Towards A Good Samaritan World

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Howard Fineman of Newsweek, in an essay that asks whether "the tide of conservative Republicanism [has] crested," writes:

Two religions are in collision, one of them secular and scientific, the other Biblical.

An interesting way of putting it. I like the description of... well, of something, what exactly is an interesting question which I'll get back to... as a "religion." It has the connotations of unreasoning dogma which are appropriate in a description of... again, let's just say certain people, for now... but which are usually not admitted to.

But to oppose "secular and scientific" to "Biblical" won't wash. The secular-sacred distinction is a (rather distinctive) feature of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Secular and sacred refer to different spheres of life, both of which Bible-believing Christians lead. Fineman's formulation suggests that "Biblical" types do not lead secular lives, which is absurd.

Again, while (a literal interpretation of) the Bible may clash with (the present corpus of dogmas of mainstream) science in a few cases (evolution, ontology), by and large, the two deal with different topics: ethics, and nature, respectively. No normal Christian has a problem with the practice or the findings of observational or experimental sciences.

But let's go back to the question we bumped into before: what "religion" are we talking about? It is "secular," which suggests a denial of the sacred. It is "scientific," suggesting nonrecognition or subordination of other forms of cognition, such as the aesthetic faculty; conscience; tradition...

My problem with this is that those who deny the sacred deny, knowingly or not, the sanctity of human life; and sometimes they later become aware, and/or confess to, and/or act on, this denial. And those who reject conscience and tradition have difficulty justifying the failure to reject the moral and behavioral traditions derived therefrom.


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