We are dependent rational (religious) animals

09.05.06 | 3 Comments

I can’t say enough good things about the just-published article “Secularism and Tolerance After 9/11” by Doug Muder of Free and Responsible Search. My thanks go out to him, Philocrites, and the UU World crew for making it happen.

Doug’s article is a review of recent books by pop secularists Sam Harris (The End of Faith) and Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell). He is following up on his UU World article with some more posts on his blog:

I found myself leaving a long comment, so I’ve turned that into a post here.

The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre says that we humans are “dependent rational animals.” One reviewer of MacIntyre’s book of the same name (Good review and summary available here.)

If we ignore any of those three key words—dependent, rational, or animal—our understanding of humanity goes askew.

Dennett and Harris (and Richard Dawkins, we could add) ignore at least two of the three. Their individualism—homo economicus, as Doug calls it—imagines humans as hyper-independent billiard balls each trying to find their own way into the pocket—or to keep from falling into it—-a very limited sort of rationality, in either case.

Further, our pop secularists ignore our radical dependence on other humans. For MacIntyre, this is a literal dependence. There is little talk of the likes of our abstract “interdependent web of all existence.” We are, very literally, dependent on others for our own survival from the moment we are born. As we grow, our dependence deepens into the cultural arenas (like language) that are the very basis of our being human. We never escape our dependence, though we learn to more rationally negotiate and contribute to it.

And then there is our animal nature. In Beast and Man Mary Midgley points out the caricature we’ve allowed our view of animals to become. They are not, studies show, “red in tooth and claw.” Violence is only a last resort, and most displays of aggression are merely that—displays. Our ethics would certainly improve if we were more like our animal cousins. “Neither Beasts Without nor Beasts Within are as beastly as they have been painted,” she says.

But our pop secularists prefer a seventeenth-century caricature, all while upbraiding religious folks for being old fashioned. The pop secularists would have us be afraid of our animal nature and urge us to somehow “rise above” it, as though that would be desirable if it were even possible. It is as though we humans are a collection of disembodied brains in a vat, threatened with interference from our discarded bodies as we pursue our atomistic “billiard ball rationality.”

It’s little wonder, then, that the pop secularists, with their caricature of humanity, rely on a caricature of religion. They selectively winnow out of religion everything that does not fit their polemical purposes. There is no room in their view of religion for rational spirituality, for constructive human dependence, for the healthy embrace of human animality.

Our pop secularists leave us only with the Religion of Terrorists and their Petulant Little Sky God. Our pop secularists take a seven-year-old Sunday Schooler’s understanding of god and parade it around in shackles, asking to be treated as public heroes for its capture. “These people! These gods! They’re the bad ones! If only you would all become atheist sociobiologists, human evil would disappear! Now, all of you, quit being so ignorant!”

As Midgley sarcastically notes in Beast and Man, “The solution to the problem of evil is always simple; if you cannot blame the enemy, blame the gods.” Our pop secularists, it would seem, blame everyone but themselves.


have your say

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. Subscribe to these comments.

Be colorful. Keep it fun. Stay on topic. No spam.

:  (required)

:  (required, not published)

 (wow! a link to my site!)

  • firmware download for android tablet
  • download happy wheels full version free android
  • open home android apk download
  • 25 billion android app downloads
  • application to download movies for android
  • game android free download for pc
  • games for android phones download free
  • professional android 4 application development wrox download
  • instagram android app download free
  • android market bluetooth file transfer free download
  • free android apps apk file download
  • android assistant download apk
  • wifi hacker software download for android
  • psp games for android phones
  • android froyo sense hd2 download
  • existe algum acelerador de download para android
  • android windows 7 download
  • how to download cydia on android
  • android apk files free download to pc
  • change default download directory android
  • android sdk manager download fails
  • samsung galaxy s2 android jelly bean download
  • zoom camera fx android free download
  • just dance 3 free download android
  • android development download eclipse
  • aivc pro version android download
  • gta san andreas game download for android
  • android market for pandigital download
  • song download android market
  • download youtube videos android app free
  • freedi youtube downloader para android
  • lg gt540 android upgrade download
  • android for tablet pc download
  • photo collage free download for android
  • mx video player pro android download
  • hp printer driver for android phone
  • android market download samsung galaxy ace
  • 1438969943
  • android apk files download pc
  • download android to my htc hd2
  • como funciona download manager for android
  • air display free download android
  • download android para mini netbook
  • android games free download apk to pc
  • download android os for iphone 2g
  • download from the android market
  • android games apk download to pc
  • download action movie fx for android
  • alkitab untuk android download full
  • akinator app android download free
  • where does downloaded files go on android
  • android download image from text message
  • mobile software free download sites for android
  • dropbox android download to folder
  • flash 9 download for android
  • download asphalt 6 android full
  • glow hockey 2 download android
  • android applications software download
  • android market link download
  • android keyboard download apk
  • cod black ops free download for android
  • download facebook with chat for android
  • fifa manager 2012 download android
  • super mario bros 3 download for android
  • 4 spieler reaktor android download free
  • download google talk for android
  • download android gingerbread for htc inspire
  • adb android download windows
  • 3d wallpapers free download for android mobile
  • 588589916
  • talking parrot android app download
  • android sdk free download for ubuntu
  • pro android media ebook download
  • agile lock android free download
  • best youtube downloader for android
  • automatic task killer android free download
  • android qr code reader app download
  • best website download free android games
  • the sims 3 portugues download android
  • kick the boss 2 hack android download
  • sports games free download for android
  • 1 click cleaner android free download
  • android 10 billion downloads 10 cent
  • poweramp music player download for android
  • gratis android games downloaden
  • speed test android download
  • german english dictionary download for android
  • fifa 12 free download for android phones
  • rainbow 6 android free download
  • android sd games download
  • android development download image
  • download android htc hd2 gingerbread
  • download android themes for nokia c5 03
  • zabavne aplikacije za android download
  • download android themes samsung corby 2
  • download instagram app for android tablet
  • put android phone download mode
  • android market download for samsung galaxy y
  • mobile hotspot shield android download
  • android file explorer apk download
  • 4615769964
  • copilot live android uk maps download
  • asphalt 7 android free download 4shared
  • android kindle download location
  • acer aspire one happy 2 android download
  • android market download was unsuccessful xperia x10
  • oxford russian dictionary android download
  • download android windows 7 theme free
  • android development download image and display