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A COMMON FAITH
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I suggest reading also: "Varieties of Scientific Experience - A Personal View on the Search for God" by Carl Sagan, and 2)"Breaking the Spell - Religion as a Natural Phenomenon" by Daniel Dennett.
He begins this 1934 book by saying, “Never before in history has mankind been so much of two minds, so divided into two camps, as it is today… there are many who hold that nothing worthy of being called religious is possible apart from the supernatural… The opposed group consists of those who think the advance of culture and science has completely discredited the supernatural and with it all religions that were allied with belief in it… The extremists in this group believe that … not only must historic religions be dismissed but with them everything of a religious nature… There is one idea held in common by these two opposite groups: identification of the religious with the supernatural. The question I shall raise… concerns the ground for and the consequences of this identification… I shall develop another conception of the nature of the religious phase of experience, one that separates it from the supernatural… I shall try to show that these derivations are encumbrances and that what is genuinely religious will undergo an emancipation when it is relieved from them… the religious aspect of experience will be free to develop freely on its own account… The heart of my point… is that there is a difference between religion, A religion, and the religious…” (Pg. 1-3)
He suggests, “Understanding and knowledge also enter into a perspective that is religious in quality. Faith in the continued disclosing of truth through directed cooperative human endeavor is more religious in quality than is any faith in a completed revelation.” (Pg. 26) But he significantly adds, “I should be sorry if any were misled by the frequency with which I have employed the adjective ‘religious’ to conceive of what I have said as a disguised apology for what have passed as religions. The opposition between religious values as I conceive them and religions is not to be bridged. Just because the release of these values is so important, their identification with the creeds and cults of religions must be dissolved.” (Pg. 28)
He observes, “There is no reason for denying the existence of experiences that are called mystical. On the contrary, there is every reason to suppose that… they may be regarded as normal manifestations that take place at certain rhythmic points in the movement of experience.” (Pg. 37) He adds, “The method of intelligence is open and public. The doctrinal method is limited and private. This limitation persists even when knowledge of the truth that is religious is said to be arrived at by a special mode of experience, that termed ‘religious.’ For the latter is assumed to be a very special kind of experience… it is asserted to be open to all who obey certain conditions. Yet the mystic experience yields…various results in the way of belief to different persons, depending upon the surrounding culture of those who undergo it.” (Pg. 39-40)
He points out, “The demand that churches show a more active interest in social affairs… is one of the signs of the times. But as long as social values are related to a supernatural for which the churches stand in some peculiar way, there is an inherent inconsistency between the demand and efforts to execute it. On the one hand, it is urged that the churches are going outside their special province when they involve themselves in economic and political issues. On the other hand, the very fact that they claim if not a monopoly of supreme values and motivating forces, yet a unique relationship to them, makes it impossible for the churches to participate in promotion of social ends on a natural and equal human basis. The surrender of claims to an exclusive and authoritative position is a sine qua non for doing away with the dilemma in which churches now find themselves in respect to their sphere of social action.” (Pg. 83)
He summarizes, “In the opening chapter … I urged that conditions are now ripe for emancipation of the religious quality from accretions … that limit the credibility and the influence of religion. In the second chapter, I developed … the faith in ideals that is immanent in the religious value of experience, and asserted that the power of this faith would be enhanced were belief freed from … the proposition that the ideal is already embodied in some supernatural or metaphysical sense in the very framework of existence… The community of causes and consequences in which we… are enmeshed is the widest and deepest symbol of the mysterious totality of being the imagination calls the universe… The continuing life of this comprehensive community of beings … holds within its content all the material that gives verifiable intellectual support to our ideal faiths. A ‘creed’ founded on this material will change and grow, but it cannot be shaken… The unification of what is known at any given time, not upon an impossible eternal and abstract basis but upon that of its bearing upon the unification of human desire and purpose, furnishes a sufficient creed for human acceptance, one that would provide a religious release and reinforcement of knowledge.” (Pg. 85-86)
He concludes, “The things in civilization we most prize are not of ourselves. They exist by the grace of the doings and sufferings of the continuous human community in which we are a link. Ours is the responsibility of conserving, transmitting, rectifying and expanding the heritage of values we have received that those who come after us may receive it more solid and secure, more widely accessible and more generously shared than we have received it. Here are all the elements for a religious faith that shall not be confined to sect, class, or race. Such a faith has always been implicitly the common faith of mankind. It remains to make it explicit and militant.” (Pg. 87)
Dewey was a “signer” of the first Humanist Manifesto of 1933, precisely BECAUSE of its “religious” orientation. [See The Genesis of a Humanist Manifesto.] This book remains a “classic” of liberal/progressive religion, Religious Humanism, and a broad, non-dogmatic form of spirituality. Those who are opposed to such ideals will likely hate this book, but those of us who are receptive to them will treasure this statement.
This particular book outlines a plan on how best to educate our youngsters for a functional social democracy. I have nothing against a social democracy, mind you, but as a telos for education it stinks. Education should be an apolitical search for the Truth--yes, with a capital T. Education should lead students out of the shadowy cave into the full light and glare of the Truth. Education means, after all, a leading out. But such a conception is incomprehensible to a mindset which believes that truth is simply what works. What works is determined by a given political/social system, and so truth is determined by ideology, and not vice versa.
Dewey's political preference is social democracy. An atheistic social democracy, to be precise, for Dewey thinks religion is bunk. Nevertheless, Dewey likes the religious, because the religious instills in people the zeal needed to accomplish the social engineering required for a socially democratic utopia. But how can you have religious zeal without its religious telos which is provided by the hocus pocus of, well, religion. Well, it is simple. You just decide that religion does not work and discard it, but you keep the carmel-nougaty goodness of the religious zeal and just attach it to the social democratic endeavors that, once realized, will usher in the Age of Aquarius and the Obama Presidency. Nevermind that the religious makes sense only within the context of religion. The former derives from the latter, after all, and if religion is untrue, then the religious will die. But that, of course, is logical, and even logic is too damn metaphysical for Dewey. Besides, he needs that religious zeal to work for his agenda, darn it! So, logic be damned!
The classic definition of evil is the absence of rationality. Dewey demonstrated just such an absence in this small book. Therefore, the book is evil, and Dewey is the spawn of Satan.