Earthpages.org

The Real Alternative


2 Comments

Why religion is not going away and science will not destroy it

In 1966, just over 50 years ago, the distinguished Canadian-born anthropologist Anthony Wallace confidently predicted the global demise of religion at the hands of an advancing science: ‘belief in supernatural powers is doomed to die out, all over the world, as a result of the increasing adequacy and diffusion of scientific knowledge’. Wallace’s vision was not exceptional. On the contrary, the modern social sciences, which took shape in 19th-century western Europe, took their own recent historical experience of secularisation as a universal model. An assumption lay at the core of the social sciences, either presuming or sometimes predicting that all cultures would eventually converge on something roughly approximating secular, Western, liberal democracy. Then something closer to the opposite happened.

Not only has secularism failed to continue its steady global march but countries as varied as Iran, India, Israel, Algeria and Turkey have either had their secular governments replaced by religious ones, or have seen the rise of influential religious nationalist movements. Secularisation, as predicted by the social sciences, has failed.

To be sure, this failure is not unqualified. Many Western countries continue to witness decline in religious belief and practice. The most recent census data released in Australia, for example, shows that 30 per cent of the population identify as having ‘no religion’, and that this percentage is increasing. International surveys confirm comparatively low levels of religious commitment in western Europe and Australasia. Even the United States, a long-time source of embarrassment for the secularisation thesis, has seen a rise in unbelief. The percentage of atheists in the US now sits at an all-time high (if ‘high’ is the right word) of around 3 per cent. Yet, for all that, globally, the total number of people who consider themselves to be religious remains high, and demographic trends suggest that the overall pattern for the immediate future will be one of religious growth. But this isn’t the only failure of the secularisation thesis.

Scientists, intellectuals and social scientists expected that the spread of modern science would drive secularisation – that science would be a secularising force. But that simply hasn’t been the case. If we look at those societies where religion remains vibrant, their key common features are less to do with science, and more to do with feelings of existential security and protection from some of the basic uncertainties of life in the form of public goods. A social safety net might be correlated with scientific advances but only loosely, and again the case of the US is instructive. The US is arguably the most scientifically and technologically advanced society in the world, and yet at the same time the most religious of Western societies. As the British sociologist David Martin concluded in The Future of Christianity (2011): ‘There is no consistent relation between the degree of scientific advance and a reduced profile of religious influence, belief and practice.’

The story of science and secularisation becomes even more intriguing when we consider those societies that have witnessed significant reactions against secularist agendas. India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru championed secular and scientific ideals, and enlisted scientific education in the project of modernisation. Nehru was confident that Hindu visions of a Vedic past and Muslim dreams of an Islamic theocracy would both succumb to the inexorable historical march of secularisation. ‘There is only one-way traffic in Time,’ he declared. But as the subsequent rise of Hindu and Islamic fundamentalism adequately attests, Nehru was wrong. Moreover, the association of science with a secularising agenda has backfired, with science becoming a collateral casualty of resistance to secularism.

Turkey provides an even more revealing case. Like most pioneering nationalists, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish republic, was a committed secularist. Atatürk believed that science was destined to displace religion. In order to make sure that Turkey was on the right side of history, he gave science, in particular evolutionary biology, a central place in the state education system of the fledgling Turkish republic. As a result, evolution came to be associated with Atatürk’s entire political programme, including secularism. Islamist parties in Turkey, seeking to counter the secularist ideals of the nation’s founders, have also attacked the teaching of evolution. For them, evolution is associated with secular materialism. This sentiment culminated in the decision this June to remove the teaching of evolution from the high-school classroom. Again, science has become a victim of guilt by association.

The US represents a different cultural context, where it might seem that the key issue is a conflict between literal readings of Genesis and key features of evolutionary history. But in fact, much of the creationist discourse centres on moral values. In the US case too, we see anti-evolutionism motivated at least in part by the assumption that evolutionary theory is a stalking horse for secular materialism and its attendant moral commitments. As in India and Turkey, secularism is actually hurting science.

In brief, global secularisation is not inevitable and, when it does happen, it is not caused by science. Further, when the attempt is made to use science to advance secularism, the results can damage science. The thesis that ‘science causes secularisation’ simply fails the empirical test, and enlisting science as an instrument of secularisation turns out to be poor strategy. The science and secularism pairing is so awkward that it raises the question: why did anyone think otherwise?

Historically, two related sources advanced the idea that science would displace religion. First, 19th-century progressivist conceptions of history, particularly associated with the French philosopher Auguste Comte, held to a theory of history in which societies pass through three stages – religious, metaphysical and scientific (or ‘positive’). Comte coined the term ‘sociology’ and he wanted to diminish the social influence of religion and replace it with a new science of society. Comte’s influence extended to the ‘young Turks’ and Atatürk.

The 19th century also witnessed the inception of the ‘conflict model’ of science and religion. This was the view that history can be understood in terms of a ‘conflict between two epochs in the evolution of human thought – the theological and the scientific’. This description comes from Andrew Dickson White’s influential A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), the title of which nicely encapsulates its author’s general theory. White’s work, as well as John William Draper’s earlier History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (1874), firmly established the conflict thesis as the default way of thinking about the historical relations between science and religion. Both works were translated into multiple languages. Draper’s History went through more than 50 printings in the US alone, was translated into 20 languages and, notably, became a bestseller in the late Ottoman empire, where it informed Atatürk’s understanding that progress meant science superseding religion.

Today, people are less confident that history moves through a series of set stages toward a single destination. Nor, despite its popular persistence, do most historians of science support the idea of an enduring conflict between science and religion. Renowned collisions, such as the Galileo affair, turned on politics and personalities, not just science and religion. Darwin had significant religious supporters and scientific detractors, as well as vice versa. Many other alleged instances of science-religion conflict have now been exposed as pure inventions. In fact, contrary to conflict, the historical norm has more often been one of mutual support between science and religion. In its formative years in the 17th century, modern science relied on religious legitimation. During the 18th and 19th centuries, natural theology helped to popularise science.

The conflict model of science and religion offered a mistaken view of the past and, when combined with expectations of secularisation, led to a flawed vision of the future. Secularisation theory failed at both description and prediction. The real question is why we continue to encounter proponents of science-religion conflict. Many are prominent scientists. It would be superfluous to rehearse Richard Dawkins’s musings on this topic, but he is by no means a solitary voice. Stephen Hawking thinks that ‘science will win because it works’; Sam Harris has declared that ‘science must destroy religion’; Stephen Weinberg thinks that science has weakened religious certitude; Colin Blakemore predicts that science will eventually make religion unnecessary. Historical evidence simply does not support such contentions. Indeed, it suggests that they are misguided.

So why do they persist? The answers are political. Leaving aside any lingering fondness for quaint 19th-century understandings of history, we must look to the fear of Islamic fundamentalism, exasperation with creationism, an aversion to alliances between the religious Right and climate-change denial, and worries about the erosion of scientific authority. While we might be sympathetic to these concerns, there is no disguising the fact that they arise out of an unhelpful intrusion of normative commitments into the discussion. Wishful thinking – hoping that science will vanquish religion – is no substitute for a sober assessment of present realities. Continuing with this advocacy is likely to have an effect opposite to that intended.

Religion is not going away any time soon, and science will not destroy it. If anything, it is science that is subject to increasing threats to its authority and social legitimacy. Given this, science needs all the friends it can get. Its advocates would be well advised to stop fabricating an enemy out of religion, or insisting that the only path to a secure future lies in a marriage of science and secularism.Aeon counter – do not remove

Peter Harrison

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Peter, Paul and Women – Another look at the Early Church

Peter and Paul by El Greco via Wikipedia

Among Christians, St. Peter is often compared to St. Paul.

Peter is seen as the rule man. Paul, the innovator. Together, they are usually cited as the two most important early Christians after Jesus Christ, himself.

Women in Early Christianity

Feminists say the primacy of Peter and Paul is a male take on early Christianity. A male take in a male world—in New Testament times and, to some degree, now.

Women, in fact, performed essential work among the early Christians. Food preparation, laundry and other domestic chores were not accomplished through miracles. And there’s no New Testament record of manna falling from heaven. No, women usually took up these necessary duties.

Scholars also realize that women played key inspirational, pastoral and organizational roles within the early Church.¹

Read More

 Christianity is Wild (leeduigon.com)

 Serve God diligently and obey the law (vanguardngr.com)


Leave a comment

Pelegianism and authoritarian personalities

Click on image to read more


1 Comment

Smart people see through the bias in religion and in science


Leave a comment

Christian conservatives and their flawed reasoning about “natural”


1 Comment

Apples and Oranges: The Comparison Game

Noah and Sons Making Wine via Wikipedia

By Rabbi Simcha Weinberg

“Why can’t you be like other kids who behave perfectly?” is a refrain I often hear parents complaining to their children. Yes, there were and are certainly moments when I wish my children were as “perfect” as other kids, but those moments are rare. I am more than happy for my kids to be individuals, albeit imperfect.

People do not do well when they are compared to other people. The damage increases when we begin to compare ourselves to others. “Why do other people have it so much easier than I?” “Why are they successful when I am not?” are not productive questions.

It becomes even worse when we compare ourselves to others in order to measure our spiritual success: “She said to Elijah, ‘what is there between me and you. O man of God, that you have come to me to call attention to my sins and to cause my son to die!” (Kings I 17:18) The Ralbag explains that she felt that Elijah’s presence in her home, with his impeccable standards of piety and Godliness, caused God to take note of her sins. When God compared her to her neighbors, she was considered righteous. However, compared to Elijah, she was a sinner.

The woman believed that God only judged her in comparison to the people around her, not as she was as an individual. How many of us could stand up to such comparisons?

And yet, the Sages understand that God did compare Noah to others: “Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generations.” (Genesis 6:9) Some Sages maintain that the stress on ‘HIS’ generations is intended as praise: Noah was righteous even in his corrupt environment. How much more righteous he would have been if he had the companionship of Abraham!

According to others, the verse is critical of Noah. He was considered righteous only when compared to his generation. Had he lived in Abraham’s time, Noah would not have stood out as a righteous person. (Rashi)

That sure sounds like the comparison approach to me!

I suggest that the verse is not describing how God judged Noah, but rather how Noah set his sights on achieving his status as a righteous man. Some Sages read the story and understand Noah as someone who strove to be righteous only in comparison with his generation. He did not strive to achieve objective righteousness. He was satisfied with being more righteous than those around him. It was Noah who played the comparison game, and limited himself by so doing.

Other Sages read the story and picture Noah as someone who strove for true Righteousness. He did not play the comparison game. He set his sights on achieving the highest level of Tzidkut. He did not measure himself against his generation but against the highest levels of righteousness, the levels, we know, that were achieved by Abraham.

Rashi seems to prefer the former approach and understands the verse as limiting Noah’s praises. He comments on the next phrase, “Noah walked with God,” and says, Noah needed to walk with God because he could not maintain his standards without someone holding him up. Whereas the verse says of Abraham, “Walk before Me,” Abraham was able to walk on his own.

Harry Chapin closes his song “Greyhound” with, “It’s got to be the going not the getting there that’s good.” It seems to me that Noah was focused on ‘getting there’, he wanted to walk with God. Abraham, on the other hand, was focused on the ‘going’, the journey of his life. He knew that ultimately he would walk with God. He wanted to make sure that the ‘going’, the journey was good and productive.

Abraham was focused on the journey. His goal expanded and grew as he extended his trip and developed himself. Abrahams ‘getting there’ constantly changed as he grew as a human being and servant of God. His ‘there’ was not defined until the end of his life.

Noah was only interested in the ‘getting there’. He needed to define his ‘there’ where and when he was. Such a person can only set his sights by comparing himself with others. That was the only way that Noah could define his ‘there’.

We, the children of Abraham, follow Halacha – we are walkers and see life as a journey. We do not compare ourselves to anyone or anything other than our highest aspirations, which constantly expand and rise as we continue our journey in life.

About the Author:

Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

Article Source: ArticlesBase.comApples and Oranges: The Comparison Game

Note – Since this article was first published, there have been some changes to articlesbase.com. The original links have been left intact. 

 There’s a rift growing between Israel and American Jews (businessinsider.com)

 Unconditional Christian Love for Israel (americanthinker.com)

 Historic Jewish cemetery in Massachusetts vandalized (bostonherald.com)

 Sign at Swiss hotel directed to ‘Jewish guests’ draws anger (stripes.com)

 Taking Responsibility: (brothersjuddblog.com)

 My Big Gay Jewish Conversion was a hipster’s guide to theology – review (telegraph.co.uk)

 Feds to help police find caller after bomb threat at Jewish Family Services (mlive.com)

 Four Rappers Traveled to Israel to Find a Culture ‘Dramatically Different’ From the Negative Narrative They’ve Heard (ijr.com)

 Experts make Holocaust find (foxnews.com)

 Docs: Bomb threats suspect offered services on dark net (bostonherald.com)


4 Comments

What A Rabbi Learns From Studying The Koran

Image by Alisdare Hickson via Flickr

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

The Koran is the only book of revelation that includes within itself a theory of prophethood which includes the prophets of other religions. There have always been (since the days of Adam) people inspired by Allah who urged their society to avoid destruction by turning away from its corrupt and unjust ways and  turning to the One God who created all humans.

The Koran mentions 25 prophets by name (most of them known to non-Muslims too) and Muslims believe there were one hundred twenty four thousand others, whose names are now unknown.

Of the 25 mentioned by name in the Koran only five revealed books of sacred scripture, and only Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad revealed books of sacred scripture that are the bases for the three monotheistic religions that still flourish today.

According to the Koran, every nation in the world receives at least one prophet who speaks to them in their own language. However, one nation, the Children of Israel, has received a great many prophets.

The Koran doesn’t explicitly tell us why so many prophets arose within the Children of Israel, but a careful reading of the Koran reveals the answer. This was what I learned from a profound and enlightening essay by Irfan Ahmad Kahn in a book entitled Jewish-Muslim Encounters edited by Charles Selengut (Paragon House 2001).

Almost all prophets, according to Kahn, are like Hud who was sent to Ad or Salih who was sent to Thamud; to warn them of their impending destruction due to their corrupt and immoral ways and to call them to repentance. However, the prophets of the Children of Israel are different..

Mosaic of the 12 Tribes of Israel. From Givat ...

Mosaic of the 12 Tribes of Israel. From Givat Mordechai synagogue wall in Jerusalem. Top row, right to left: Reuben, Judah, Dan, Asher Middle: Simeon, Issachar, Naphtali, Joseph Bottom: Levi, Zebulun, Gad, Benjamin (Photo: Wikipedia)

First , Abraham is the only prophet we know of whose two sons, Isma’il and Ishaq, are also prophets. Indeed, Abraham’s grandson Ya’qub and great grandson Yusuf are also prophets. Thus starting with Abraham Allah established a family dynasty of prophets. With Joseph and his brothers (the tribes) the extended family became the 12 tribes of Israel or as they are usually called the Children of Israel/Ya’qub.

The Children of Israel were blessed with many prophets inviting them to stay firm in their faith to God; this is expressed in various places in the Qur’an “When death approached Ya’qub, he said to his sons, ‘Who will (you) worship after I am gone?’ They answered, ‘We will worship your God, the God of our forefathers, Abraham, Ishmael, Issac, the One God. Unto Him we will surrender ourselves.’” (2:132)

Second, when Moses/Musa is sent by Allah he comes not primarily to warn or rebuke the Children of Israel (his own people) but he is sent “to Pharaoh” ( 20:24, 51:38, 73:15 and 79:17), “to Pharaoh and his chiefs” (al-mala) (7:103, 10:75, 11:97, 23:46, and 43:46) “to Pharaoh and his people” (27:12).

Musa is sent to Pharaoh to warn him of the destruction that will fall on Egypt if he doesn’t stop setting himself up as a God; and doesn’t let the Children of Israel go free. Musa comes to rebuke Pharaoh and to rescue the Children of Israel.

Only when the nation is free from Egyptian bondage do they receive the Torah from God, by the hand of Moses without any mediation of an angel. This very enlightening essay by Irfan Ahmad Kahn stimulated me as a Reform Rabbi to realize that the evidence from the Qur’an shows that Islam praises the unique place of the Children of Israel among other nations; as opposed to the accusations of some who blame the Qur’an as being antagonistic toward Jews.

From Abraham’s descendants comes a religious community based not just on belief but also on family and tribal ties. Converts to Judaism, who usually marry into the Jewish community, are like adopted children. This is why Judaism, although it welcomes converts from any people, has never engaged in a determined large scale missionary enterprise.

English: 11th Century North African Qur’an in ...

11th Century North African Qur’an in the British Museum (Photo: Wikipedia)

The principle that God makes a covenant with a whole people and not just with the faithful believers helps me understand a powerful verse in the Koran. At Sinai, when Allah gives the Jewish People the Torah, He makes a covenant with all the Children of Israel. Allah raises the mountain above the whole people saying, “Hold firmly to what We have given you (the Torah) and remember what is in it.” (2:63)

The whole nation’s fate stands under the shadow of mount Sinai, and this explains the miracle of all Israel agreeing to the covenant. This may be the reason why Musa is the only prophet whose book comes not from an angel but directly from Allah.

Individuals who hear a prophet may choose to believe or disbelieve, but when God Himself makes ‘an offer that you can’t refuse’, everyone is in for all generations to come, and then has to struggle with living up to the deal.

The many prophets that address the Children of Israel are teachers and guides more than rebukers because the covenant between God and the Umma of B’nai Israel is for all generations. Thus the covenant is not just for the community of the faithful but for the whole community of Israel, which includes some whose hearts are like rocks that spring forth streams, while others only yield water when split, and others sink for fear of Allah.(2:74)

It is this last segment of the Children of Israel, and this segment only, that Prophet Muhammad refers to when he rebukes the Children of Israel. The Koran correctly understood doesn’t attack all of Israel. Every community, including the Muslim Ummah contains groups of faithful believers, as well as a party who disbelieve.

I have learned many additional insights about Islam and Judaism that can be found in my new book ‘Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms’ (a collection of articles by a Reform Rabbi previously published by Islamic web sites ISBN # 978-3-639-79499-1) which was published a few weeks ago and is now on Amazon ($15).

Rabbi Maller’s web site is: www.rabbimaller.com

 In Mississippi, a Muslim community fears its end (thegazette.com)

 What Muslim women want in the bedroom – and why a halal sex manual is a good thing (telegraph.co.uk)

 Israel banned Muslim men under the age of 50 from a Jerusalem holy site (businessinsider.com)

 Sir Tim Rice criticises teachers for changing ‘Israel’ lyrics in Joseph musical (telegraph.co.uk)

 Israeli embassy guard shoots two Jordanians, provoking diplomatic impasse (nationalpost.com)

 Shawaal Fasting: Grab a whole year reward (vanguardngr.com)