order, explored through science, to our technological advantage.

"A belief in god is only one possible manifestation or consequence of that worldview." But with liberty and justice for all.