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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Two Kinds of Religion

I think it is important to distinguish between two kinds of religious thinking. Japes P. Carse argues in his book The Religious Case Against Belief that there is dogmatic and inspiring sides of religion. He calls the dogmatic 'finite' because it seeks an end to thought. Once you accept a creed, you have all the beliefs you need and thought is not something other than a tool to get food on the table. The inspiring Carse calls infinite because it seeks constant continuing. For instance, the volumes on ‘who Jesus was’ could fill a library. The infinite religion seeks to create new things and explore ones spirituality. The social progress one can make with the feeling that one is on the side of some infinite spiritual good is real. 

In Friedrich Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals, he criticizes how atheists often escape a world without god by creating new sources of meaning. In Carse-like language, they escape into infinite religion. Nietzsche argues that for an atheist to believe in a realm of independent truth or beauty was simply to return to the values of the religion you left. When Nietzsche said "God is dead," he was trying to tell atheists this. He wanted them to bury God by not having any of the god-based morals or values. Richard Dawkins would be one of those people who falls into the trap of objective meaning because Dawkins is a evolutionary biologist who sees nature as beautiful. In my opinion, the big difference between Dawkins and a typical god-believer in the question of meaning is that Dawkins creates a belief of meaning in something that is real (i.e. nature). 

Albert Camus, my favorite philosopher, made a fundamental shift in thinking about meaning in his essay "The Myth of Sisyphus." Instead of finding meaning in something like god or science, the only real meaning we have access, according to Camus, is to the meaning we ourselves create. He called any escape from the recognition that there is no meaning in the world, to which we have access, 'Philosophical Suicide." What Camus means by 'Philosophical Suicide' roughly is to escape an indifferent world because one does not have the courage to have a freedom, morality, and truth originating in his or her own self.

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