Religion and Humanism
Until recently, it was widely assumed in the West that the whole world was becoming ever more secular, and that religion would fade away or become a purely private matter as people embraced the rational, scientific worldview associated with liberal democracy and the market, or more radical humanist alternatives. But religion has not only resolutely failed to disappear: in recent years it appears to have made a comeback, sweeping the developing world and increasingly sparking controversy in the West. Debates rage about veils, religious hatred, creationism and so on. Religious extremism, and more generally ‘faith-based politics’ are seen as a threat to secular liberalism. Meanwhile, religious communities often feel under siege, with their values not recognised or respected by wider society.
The chief critics of religion today are not revolutionaries and reformers, but scientists and other rationalists – the so-called New Atheists – seemingly bewildered by people’s willingness to believe without evidence. Whereas progressive critics once argued that religion breeds passivity, detractors now worry that it inspires a little too much political activism and fosters conflict. With the political significance of religion and atheism seemingly in flux, the meaning of ‘humanism’ is up for grabs. These reviews and articles explore the shifting debate about religion and humanism as expressed in popular culture and the arts, as well as books and current affairs.
The authors favour open kindness, freely given, which includes a rough erotic generosity over and against free-market individualism that creates hate and division and debases affection. The kindness they hope for is haunted by its opposite: kindness as veiled egoism; as disguised sexual seduction; as a cover for aggression, or all three together.
The gradual appropriation of Confucianism as a state-endorsed Chinese ideology undermines the Confucian ideal of personal liberty, virtue and civil social harmony.
As always, Hitchcock is having a field day with one of America’s sacred cows, the business world. The guy who has completely lost his soul and is completely without meaning is by far the best businessman.
Luther and others discovered a basic theme of Paul’s letters was the contrast between rules-based Judaism, and freedom-loving Christianity.
The film bathes in the banal: during a fantastically impressive storm, one luckless man finds no respite in the overcrowded bus shelter, another repeatedly tries (and fails) to choose the fastest queue to wait in, another runs for an elevator whose doors close just a moment too soon – its occupants unmoved and unresponsive.
The personal importance of the experiment to the lives of those involved is the central theme of the film, which at times boils over into genuine desperation and elation over its ups and downs.
Through ever-progressing ethics we ‘learned’ slavery was wrong a couple of centuries ago; racism and sexism turned out to be bad sometime during the 20th century; and homophobia became unethical a decade or so later. In another half century we’ll all become vegetarians.
At the moment death truly becomes inevitable, reaching an acceptance is vital: literature may show doctors ways to help our patients achieve this, and indeed help us to be better doctors at a time when our patients need special understanding and skill.
The existence of a supreme power is paradoxically a non-subject, as humanity is purely interested in the potential a belief in that power might have for an understanding of oneself. Arguably, it is this conundrum that elicits the sheer failure to comprehend, which the spectator experiences at the end of these films.
Steve Fuller makes a pragmatic defence of Intelligent Design theory, arguing that positing an intelligent designer, God, motivates the attempt to make scientific sense of the natural world in a way Darwinism cannot.
Whilst on one level, being suspicious of elite organisations and challenging the unearned political authority of science is useful, Fuller misses the point that just because the elite believe it, doesn’t make it automatically wrong for the rest of us to agree.
While acknowledging that nobody ever sets out to have an abortion for fun, Ann Furedi made the case boldly that abortion can be a morally good thing, as opposed to a ‘necessary evil’. This position is rarely heard, but it is crucial to any serious debate about abortion.
What really sets this novel above other material on America is the tone of it – which far from being angry or boring – has a fragile and almost fairytale quality.
Smith suggests that ‘because of the radical equality of Christianity, expressed in the universal notion that all people are moral agents… then liberalism is but a different form of Christianity’. The individual relationship with God that characterises Christian thought thus enables the individual-centred outlook that respects human rights, so that the relationship is continued in a modern ‘secular’ form.