We often hear that some new scientific discovery has confirmed ancient religious teaching. It now appears that this hearkening back has gone full circle, and modern religion is coming around to ancient secular wisdom.
I take this up in a new guest column at Washington Post's "On Faith" site. Other contributers to "On Faith" include Elie Weisel, Cal Thomas, George Weigel, Sam Harris, Karen Armstrong, and Mohammad Khatami (where can I get tickets to that dinner party?).
At the recent "Seeds of Compassion" event in Seattle, the Dalai Lama spoke of three paths to compassion and moral development in children: the theistic path of the Abrahamic faiths, the non-theistic religious path of Buddhism, and the "secular, scientific" approach. Surrounded by brain researchers and empirical psychologists, he recommended this secular way as the most promising. For some time he has held that if any tenet of Buddhism contradicts contemporary science, science must trump.
Meanwhile, during his first papal visit to the United States, Benedict XVI stressed the coequal roles of reason and faith in the religious life, and urged Catholics to translate their contributions to public life into a "public theology" accessible to all. At the United Nations, he enjoined religious leaders to "propose a vision of faith not in terms of intolerance, discrimination and conflict, but in terms of complete respect for truth, coexistence, rights, and reconciliation." In his first encyclical, Benedict wrote, "A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the church," where politics is "the sphere of the autonomous use of reason." He may not like the sound of this, but that sounds like secularism to me.