Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Religion without God (3)

Continuing the previous posts on Religion without God, a very short book (30,000 words or so) by the late philosopher and legal expert, Ronald Dworkin.

A great deal of Dworkin's arguments in the first three chapters have to do with the distinct universes of facts and values. In the last legal chapter, this distinction is recognized for how vague it is. Ultimately he cannot sustain the distinction without appeals to forms of words that are, as my mother would say, ridiculous. For example, he writes (p. 23) The science part [of a religion] offers answers to important factual questions about the birth and history of the universe, the origin of human life, and whether or not people survive their own death."

Can one even speak of fact, theory, or value when one considers the creation of the universe? No, one speaks or writes in mythic language, in story language, and experientially as one considers the presence of one's own thoughts. We are alive, we consider, and we react with story, history, myth, and derived value. Fact and value are not separated into science and value.

I am not a philosopher and I have no intention of citing Hume, Kant, Nietzsche or Putnam or anyone else for my justification of my own thoughts. None of these is an authority of necessity. Nor even is the so called idea of revealed religion. One must consider the story with one's self entirely engaged. And that is the problem in a nutshell. Engagement is frightening because there is no remainder of one's self that can stand objectively against the commitment.

This is faith. And it is permitted in all spheres, including the scientific, in sports, in music, in joy and in sorrow. Faith is not a blind leap, but it is a trust that tests its own assumptions as it matures, and that looks for a fruitfulness that is acceptable. The fact of acceptance, and the desire of acceptability are indistinguishable. There is no logic other than the paradox of self-giving. Dworkin does not approach this problem. He gets close in his brief on Tillich and the appropriate antinomy of affirming and denying simultaneously, and ultimately, he himself in his legal arguments approaches the same impasse without passing over.

Anyway, what do I know that I should dare an explanation? I know that an explanation will not satisfy. Satisfaction, the end of the story of Job, is impenetrable via logic. That is why Job's comforters fail, and YHWH presents himself via the mythical behemoth and leviathan, ciphers for Job and for God also. The psalmist writes of awakening: I will be satisfied to awaken in your similitude, in your likeness, created and brought forth after your own kind. (See this post which I wrote a few days before receiving Dworkin's book.)

Now - what is the story and are you willing to commit yourself into its keeping? The question requires some hard work, like any marriage, and its fruitfulness will be evident to others whether they are explicitly committed to this story or not. In fact, they will be your judges even as the salt-seafarers judged Jonah and in doing so themselves became mortals. My words are carefully chosen. I find it curious that these pagans, from Jonah's point of view, get the situation better than the reluctant prophet.

I hope to do one more post on this book, because Dworkin raises the spectre of worship. This requires a little more work from me, but so be it. The churches have a form of worship that has drama and character and a story - let's see if it can be found...