The latest installment in Salon’s Atoms and Eden series on science and religion is an interview with Ken Wilber. Steve Paulson says that Wilber “may be the most important living philosopher you’ve never heard of.” I admit up front that my familiarity with Wilber’s work is limited (I’ve never read any of his books), but of all the people I’ve known who considered Wilber to be worthwhile, only one was someone whom I respected intellectually. Now that I’ve laid out my biases, maybe somebody who is into Wilber can tell me whether I’m mistaken to be so dismissive towards him. I would similarly encourage anyone who wishes to confirm me in my suspicions.
The by-line to this article in the New York Magazine: “The fastest-growing faith in America is no faith at all. And now some atheists think they need a church.”
Given the topic, I found the headline to be a bit ironic simply because one of the groups Nietzsche is critiquing in his parable of the madman is those atheists who believe that the Enlightenment project and the sciences can continue just as they were without the theistic metaphysics that underlay them.
Otherwise, it’s an interesting article that covers some of the history of atheistic “religious” organisations and thoughts by luminaries in the contemporary movement on how to make it mainstream and compensate for the lack of community among atheists that one often finds within the life of an organized faith.
There is an interview with Chris Hedges at Salon regarding his new book, I Don’t Believe in Atheists, an attack on the political designs of the “New Atheists” such as Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris. Just in case anyone feels that we’ve been remiss on our Dawkins-harping lately.
I look forward to picking up a copy of Hedges’s book, although the impression I get from the interview is that it’s more polemical than theoretical. Historically however, the case for toleration has always had an integral polemical component as well.
An interesting interview with Catholic theologian John Haught, which can be found here. Tagline: "Theologian John Haught explains why science and God are not at odds, why Mike Huckabee worries him, and why Richard Dawkins and other ‘new atheists’ are ignorant about religion."
Haught has a forthcoming book, God and the New Atheism, which promises to be interesting. Plus, we can never have enough criticism of Dawkins, can we? Some of you might also be interested in what he has to say about the relationship between faith and biological evolution, like his statement that "Darwin’s thought is a gift to theology."
One of the things for which Hinduism is most well-known for among Westerners is its claim to catholicity. This view is usually associated with Advaita Vedï¿½?nta, which posits a purely noumenal being, Brahman, behind the phenomena of experiencing God, Dhamma, etc. in all the world’s religions. The late 9th century Kashmiri Jayanta however gives a strictly theistic defense of religious inclusivism in his play Ägamaï¿½ï¿½?ambara (“Much Ado About Religion”). I give a brief sketch here of Jayanta’s arguments, as well as a discussion of the relevance they might have to contemporary debates.
I came across this story earlier today, and I was nonplussed by the title: "Belief in Reincarnation Tied to Memory Errors." After reading the story, I realized that 'belief in reincarnation' here meant belief that one had been reincarnated as some particular person, as opposed to the belief that people qua souls/atmans are reborn in different bodies commensurate with their latent karma.
It's a standard assumption in the Hindu literature with which I'm familiar that an individual is not and cannot become aware of his or her past lives–at least as long as he or she continues to have an embodied existence. Buddhism is a bit different, but even there it is only an Arhat (one who has achieved full enlightenment) who can become aware of his past lives. The point here, outside of the ambiguity in the article's title, is that even within the traditions I'm aware of which accept the occurence of rebirth in some form, there's still not much reason to take most people's claims about the particulars of any previous births seriously. Even from within those traditions, one should probably put as much credence in such claims as a typical Catholic should in the divine origins of the Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich.
I recently attended a debate here in Liverpool featuring William Lane Craig, and when someone posed the question to him of the validity of other religions, he acknowledged that the three Abrahamic faiths were coherent because they had a transcendent God as a central doctrine, whereas other religions such as Shinto, Taoism, and Advaita Vedanta Hinduism do not. Craig did not of course say that his list was exhaustive, but it is common for “Western” philosophers of religion to equate Advaita Vedanta with Hinduism considered qua religion. I wish to briefly examine why this is and explain why this assumption is mistaken.
There is an essay by Robin Collins on “Eastern Religions” in Reason for the Hope Within (also online here) in which he examines the tenability of various forms of Hinduism and Buddhism. In many respects however, his critique falls short. The problem with Collins’s critique is not so much to do with substance as it is to do with method. The problems with method lead however to a number of problems which are more substantive.
Here is the latest in Salon’s “Atoms and Eden” series on science and religion. (Not the latest, actually, but the interviews with Dawkins and Dennett would be redundant to the discussions here.) B. Alan Wallace discusses the relationship of modern science and Buddhism and their commensurability. Salon is a subscription site, so you’ll have to watch a brief ad to read the article, but it’s relatively painless.