Monday, June 7, 2010

It's Not Just The Golden Rule

Speaking of Interfaith Voices, which FLG did in one of the posts below, finally somebody stood up on NPR and said that religion isn't just about the Golden Rule. That there are dogmas, rituals, and beliefs beyond the Golden Rule that are important and different.

Sure, they all have some version of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," but if that's all they are then the entire idea of religion becomes obsolete. If religion is just simply ethical principles, then there's no reason to have religion. Just keep the ethics part. And actually FLG thinks that's the goal of a lot of academic religious scholars is; to boil it down to ethics and then get rid of it. Because, in many people's minds, religion (See Hitchens, Chrisopher and Dawkins, Richard) is dangerous. Ethics and compassion, by contrast, are universally admired and acceptable.

Unfortunately, FLG also thinks that the other end of the spectrum -- my religion is right and everybody else is wrong and potential dangerous goes too far as well. A few of my readers think Islam, as a religion, is somehow more dangerous than others. FLG obviously disagrees. There are certainly differences between Islam and Christianity or Judaism. And people certainly interpret the Quran in dangerous ways, but the religion itself is as dangerous as Christianity is.

Nevertheless, FLG is happy the NPR recognized that let's all come together and only talk about the basic things that we can agree upon -- like be nice to each other -- isn't all that should take place in religious dialogue. There are differences. They do matter. And actually this leads FLG to something that came up in the interview that he has been arguing for a while.

Western elites, and so-called sophisticated people, often make the assumption that people and states are motivated by power or greed. It's a product of Enlightenment thinking and the Big Assumption. These elites desire to be rational and often find religion irrational. But people aren't solely motivated by power and money. In fact, FLG maintains there are five human motivations.

And in that post he just linked to he makes the same case he wants to right now. Our children need to learn about religion in the public schools. Not to force it upon them or to make them believe, but because to understand the motivations of people throughout history you must understand religion. To understand our current conflict with radical Islamic jihadists you must understand religion. Leaving all this aside because the ACLU freaks out or people think religion is dangerous is even more dangerous. Regardless of what you or I think about religion, there are people who believe in them. Their belief and faith undergirds their thinking, actions, and politics. To ignore it or dismiss it as irrational is counterproductive.

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