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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Ethics and Religion in a Post Christian Age

(Note: I must like to start over. I keep writing new introductions to my work. Maybe my work just consists in introductions. Here is another one.)

Ethics and Religion in a Post Christian Age

Intro 1: Post-Christian! Who says so?

Am I implying that the Christian tradition has ended and that Christianity no longer has validity or influence? Not at all. I could just have easily talked about Post-Muslim or Jewish or Hindu or whatever. None of these have lost validity or influence. Religion is very much a part of culture and I think will always be. But that's just it. We live in a very pluralist society with many different religions--even religions within religions. And we face some very momentous decisions in confronting huge trends that are threatening our very existence. We need to reach deep in our differing traditions and beyond their sometimes opposing expressions to find and affirm the humanity that is common to us all at a time when that humanity is fundamentally challenged. (One could argue that it is always that time, that to be human means to be in crisis; but more on that later.)

I speak of post Christianity because that is the tradition from which I emerge; and it is to the people of this tradition that I address these thoughts. I'll let others address their own traditions as indeed many are so doing.

But there is another meaning of being in a post-Christian age. The Judeo-Christian western culture itself has developed many traditions and expressions. And many of us have left our old-time religions and are accepting, even welcoming, the secular humanist and post-modern society without beliefs in supernatural entities or events which formerly defined religion. Some may say they still have these religious beliefs and even fight to enshrine them. But if they are honest, they acknowledge that they generally set them aside in their work-a-day life.

So not only do we have to find common cause with other religionists, but also with secularists, agnostics, skeptics, and atheists if we are to live, work, and especially act together for our common good.

What are those megatrends that are confronting us and threatening our existence? There are at least four that almost everyone recognizes 1) urbanization, 2) wealth creation, 3) earth change, 4) transhumanism; and you can put the word "global" in front of all of them. The question with all of these is not whether, but how. Can we find some universal standards to guide us in all our expressions within these megatrends? Is there a universal ethic that can stand over, within, and above our religions and their moralities? I think so. I think that ethic is easily discoverable by most of us who have not suppressed it because it is our human existence itself--that which make us most human. (I will have to explain that I know.)

But it is less easily expressed because once it is put out there with all the other moral and religious expressions, it is just one more contribution to the rich diversity of our pluralistic culture. We have seen that starting a new religion or morality with its own holy book, creed, and ritual can be quite lucrative. But usually a new religion and ethics are started not for profit reasons, but because their founders think they have been given or stumbled upon the answer to all our problems, war, poverty, health, and everlasting life. And indeed they probably have. And just as often they and their followers, in rationalizing and concretizing their insights, develop a school, a cult, a movement, a priesthood, a territory, and a truth that has consequences destructive to our common human being together.

So unless we want to start a new religion or a new morality (and I don't!), we cannot pretend to lay out a new revelation or insight or truth. All we can do is use our language and other human artifacts or symbols (I'll explain that later) to point to what is already there in all of us before it is expressed or, better, while we are expressing anything in our interaction with each other and our world.

And if it is difficult to express that universal ethic, it is even more difficult to apply it to the current megatrends that are putting our human existence at risk. But that is exactly what I am trying to do--for myself in my solitude and with you, especially those of you in the "west" emerging within or out of the Judeo-Christian culture into an age of post-Christian and post-modern experience and expression. I hope to clarify those megatrends, how they are putting us at risk, and how we might explore and exploit these megatrends to continue our adventure in human being.

First a note on my language. When I use the word "ethics," I usually mean the same as morality, that is, the formal and informal rules of behavior that are legitimated (law) or sanctified (religion) within the culture of a particular society. However when I use the word "ethics" as a discipline of social philosophy or behavioral science, then I mean the inquiry into a particular morality or of ethics in general. I reserve the word ethic (without an s) to the fundamental dynamic structure of human existence before, within, and beyond its many expressions and ethics, i.e. that which can only be pointed to so people can recognize it for themselves within their own expressions.

That language presumes my own philosophical orientation and style which will not be compatible with yours. (See my earlier blog on style which will be inserted here).

Okay let's review what I have promised you so far in this introduction usually between the parentheses:
1) a notion of human being that is always in crisis and finally cannot be expressed.
2) a clarification of four global megatrends that confront us and put our human existence at risk.
3) the meaning of symbol in language and other human artifacts to define our human way of being.
4) how ethics and religion are part and parcel of culture.
5) a universal ethic which belongs to the notion of human existence that we can use to explore and exploit these megatrends.

All without advancing a new ethics (morality) or religion (though perhaps critiquing our old ones), without arguing to any absolute truth (though hopefully pursuing truth), in a circular redundant style of discovery, and without diminishing your responsibility and effort to think things out for yourself and join the conversation.

Now if you want to go on, and I hope you do because I need the conversation, you deserve to know a little more who I am, my own interests and values, and the actors and thinkers who have made me who I am. So I proceed to my second introduction.



Intro 2: The Philosophy Stone (to be inserted)

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