Friday, September 21, 2012

The High Holy Days Without Religion

9/21/2012—We are currently in the midst of the High Holy Days, or the Days of Awe—the period between the Jewish Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This period has been of great spiritual importance in my life, but now I hardly notice them.

The significance of the change points out one problem with a secular life. The notion of “good without God” suggests that the issue is whether nonbelievers can lead moral lives. Of course they can. But that is not the whole story.

The absence of God is a problem of moral architecture. Is there a good to be? This is an important question and it relates to the work of Alvin Plantinga, below.

But another issue is remembering or training to be good. This is the problem of the secular calendar. By setting aside a period of reflection, Judaism encourages self-criticism. This is true of all of our religions and it is not true of a secular life, at least not right now. Secular time is always the same.

What we secularists need is a calendar that could give a rhythm of a life of good deeds and earnest reflection. But how will that come to be?

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