30 June 2008

Washington Post Online: New religious discoveries confirm ancient secular wisdom

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.

Read more.

08 June 2008

The God Squad on The Secular Conscience

As of yesterday, The Secular Conscience has won the endorsement of a priest and a rabbi. Writing in the nationally syndicated newspaper column "The God Squad" for Saturday, June 7, Rabbi Marc Gellman cites the book in a discussion of morality.
I urge you to check out a new book by secular philosopher Austin Dacey: "The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life." Dacey disagrees with most religious opinions about the big ethical issues of our time, and I disagree with him. However, I strongly agree with him that it's wrong to reject an opinion about some moral issue just because the person who makes it is religious.
Gellman concedes the significant secularist point that "
the apprehension of the moral truth " can come "from unaided human reason."
All of us, secularists and religious folks, must talk to each other and be prepared to give good reasons why we judge some act right or wrong. Saying there's just one truth in the world doesn't free any of us, religious or secular, from the responsibility to give good, sound, accessible reasons for our moral judgments. That's what Dacey believes, that's what I believe, and that's what the best religious thinkers I know believe.