Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Heart of Hallowed Secularism

6/4/2016--I'll be traveling some in June, but I will try to be more faithful in blogging. For my term as Associate Dean at Duquesne Law School is ending and my life in thinking is about to begin again.

This last week I spoke to a group of civilians--non-lawyers--about Judaism as part of a class on Comparative Religion. At the same time, I submitted a proposed paper to the Association of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools to speak at their meeting in September. These two matters come together for the future.

The issue is American Democracy and what is wrong with it. Why are we so angry and disappointed? Some say the reasons are material, but I believe the reasons are basically spiritual. We are a people who are lost. We no longer get our orientation from traditional religion, but we have no substitute. Most secularists--people who don't go to Church or Mosque or Temple or Synagogue--and some who do, subscribe to a worldview that is a dead end. They think they are rationalists--hence the Reason Rally today in Washington.

But they are not rationalists--they are a kind of materialist. They reject God for the silliest reason: that he is invisible and inexplicable. Well so is quantum entanglement.

I am what you might call a minimal materialist. I reject God as a being. But of course all thinking religious people reject God as a being also.

The heart of my alternative to God as a being is hallowed secularism. Secular because there cannot be a quasi-physical realm like a heaven where spirits act like people. Hallowed because this reality is holy--the missing ingredient at the Reason Rally.

My hero is Sarah Blumenthal from the book, City of God, by E.L. Doctorow. Sarah is a liberal rabbi and gives a talk. God is something evolving, she says. And what about humans? We live out a teleology that gives one substantive indication of itself--that we live in moral consequence.

There you have the future of secularism--teleology and moral consequence. Teleology: this reality is not an accident. Yes, it has random features. But look at humans. We are the universe becoming aware of itself. No mere materialism can capture that. And we know what it means to live a moral life. That means that morality is real--not a matter of opinion. So much flows from that.

Of course we disagree in the present about moral questions. But we do a really good job historically in figuring out the right answers to moral questions.

But, shockingly, I could almost describe Judaism as a teleology of moral consequence, too.

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