It's called 'Philosophy'

This was an open letter to a local Talk Show that was being guest hosted by a local State Rep. (whose opinions I generally agree with, but not that day) who kept wondering, on air, how anyone could get by without religion to shape their moral fibre; and what a shame it was that the importance of religion in American society was failing, since we are a 'Christian nation' after all.

[three guesses what set me off in the first place. Bet you don't need two of them]




Dear XXXXXXX,

The word you are struggling to find is 'philosophy'. Philosophy, even amongst the religious, is where morals come from. I say this as an Objectivist, Americans ignore the importance of establishing and maintaining a personal philosophy at their own peril.

It is the short-cutters, who turn to religion and superstition to answer their metaphysical questions, that are to blame for the degradation of the morals in our society; not a lack of 'faith' or 'prayer in schools' or whatever imagined slight the Christian Right wants to whine about today.

Contrary to popular opinion, the founders where not christians, they were Deists.

From EarlyAmerica.com:

"The Founding Fathers, also, rarely practiced Christian orthodoxy. Although they supported the free exercise of any religion, they understood the dangers of religion. Most of them believed in deism and attended Freemasonry lodges. According to John J. Robinson, "Freemasonry had been a powerful force for religious freedom." Freemasons took seriously the principle that men should worship according to their own conscious. Masonry welcomed anyone from any religion or non-religion, as long as they believed in a Supreme Being. Washington, Franklin, Hancock, Hamilton, Lafayette, and many others accepted Freemasonry."

One of the most religious men in the continental congress was John Adams, and he was a Unitarian.

This is my answer to the question you posed. I only wish I could have called in to set you right in your confusion. Religion is a curse that will betray America to ruin; and that very soon. Philosophy needs to be taught to children as a part of their school curriculum. It is every bit as important as the 3 "R's". (so does economics need to be taught, but that is a different subject) Only with the mental tools for judging and abiding by morals of their own, will our children be able to stop the moral decline that this country is in.

I too had to turn off the program today. One more holier than thou phone caller trying to tell me how I needed to go to church would have sent me over the edge.



These days I just point people who ask these types of questions to the study published in the Journal of Religion and Society titled Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies, that shows the impact of fervent religious belief on society as a whole is negative. Don't know what else needs to be said on the subject.

8 comments:

  1. Interestingly said. It's a shame that you did not get through to the show to set them straight.

    You are very accurate in what you said about the American forfathers. Somehow the conservative right has hijacked our perception of right and wrong and forced the point. That is not the answer to our moral decline.

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  2. Logan Gratehouse10:47 AM

    I think you're mostly right about our forefathers. I've seen evidence for both sides of the argument, it comes down to what one accepts as evidence.

    The line between Religion and Faith has become blurred of late, where one's criticisms about religion become criticisms of believers in God, and that is dangerous. Our nation was founded by those seeking religious freedom. This is by no means a blank check for political powers to impose one religion or another. However this points to the fact that our national identity is founded in faith in "a" God (whoever you choose that to be). If you throw that out, you betray our foundation.

    It's okay to speak out against those rabid religious fanatics, but, to be sure, rabidity begets rabidity--you become that which you despise.

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  3. Logan Gratehouse said...
    However this points to the fact that our national identity is founded in faith in "a" God. If you throw that out, you betray our foundation.


    In it's most basic sense freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. Which is why it all comes back to philosophy; that being the name of the 'science' that man applies to interpret the world around him, and what it means.

    One man's "god" is another man's "natural law" and yet another's "Nirvana".

    I would say that, rather than being founded on a faith in god, the American colonies were founded on a faith in the individual. It was, after all, individuals who rejected the conformist societies of Europe (for whatever reason) that made up the bulk of immigrants. And it has been individuals who are willing to strike out on their own that have made a mark in history.

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  4. Logan Gratehouse2:13 PM

    The Princeton dictionary defines Philosophy as 1)Doctrine; 2)The rational investigation of questions about existence and knowledge and ethics; 3) any personal belief about how to live or how to deal with a situation.

    R. Anthony Steele said...
    Americans ignore the importance of establishing and maintaining a personal philosophy at their own peril.


    I would say most Americans believe their religion is their philosophy. While I too hate religion due to a belief that it divides rather than unites, I believe by faith in the Judeao-Christian God--not because I follow blindly, but because my "rational investigation" led me to this place.

    I agree that there are the short-cutters you speak of, but they are in every society. There are those who turn to religion after much thoughtful consideration (CS Lewis is a great example). People turn to religion (or philosophy) as a means of governing their own morality. There must be an external governor of morality because man will always make the wrong decision when given the choice.

    I understand the statement that we are a "Christian nation"--it may not have started that way, but 78% of our nation currently claims to be Christian, so that makes us a Christian nation.

    There are many things that could be claimed to be the moral decline of our nation--I believe it is folly to say that religion is that; a divider, yes, but not the catalyst of moral decline.

    Sincerely,
    The Christian Objectivist

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  5. Logan Gratehouse4:49 PM

    One more comment and I'll leave this alone:

    The creighton.edu site you offer as evidence says:

    There is evidence that within the U.S. strong disparities in religious belief versus acceptance of evolution are correlated with similarly varying rates of societal dysfunction, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west having markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the northeast where societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms.

    Chicago, New York, and DC took the top spots for homicide last year per CNN. Teenage pregnancy was highest in California. Divorce rates in the New England and Northeast states were about equal to those of the south. The facts I'm quoting were found very quickly on Google.

    It sounds like the person(s) who conducted this study had a bit of an agenda. Everyone does, of course, but like I said in my first comment, arguments can be made for both sides--it comes down to what evidence you choose to accept.

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  6. Reknowned professor of mythology Joseph Campbell said it best: "Religion is a defense against religious experience."

    In other words, people accept and adopt a ready-made religion already pre-digested, with all the Big Questions already answered for them, so that they do not have to personally experience a Threshold Event -- a Gnosis -- for themselves.

    For more off-the-wall Hermetic / Gnostic / Masonic thinking, read the Burning Taper blog at http://BurningTaper.blogspot.com

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  7. Logan Gratehouse9:18 AM

    Campbell was quoting Jung.

    the widow's son said...
    people accept and adopt a ready-made religion


    I believe these are the short-cutters Anthony is speaking of. I would amend your statement by saying that some people accept ready-made religion. You must be careful not to discount spiritual experiences of even those who were raised in a religion and had it handed to them--they can be genuine to that person despite what you believe about spiritual experience.

    I also think there is something to be said about accepting the scholarship that has gone before. Wisdom works this way. Science does as well (much of the time). Naturally, people accept the religious scholarship that has gone before.

    The car I drive has wheels I didn't have to invent.

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  8. I would say that, contrary to your assertions, people should naturally reject the superstitions of yesterday; which is what religion (and most 'popular' spirituality) amounts too. OTOH, I don't discount all spirituality and religion as nonsense (as Rand and most Atheists do) some things simply can't be explained with current technology and science. That doesn't mean that they will never be explained, though.

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