Home > Uncategorized > Islam’s gift: an economy of spiritual development

Islam’s gift: an economy of spiritual development

from Asad Zaman

My article with the title above is due to be published in the next issue of the American Journal of Economics and Sociology (2019). This was written at the invitation of the editor Clifford Cobb, as an introduction to Islamic Economics for a secular audience. The Paper explains how modern economics is deeply flawed because it ignores the heart and soul of man, and assumes that the best behavior for humans is aligned with short-sighted greed. Islam provides a radically different view, showing how generosity, cooperation, and overcoming the pursuit of desires leads to spiritual progress. Islam seeks to create a society where individuals can make spiritual progress and develop the unique and extraordinary capabilities and potentials which every human being is born with. Pre-print – to appear in American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 2019 – is available for view/download at the bottom of this post.

As an excerpt, I am posting Section 2 of the paper, entitled

The Flawed Foundations of Modern Economics

The defeat of Christianity in a battle with science led to an extraordinary respect and reverence for scientific knowledge, sometimes called the “Deification of Science,” in Europe (Olson 1990; Zaman 2015a).   This had fatal consequences. Even though all scientific knowledge is inherently uncertain, a concerted effort was made to prove the opposite—that scientific knowledge is not only certain, but it is the only source of certain knowledge.  Because of distortions necessary to prove something which was not true, the methodology of science was dramatically misunderstood by the logical positivists. read more

  1. Helen Sakho
    February 5, 2019 at 2:28 am

    I read your original paper. The good news is that the Pope is (first time event) in the UAE.
    So, let us hope that they can strike a deal to save the Muslims in Yemen (biggest humanitarian disaster in recent history) and in fact in the vast majority of MENA (mostly Muslim) from abject poverty and starvation. After all, as far as I am aware, despite differences, there is only ONE god?
    Personally, I would rather stick to the one that is humane enough not to kill anyone, and godly enough to embrace death whenever it’s time to do so.

    • Robert Locke
      February 5, 2019 at 10:11 am

      I am a child of the Enlightenment, so all of this is hocus pocus to me, but perhaps we can meet up on the road to the alleviation of human suffering. My wife I might add is no friend of religion, which she thinks is the source of all evil; my son, who was a theologian, believed there could be no moral order without religion. Wife and son met on the grounds of practicality. Good luck.

  2. February 5, 2019 at 11:57 am

    Asad, your battling on is much appreciated, but you need to be careful with Western history.

    I take it the point of Helen’s comment is that Muslim UAE is not yet a good example of “Islam [seeking] to create a society where individuals can make spiritual progress and develop the unique and extraordinary capabilities and potentials which every human being is born with”. Likewise Robert and his wife, as children of the Enlightenment, have only a Humean version of what religion is, while Asad’s history is anachronistic: the Catholic church accepting that Galileo was right was hardly a defeat, but a sign of honesty and willingness to understake a great deal of rethinking (the intention of its humorously named Devil’s Advocacy being the equivalent of today’s peer review). Later, it was Hume’s epistemological reinterpretation of Bacon’s scientific method that misled the twentieth century Logical Positivists.

    ‘Religion’ means literally ‘re-tie’, and was a code-word for binding oneself to Christ in gratitude for his having redeemed us from [economic as well as psychological] bondage. The problem is not with this, it is with ‘catholic’ (for everyone) religion being open to evil as well as good people. I recommend Robert and his wife to go back as near as possible to primary religious sources. In the early pages of the Old Testament they will find the story of Cain and Abel, with the one – ungrateful for what he had – killing the other, disputing his duty to be his brother’s keeper. That’s not religion, with its morality based on love. That’s absolute power over others corrupting absolutely. Today’s Pope Francis is virtually powerless. The two themes of Good Pope John, who inspired me, were the love of God and the reciprocity of rights and duties.

    On the flawed foundations of modern economics, I would like Robert to read and comment on Soddy’s analysis of the absolute power of our fraudulent money system, downloadable from

    https://archive.org/details/roleofmoney032861mbp/page/n4

    I found in it what I have largely worked out for myself, although 84 years on, the information age has arrived, offering new [more ‘spiritual’] evidence and a different solution.

    • Robert Locke
      February 5, 2019 at 2:57 pm

      Dave, my wife was born in Anapha, a small town in the Crimean, from a Polish refugee mother whose family fled the Germans in 1939, and a Russian father, who was Orthodox Christian and studied in the seminary, and spent 20 years in the Gulag under Stalin, before released in 1944. The cruelty of the Bolsheviks and the Whites, from both of which he and his family suffered personally, made him highly skeptical about anything good coming from a secular religion like Bolshevism, Polish Catholicism or Russian Orthodoxy. Actions speak louder than words in this case, and what Vera sees happening before her eyes in current Polish society would not convince her to take up the faith, despite what texts you give her to read. When the priests came to her door when she lived in Poland, she threw them out.

      • Robert Locke
        February 5, 2019 at 4:13 pm

        About the Enlightenment. Most US college students didn’t read much Hume, or Adam Smith, but people on the continent.

        I learned about the Enlightenment through Voltaire (The Age of Louis XIV), Spirit of the Law’s Montesquieu, Rousseau, Emmanuel Kant, the Encylopaedists (Denis Diderot) Just as I believe today, the great British thought was not, as important as thought on the Continent.

        When I spent a week in 1982, eating evenings at table with A.J. Ayer on the USS Bremen, he told me that there was no philosophy being taught on the European continent, just a few Scandinavians, otherwise only in the English speaking world. That surprised me since I had just spent a year in Germany where Habermas and the Frankfurter School was being much discussed. So I answered, what about Habermas?, he answered “Who.?” I thought, how singular that this great man was stuck in a small world, even after having studied the Logical=Positivists in Vienna. So it had to be continentals that warped my mind, not Hume.

      • February 5, 2019 at 7:42 pm

        Robert, I totally agree actions speak louder than words. Our area was among the first to take action against a paedophile priest. The point I was trying to make is that one shouldn’t judge a group of people by its worst members, though experience of the worst is probably good enough reason for steering clear of the group. Love in the end is a decision.

        On the ‘Enlightenment’, I think that derogatory term must have come into Britain via Hume, who spent time with Voltaire. I was introduced to him as an ‘English’ Empiricist reacting to Hobbes, Locke and Berkeley, followed by Bentham, Mill and via Moore, Russell and thence the Logical Positivists. Bacon, the Father of modern science who conceived the Encyclopedia even if he didn’t call it that, was not then even mentioned. I’d come across Kant’s reaction to Hume, which played back into the Continental philosophy I became aware of largely through Australian John Passmore’s “A Hundred Years of Philosophy”, picking up what I could of it in translation. I’m guessing that we are both right: you learned from continentals but they had been influenced by Hume.

      • Robert Locke
        February 6, 2019 at 11:26 am

        The problem, Dave, is that there is more to the Enlightenment than economics, and you seem to avoid that truth. I did not read and appreciate Voltaire because he met Hume, but because he believed in freedom, and opposed the “infamous thing,” the Church, through their Parlements, condeming men to death for their beliefs (the Calas Affair), or cutting out their tongues because they had been blasphemous. Or, perhaps more importantly, historically, for the Church being involved intricately in the injustices of the society we call the Old Regime. You are thinking anachronistically, projecting your present days concerns about finance capitalist into the 17th-18th century. We need to judge people in terms of there own times. When we do, we find out about all sorts of incongruities, e. g. why men who are bankers and railroad builders in 19th century France could believe in devine Right Monarchy. That fact sent me on a ten year investigation-reflection to explain why.

      • February 6, 2019 at 5:45 pm

        Robert, you are doubtless right about why you read Voltaire, but what I said was not that Voltaire had met Hume. Hume had met Voltaire, and I saw the outcome: he threw the baby out with the bathwater. If you had looked at what Christ taught you would see that the viciousness you complain about in the Church of the time was not Christianity but absolute power corrupting absolutely, with self-serving politicians blaming the Church to normalise their own brutality. In Christian teaching the Divine Right of Kings was for them to be given the means to do their job. As the tax-payers of our Charles I’st time interpreted that, it was an objection to their paying for whatever the King wanted to do, since they no longer recognised the restraints of the Christian ethic. I accept that the leaders of the Catholic church have made a lot of bad mistakes, but it is only fair to point out that they accepted that, and our Council of Trent was all about their trying to put things right. You don’t very often get politicians admitting they have made mistakes!

        To get back to Asad’s theme, Islam didn’t make the mistake of compromising with usury, but I wonder whether he could enlighten us on whether Islam has found it necessary to get together to try and sort out their own problems and differences?

    • Robert Locke
      February 6, 2019 at 9:37 pm

      Dave, I have taken a serious look at Soddy’s piece on the Role of Money. I understand why, as a scientist you are stimulated by it, since it lucidly examines a scientific explanation for the creation of money based on the energy of nature.

      What strikes me from the reading is the extent to which ideas DO NOT drive historical developments. As a scientist, Soddy clearly believed that his should be clear to intelligent people and that we should move on to reform our money system along the lines he examines. But the piece is also an exercise in frustration, in that the implementation of his reforms are frustrated by greed, ignorance, self-interest, and a host of other obstacles that opposed his reforms.

      I got the idea in the piece that he thought in the early 1930s his time had come, that in the world crisis people would finally recognize and implement the scientific ideas he outlined.

      Were he alive, I think he would be astonished that we are eighty+ years after he wrote, still clinging to the old economics in places of learning and power, without much hope of change along the lines he advocated.

      I can readily understand his frustration and yours for the way your science based views have been received. But as an historian, I also understand that ideas do not drive history, although we think that sometimes they do. In emergencies, or when big events occur, scientists can have their way in public policy. That happened during and after WWII when science was applied to the management of public and private affairs, unfortunately its triumph in the postWWII era did not set us free. Now we are hoping in the current crisis that the shock will give Soddy’s view an operational chance. But the greedy and ignorant don’t give up easily.

      • Craig
        February 6, 2019 at 10:01 pm

        Ideas Do drive history. It’s just that those ideas are so thoroughly stuck in obsessive dualistic contention and are of lesser integrative nature and import than the natural philosophical concept of grace. And of course unconsciousness of same plays a role in history, which is why history is mostly the tremendously interesting and occasionally enlightening….chronicling of Man’s unconsciousness of the concept of grace.

        Wisdom is the integrative process including the integration of the practical and the ideal which is just another definition of wisdom and shows that real wisdom NEVER misses or fails to consider all relevant factors. Hence wisdom and grace its pinnacle concept and self actualized experience CANNOT be either unreal or unscientific.

        Contemplate grace in all of its aspects and you can’t go wrong.

    • Rob
      April 22, 2019 at 10:21 am

      Asad, your battling on is much appreciated, but you need to be careful with Western history…. ‘Religion’ means literally ‘re-tie’, and was a code-word for binding oneself to Christ in gratitude for his having redeemed us. (Dave Taylor, RWER, 2/5/2019)

      The term religio predates Christ and the eventual evolution of Christianity. Dave is loose with the truth and intellectually sloppy with regards to Western history, yet presumes to warn Asad to be careful. What Dave is doing is pushing a sectarian, ahistorical, narrow, view of religion only shared by a narrow sect of undelighted Christians who neither know their own history let alone the history of religion.

      The word is originally from the Latin religio, a term that eventually was used in a great variety of senses, even by a single writer, without precision. In any case its pristine significance, continuing at least until Roman religious and other life came under the powerful and transforming influence of Greece, was much more restricted and specific than what it came to mean later. Modern scholars4 are divided as to whether it first designated a power outside man obligating him to certain behaviour under pain of threatened awesome retribution, a kind of tabu, or the feeling in man vis a vis such powers (or, indeed, whether the religious connotations are secondary developments from an originally secular word). The difference between the former two can easily become blurred, since these powers, we as outsiders would hold, were conceived subjectively—though they were believed, or felt, to reside in some objective thing or practice. Thus that in which ‘mana’ was felt to dwell, and the person whose scrupulousness towards it was vivid, were each termed religious. There were religiosae locae, sacred places; and viri religiosi, reverent or devout persons careful in the conscientious fulfilment of the corollary prescriptions. (Smith 1964, 23, in The Meaning and End of Religion)

      Wilfred Cantwell Smith in the introduction to his The Meaning and End of Religion writes:

      Many considerations, then, must be taken into account in any analysis that is to satisfy a serious modern inquirer. We may enumerate four or five as among the more weighty. First, of course, there is science. This impinges both in a general and in several particular ways. It is relevant in its broadest coverage, as signifying the growing body of knowledge about the empirical universe in all its sweep; as signifying further the method and mood of attaining that knowledge; as signifying also the practical mastery that it imparts. It is relevant also more specifically in so far as particular studies such as psychology, sociology, economic history, and also the ad hoc sciences of Religionswissenschaft have seemed to illuminate the ostensibly religious behaviour of man. Science radically modifies life intellectually and practically for all men, including those who would live it morally and spiritually; as well as modifying the scholar’s understanding of its processes. (Smith 1964, 7-8)

      Secondly, there is the multiplicity of religious traditions. In addition to a myriad of lesser groups, there are on earth not one but at least four or five major religious communities each proclaiming a faith with a long and impressive, even brilliant, past and with the continuing creative allegiance of mighty civilizations. This is known in theory; the knowledge is today supplemented in practice by personal contact and widespread social intermingling. Any adequate interpretation of a Christian’s faith, for instance, must make room for the fact that other intelligent, devout, and moral men, including perhaps his own friends, are Buddhists, Hindus, or Muslims. (Smith 1964, 8)

      Somewhat related to this consideration is the further fact of diversity within each tradition. Every faith appears in a variety of forms. Regarded from another angle, this may be seen as a problem of authority: the multiplicity of guidance with which modern man is faced religiously, which may approximate to an absence of guidance. It is no longer easy or even possible to have a religious faith without selecting its form. (Smith 1964, 8)

      Next may be noted the sheer fact of change. The world is in flux, and we know it. Like other aspects of human life, the religious aspect too is seen to be historical, evolving, in process. Any modern endeavour to clarify what religion is, must now include a question as to what at various stages of development religion has been. And if it does not venture on some speculation as to what it may become in the future, at least there is recognition that, like everything else that we know on earth, religion may be expected to continue to change. (Smith 1964, 8)

      One has not understood religion if one’s interpretation is applicable to only one of its forms. On the other hand, neither has one understood religion if one’s interpretation does justice only to some abstraction of religiousness in general but not to the fact that for most men of faith, loyalty and concern are not for any such abstraction but quite specifically and perhaps even exclusively for their own unique tradition—or even for one section within that. The Christian and the Muslim must be seen, certainly, in a world in which other men are Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews. (Smith 1964, 9)

      The rich panorama of man’s religious life over the centuries presents the observer with a bewildering variety of phenomena, and the studies of those phenomena present him with a cacophony of interpretation. Those who would understand, and those who would intelligently participate, are confronted with a task of no mean proportions. (Smith 1964, 10 )

      There are three main groups from whom comes a challenge to any scholarly inquiry into religion. First there are those who would disdain comparative or empirical study on the grounds that the elucidation of religion’s meaning and nature, and an insight into its functioning and processes, is to be obtained only from a knowledge of Christianitv—or of Islam, or whatever is one’s own faith—as representing religion at its highest, or the only true religion. Such men would hold that to consider other religions as well, is to falsify and distort, rather than to enlarge one’s understanding; that one gains in breadth by sacrificing both depth and truth; that an understanding of roses is not enhanced by a study of rosettes…. [O]ne need not accept the either/or dichotomy of those who thus contend that one should study Christianity (or, Islam; etc.) rather than religion in general. One may, and should, study both the Christian and the Islamic and the other individual traditions, so that ultimately one’s interpretation may do justice not only to the insight or force or validity of one faith but at the same time to the facts of all. (Smith 1964, 10-11)

      The two most fundamental questions confronting twentieth-century man, the one social, the other personal, both involve religion: how to turn our nascent world society into a world community, on a group level; and on a personal level, how to find meaning in modern life. To neither of these, of course, is the answer even primarily intellectual; and yet it is perhaps not fatuous to suggest that adequate answers will require inter alia an understanding of religion more clarified and effective than is now to hand…. Unless men can learn to understand and to be loyal to each other across religious frontiers, unless we can build a world in which people profoundly of different faiths can live together and work together, then the prospects for our planet’s future are not bright (Smith 1964, 13-14)

      The history of religion shows that no faith tradition is immune from the evils of institutional religion, sectarian fanaticism, or imperial conquest, depending upon what period in history one is looking at. There are saints and sinners in every world tradition. Christianity has just as much blood upon its hands as Islam for those who know their history. So too, Islam and Christianity have revelations of truth, goodness, and beauty in the lives and teachings of their saints. Dave would conveniently overlook this simple truth in his use of RWER as place to proselytize his narrow brand of Christian theology. Not all Christians are so anti-intellectual in their theology and would not stoop ot using RWER for sectarian apologetics as Dave does regularly.

    • Rob
      May 19, 2019 at 11:27 am

      Asad, your battling on is much appreciated, but you need to be careful with Western history…. ‘Religion’ means literally ‘re-tie’, and was a code-word for binding oneself to Christ in gratitude for his having redeemed us. (Dave Taylor, RWER, 2/5/2019)

      The term religio predates Christ and the eventual evolution of Christianity. Dave is loose with the truth and intellectually sloppy with regards to Western history, yet presumes to warn Asad to be careful. What Dave is doing is pushing a sectarian, ahistorical, narrow, view of religion only shared by a narrow sect of undelighted Christians, of an even more narrow conservative Catholic dogmatic view, who neither know their own history let alone the history of religion.

      The word is originally from the Latin religio, a term that eventually was used in a great variety of senses, even by a single writer, without precision. In any case its pristine significance, continuing at least until Roman religious and other life came under the powerful and transforming influence of Greece, was much more restricted and specific than what it came to mean later. Modern scholars4 are divided as to whether it first designated a power outside man obligating him to certain behaviour under pain of threatened awesome retribution, a kind of tabu, or the feeling in man vis a vis such powers (or, indeed, whether the religious connotations are secondary developments from an originally secular word). The difference between the former two can easily become blurred, since these powers, we as outsiders would hold, were conceived subjectively—though they were believed, or felt, to reside in some objective thing or practice. Thus that in which ‘mana’ was felt to dwell, and the person whose scrupulousness towards it was vivid, were each termed religious. There were religiosae locae, sacred places; and viri religiosi, reverent or devout persons careful in the conscientious fulfilment of the corollary prescriptions. (Smith 1964, 23, in The Meaning and End of Religion)

      Wilfred Cantwell Smith in the introduction to his The Meaning and End of Religion writes:

      Many considerations, then, must be taken into account in any analysis that is to satisfy a serious modern inquirer. We may enumerate four or five as among the more weighty. First, of course, there is science. This impinges both in a general and in several particular ways. It is relevant in its broadest coverage, as signifying the growing body of knowledge about the empirical universe in all its sweep; as signifying further the method and mood of attaining that knowledge; as signifying also the practical mastery that it imparts. It is relevant also more specifically in so far as particular studies such as psychology, sociology, economic history, and also the ad hoc sciences of Religionswissenschaft have seemed to illuminate the ostensibly religious behaviour of man. Science radically modifies life intellectually and practically for all men, including those who would live it morally and spiritually; as well as modifying the scholar’s understanding of its processes. (Smith 1964, 7-8)

      Secondly, there is the multiplicity of religious traditions. In addition to a myriad of lesser groups, there are on earth not one but at least four or five major religious communities each proclaiming a faith with a long and impressive, even brilliant, past and with the continuing creative allegiance of mighty civilizations. This is known in theory; the knowledge is today supplemented in practice by personal contact and widespread social intermingling. Any adequate interpretation of a Christian’s faith, for instance, must make room for the fact that other intelligent, devout, and moral men, including perhaps his own friends, are Buddhists, Hindus, or Muslims. (Smith 1964, 8)

      Somewhat related to this consideration is the further fact of diversity within each tradition. Every faith appears in a variety of forms. Regarded from another angle, this may be seen as a problem of authority: the multiplicity of guidance with which modern man is faced religiously, which may approximate to an absence of guidance. It is no longer easy or even possible to have a religious faith without selecting its form. (Smith 1964, 8)

      Next may be noted the sheer fact of change. The world is in flux, and we know it. Like other aspects of human life, the religious aspect too is seen to be historical, evolving, in process. Any modern endeavour to clarify what religion is, must now include a question as to what at various stages of development religion has been. And if it does not venture on some speculation as to what it may become in the future, at least there is recognition that, like everything else that we know on earth, religion may be expected to continue to change. (Smith 1964, 8)

      One has not understood religion if one’s interpretation is applicable to only one of its forms. On the other hand, neither has one understood religion if one’s interpretation does justice only to some abstraction of religiousness in general but not to the fact that for most men of faith, loyalty and concern are not for any such abstraction but quite specifically and perhaps even exclusively for their own unique tradition—or even for one section within that. The Christian and the Muslim must be seen, certainly, in a world in which other men are Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews. (Smith 1964, 9)

      The rich panorama of man’s religious life over the centuries presents the observer with a bewildering variety of phenomena, and the studies of those phenomena present him with a cacophony of interpretation. Those who would understand, and those who would intelligently participate, are confronted with a task of no mean proportions. (Smith 1964, 10 )

      There are three main groups from whom comes a challenge to any scholarly inquiry into religion. First there are those who would disdain comparative or empirical study on the grounds that the elucidation of religion’s meaning and nature, and an insight into its functioning and processes, is to be obtained only from a knowledge of Christianitv—or of Islam, or whatever is one’s own faith—as representing religion at its highest, or the only true religion. Such men would hold that to consider other religions as well, is to falsify and distort, rather than to enlarge one’s understanding; that one gains in breadth by sacrificing both depth and truth; that an understanding of roses is not enhanced by a study of rosettes…. [O]ne need not accept the either/or dichotomy of those who thus contend that one should study Christianity (or, Islam; etc.) rather than religion in general. One may, and should, study both the Christian and the Islamic and the other individual traditions, so that ultimately one’s interpretation may do justice not only to the insight or force or validity of one faith but at the same time to the facts of all. (Smith 1964, 10-11)

      The two most fundamental questions confronting twentieth-century man, the one social, the other personal, both involve religion: how to turn our nascent world society into a world community, on a group level; and on a personal level, how to find meaning in modern life. To neither of these, of course, is the answer even primarily intellectual; and yet it is perhaps not fatuous to suggest that adequate answers will require inter alia an understanding of religion more clarified and effective than is now to hand…. Unless men can learn to understand and to be loyal to each other across religious frontiers, unless we can build a world in which people profoundly of different faiths can live together and work together, then the prospects for our planet’s future are not bright (Smith 1964, 13-14)

      The history of religion shows that no faith tradition is immune from the evils of institutional religion, sectarian fanaticism, or imperial conquest, depending upon what period in history one is looking at. There are saints and sinners in every world tradition. Christianity has just as much blood upon its hands as Islam for those who know their history. So too, Islam and Christianity have revelations of truth, goodness, and beauty in the lives and teachings of their saints. Dave would conveniently overlook this simple truth in his use of RWER as place to proselytize his narrow brand of Christian theology. Not all Christians are so anti-intellectual in their theology and would not stoop to using RWER for sectarian apologetics as Dave does regularly.

      As a follower of the life and teachings of Jesus I take great offense to ahistorical ignorant polemics on a site dedicated to science and knowledge. Truth is truth and Dave seem to not know the truth regarding the origin or history of the word religion let alone the history of his own Christian tradition.

      • May 19, 2019 at 6:06 pm

        This is a repeat of Rob’s previous letter. My apologies for not answering it. I was in hospital at the time.

        First, I refute Rob’s initial assertions:

        “The term religio predates Christ and the eventual evolution of Christianity. Dave is loose with the truth and intellectually sloppy with regards to Western history, yet presumes to warn Asad to be careful. What Dave is doing is pushing a sectarian, ahistorical, narrow, view of religion only shared by a narrow sect of undelighted Christians, of an even more narrow conservative Catholic dogmatic view, who neither know their own history let alone the history of religion.”

        In answer to the first point, Rob quotes just one “authority” (and another quoting that) who no-where gives evidence of pre-Christian use of the Latin ‘religio’. I accept that I am inferring from the significance of the term and my own experience of having been involved in the creation of symbols for new inventions and seeing the conditions in which Christians lived during the Roman persecutions that it was they that invented this word, as they invented symbols like the fish now often disslayed by Christians on their cars.

        I don’t know what Rob means by ‘loose with the truth’. As a mathematician rather than a historian I tend to speak more summmarily than he might like, but I do try to embrace the truth and not include misleading untruths. As for my nerve in warning Asad about Western history, I write openly as a Catholic who at school learned about pre-Refomation as well as post-Reformation history, and have come to appreciate the dictum that history is written by the victors, hence my warning. Rob’s ‘Smith, 1964’ reads like a scholar’s account rather than an imaginative reconstruction of the thoughts and motivations of the times. While my interpretation of the word ‘religion’ may even be just my own, Catholicism (as its name conveys but its human failings too often contradict) is not an narrow sect but the original “all-embracing” orthodoxy which (as Adam Smith so lucidly portrays) reformers split into sects fighting for livelihoods from “bums on seats”. What Rob is ignoring is that ‘all people’ includes all personality types, and we all start as children. “When I was a child”, says St Paul, “I used to talk like a child, and see things the way a child does, and think like a child; but now I have become an adult, I have finished with all childish ways”. As a scientist I began by being satisfied with most of what I was taught, but after sixty years of assessing why it was taught and demystifying its problems by resolving them in light of my own stock of examples, my faith is a well considered and grateful commitment, not something learned and taken for granted. Has Rob been reading ‘Catholicity for dummies’, one wonders? My serious point was that Muslims too have their split, as between Sunnis, Shias and sadly the current jihadists. As a broadly sympathetic outsider I would like to know more from an insider about the reasons for this.

      • Rob
        May 20, 2019 at 3:13 am

        The word is originally from the Latin religio, a term that eventually was used in a great variety of senses, even by a single writer, without precision. In any case its pristine significance, continuing at least until Roman religious and other life came under the powerful and transforming influence of Greece, was much more restricted and specific than what it came to mean later. Modern scholars4 are divided as to whether it first designated a power outside man obligating him to certain behaviour under pain of threatened awesome retribution, a kind of tabu, or the feeling in man vis a vis such powers (or, indeed, whether the religious connotations are secondary developments from an originally secular word). The difference between the former two can easily become blurred, since these powers, we as outsiders would hold, were conceived subjectively—though they were believed, or felt, to reside in some objective thing or practice. Thus that in which ‘mana’ was felt to dwell, and the person whose scrupulousness towards it was vivid, were each termed religious. There were religiosae locae, sacred places; and viri religiosi, reverent or devout persons careful in the conscientious fulfilment of the corollary prescriptions. (href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilfred_Cantwell_Smith”>Smith 1964, 23, in The Meaning and End of Religion)

        It [i.e., the term “religion”] made no sense in the contexts of pagan “gods” or a pantheistic universe …. ~ Dave Taylor

        Dave, you once complained that I provided to many citations and now you complain that I provide to few. Of course such disingenuous pleading is transparent. In reality it only requires one counterfactual to refute a falsehood. Wilfred Cantwell Smith is more than adequate to refute your willful ignorance regarding the history of the term “religion,” [1] but I will indulge your false logic and intellectual sophistry the sole purpose of which is to evade facing a simple fact and truth (an odd position for a religionist to be in no doubt) that words have both meanings and histories that are discoverable by those of sincere mind. You admit you are not a historian yet you arrogantly presume to warn others to be careful with history, and yet when faced with historical facts which refute your false claims persist in willful ignorance denying truth. That is hardly a Christ-like attitude toward reality, in my view. You make much ado about talking about the Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of humankind, but you are blind to how you arrogantly presume to much and thereby play loose with the truth. It doesn’t take great effort to find the truth regarding the history of the term “religion” if one is not blinded by religious prejudice and hubris. Your behavior is living proof of Smith’s statement:

        The impact of agnostic science will turn out to have been child’s play compared to the challenge to Christian theology of the faith of other men…. The era of religious isolationism is about to be as much at an end as that of political isolationism already is…. The time will soon be with us when a theologian who attempts to work out his position unaware that he does so as a member of a world society in which other theologians equally intelligent, equally devout, equally moral, are Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and unaware that his readers are likely perhaps to be Buddhists or to have Muslim husbands or Hindu colleagues–such a theologian is as out of date as is one who attempts to construct an intellectual position unaware that Aristotle has thought about the world or that existentialists have raised new orientations, or unaware that the earth is a minor planet in a galaxy that is vast only by terrestrial standards. Philosophy and science have impinged so far on theological thought more effectively than has comparative religion, but this will not last. (Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. Religious Diversity. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company; 1982; c1976 p. 7; 8; 9.)

        The simple truth is your are being willfully ignorant of the fact that the term “religion” has a history outside of your own narrow conservative Christian worldview and that you have much in common with your American Evangelical fellows in that you are exhibiting a certain anti-intellectual disdain for truth so you can engage in Christian polemical apologetics while paradoxically claiming to be a scientist and philosopher. The irony of course is that within the Catholic tradition there are religious scholars that have produced wonderful world-class interfaith literature over the many decades they have been engaged in interfaith dialogue with Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, and other faith traditions. Clearly a corpus Dave is wholly ignorant regarding the existence of. I have many of their works sitting in my library as write these words.[2]

        Dave is a living example of dumbed down Catholicism (and Christianity for that matter) in his ignorance of his own faith traditions interfaith scholarship, let alone of the history of the term “religion.” One such scholar, Paul F. Knitter (1986) traces the history of how Christians have rationalized their interactions with men and women of other faith traditions in his book No Other Name? A Critical Survey of Christian Attitudes Toward the World Religions. Dave is willfully ignorant parroting conservative Christian ideology more akin to the Conservative Evangelical Model (Knitter 1986, 84) than enlightened Catholic scholarship and is treating the word religion like many uninformed Westerners now treat the term “Hindu” without a shred of awareness of its historical origin as though it is thing rather than the cultural imposition of his own narrow ethnocentric blinders.[3] Dave is much like American fundamentalist Evangelicals in that they are willfully ignorant of the historical facts and truths pertaining to not only their own religion but the history of religion in general. That we are living in an age when early nineteenth-century religious studies (Religionswissenschaft) emerged indepent of Church control and gave rise to Biblical Criticism apparently eludes such anti-intellecual conservative religionists. That the Hebrew scribes borrowed from their Egyptian captors concepts of Deity that are now part of scripture is well known. Religious scholars now know that the Jewish scriptures contain many borrowed Egyptian and Mesopotamian concepts of God in the writings of the Psalms. The Torah bears witness to the fact that the early Hebrews borrowed from surrounding religious cultures in the worship of El Shaddai, the Egyptian concept of the God of heaven, which they learned about during their captivity in the land of the Nile.[4] That fact alone refutes Daves silly assertion that the term “religion” makes no sense outside of the Jewish-Christian tradition. The Torah also borrows from other ancient Mesopotamian sources for some of its laws, such as is seen in the trial by orderal divorce ritual as described in Numbers 5.12-30. Trial by the water ordeal was an Ancient Mesopotamian practice. It constituted the second item in Hamurabi’s codes of law, “If any one bring an accusation against a man, and the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river, his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove that the accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.” So, we learn, the Hebrews borrowed both the sublime concepts of Deity and less than sublime rules of ritual law that both exist within scripture to this day.

        Whether hubris be associated with mathematics or religious dogma it is blinding, limiting, and less than ideal. Both scientists and religionists can only be self-critical of their facts. The moment departure is made from the stage of facts, reason abdicates or else rapidly degenerates into a consort of false logic. Both need more humility and a greater awareness of the incompleteness of our evolutionary status. Faith has falsified its trust when it presumes to deny realities and to confer upon its devotees assumed knowledge. Faith is a traitor when it fosters betrayal of intellectual integrity and belittles loyalty to supreme values and divine ideals. Faith never shuns the problem-solving duty of mortal living. Living faith does not foster bigotry, persecution, or intolerance. Faith does not shackle the creative imagination, neither does it maintain an unreasoning prejudice toward the discoveries of scientific investigation. Faith vitalizes religion and constrains the religionist heroically to live the golden rule. The zeal of faith is according to knowledge, and its strivings are the preludes to sublime peace.

        ~ ~ ~
        [1] Wilfred Cantwell Smith’s Meaning and End of Religion is modern classic and a masterpiece; a seminal work that to this day is influential in academic fields as diverse as philosophy, anthropology, and religious studies. I could easily pull off my shelves books written by other scholars saying much the same, but many are building on top of intellectual and scholarly foundations that Cantwell Smith laid, many even citing him as primary sources, so I’ll stick with his scholarship for a bit longer to pique possible interest, should Dave awaken from his dogmatic stupor:

        Faith as Generically Human
        .
        Our modern situation enables man, for the first time, to be significantly aware of the whole sweep thus far of his and her history on the planet. As one looks out over that panorama, one perceives, as observational fact, that humankind is characterized by faith. The history of religion is the history of man. It has been so from palaeolithic times to the present–on every continent, in every culture, in every age…. Faith, then, so far as one can see as one looks out over the history of our race, is an essential human quality. One might argue that it is the essential human quality: that it is constitutive of man as human; that personality is constituted by our universal ability, or invitation [call of Amida], to live in terms of a transcendent [yet immanent in shinjin realization] dimension, and in response to it…. A true understanding of humankind involves a recognition of our potentiality for faith [tathagatagarbha]. One may or may not like to articulate this by saying that man is homo religious, or is body, mind, and spirit. (Smith 1987: 129)
        .
        Human faith has always, everywhere, been limited. Historical criticism shows that the faith of any person, however open it may be to transcendence and the infinite, however much it may be a divine gift, however ideally absolute, yet in actual fact has always[1] been limited by psychological, sociological, and other contextual factors, by the knowledge and the temperament and the situation of the man or women whose it is. Every person is child of his or her times; and this truth applies to every person of faith, even though one’s having faith is another way of saying that one is not totally a child of one’s time. One’s faith opens one to what is timeless. Yet so long as one lives on this earth, although faith may enable one to triumph over one’s mundane environment, and always enables one to reach beyond it, or is evidence that one has been reached from beyond it, nevertheless it never means that one escapes it altogether. (Smith 1987: 131)
        .
        [W]hatever idea of faith one may form, it must be an idea adequate to faith as a global human quality. (Smith 1987: 133)
        .
        [1] There are no Buddhist truths, no Buddhist ideals, no Buddhist values; there are only cosmic truths, human ideals, absolute values, which the Buddhists claim to have discerned (not invented). If there be any truth in what those on the outside call Buddhism, it is not a truth in Buddhism. It is a truth in the universe; one to which Buddhists have called attention. (Smith 1987: 137) [The same can be said of all religious traditions.] (Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. Faith and Belief. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 1987; c1979 p. 129; 131; 133; 137.)

        .
        [2] The inside Front Jacket of a couple such books read:
        .

        In the contemporary world, the many religions and spiritualities stand in need of greater communication and cooperation. More than ever before, they must speak to, learn from, and work with each other in order to maintain their vital identities and to contribute to fashioning a better world. .
        The FAITH MEETS FAITH Series seeks to promote interreligious dialogue by providing an open forum for exchange among followers of different religious paths. While the series wants to encourage creative and bold responses to questions arising from contemporary appreciations of religious plurality, it also recognizes the multiplicity of basic perspectives concerning the methods and content of interreligious dialogue. . Although rooted in a Christian theological perspective, the series does not limit itself to endorsing any single school of thought or approach. By making available to both the scholarly community and the general public works that represent a variety of religious and methodological viewpoints, FAITH MEETS FAITH seeks to foster an encounter among followers of the religions of the world on matters of common concern. (Fredericks, James L. Buddhists and Christians [Through Comparative Theology to Solidarity]. New York: Orbis Books; 2004; Faith Meets Faith Series.)
        .
        Founded in 1970, Orbis Books endeavors to publish works that enlighten the mind, nourish the spirit, and challenge the conscience. The publishing arm of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Orbis seeks to explore the global dimensions of the Christian faith and mission, to invite dialogue with diverse cultures and religious traditions, and to serve the cause of reconcilliation and peace. (Jeanrond, Werner G. and Lande Aasulv. The Concept of God in Global Dialogue. New York: Orbis Books; 2005; Faith Meets Faith Series.)

        .
        [3] Smith traces the history of the usage of such terms as “faith,” “belief,” and even “Hindu” in his studies. He shows how words may start with one meaning and overtime, evolve different meanings, sometimes 180 degrees opposite of their original meaning. He documents how with the rise of the field of religious studes as an independent academic field “other” religions were labeled and sometimes reified. In his Faith and Belief he masterfully reveals how within the Christian tradition the early term credo (faith) evolved away from its original context and meaning (to give one’s loyality to, to bestow one’s love upon) into the modern meaning of mere belief (intellectual assent to a set of propositional beliefs, i.e, dogma and doctrine):
        .

        The term ‘Hindu’ as a religious designation was developed by the Muslims after they had invaded the country in the second millennium A. D. For the Muslims it served to designate these aliens whom they conquered, and whose not being Muslim was of course now for the first time significant. It retained for some time its geographical reference: ‘Indian,’ ‘indigenous, local,’ virtually ‘native’. And the indigenous groups themselves also began then to use the term, differentiating themselves and their traditional ways from these invading Muslim foreigners. It covered all such groups: those whom we now call Hindus, but also Jains, Buddhists, and all others. (Smith 1962: 64)
        .
        (….) Over against the point, one may recognize that historically the new term ‘Hindu’, after it was introduced into India by the Muslims, was presently followed both for Muslims and in a limited way for Hindus by certain new formulations one or two of which are nowdays on occasion rendered ‘Hinduism’. Such a translation was perhaps rather more legitimate in the nineteenth century than in our day with our modern awareness of historical, institutional, and sociological dimensions. (Smith 1962: 65)
        .
        (….) My objection to the term ‘Hinduism’, of course, is not on the grounds that nothing exists. Obviously an enormous quantity of phenomena is to be found that this term covers. My point, and I think that this is the first step that one must take towards understanding something of the vision of Hindus, is that the mass of religious phenomena that we shelter under the umbrella of that term, is not a unity and does not aspire to be. It is not an entity in any theoretical sense, let alone any practical one. (Smith 1962: 66)
        .
        ‘Islam’ and ‘Christianity’, … are also in fact, in actual practice, internally diverse, and have been historically fluid. They, however have included a tendency to with not to be so; this is not how they conceptualize themselves. Many Christians and many Muslims have come to believe that there is one true Christianity and one true Islam. Hindus, on the other hand, have gloried in diversity. One of their basic and persistent affirmations has been that there are as many aspects of the truth as there are persons to perceive it. (Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. The Meaning and End of Religion. Minneapolis: Fortress Press; 1991; c1962 pp. 64-66. )

        .
        [4] Biblical Criticism and the historical quest for Jesus has a long history. Religionswissenschaft long ago revealed the many ways that the Hebrews borrowed and adopted the religious practices and concepts of the surrounding peoples. For Dave to blindly claim that the term “religion” had no real meaning outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition is simply being deaf, dumb, and blind to the fact that the Hebrews borrowed from their neighbors religious concepts that to this day remain an integral part of their tradition. The fact is that within the surrounding cultures there existed a diversity of religions and cults that ranged from
        .

        In our everyday usage, the word criticism often has negative connotations. To criticize another person means to speak about that individual in an uncomplimentary manner. But the root meaning of the term has to do with “passing judgment” or “making evaluation,” positive or negative. Gospel critics evaluate the Gospels. They approach the Gospels with certain questions. Who wrote them? When? Where? To whom? Why? What sources did the author use? Written sources? Oral? What did the author’s editing of these sources reveal about theological perspective? About this view of Jesus? What is the story of Jesus in this Gospel? How does the Gospel writer tell this story? What is the social world presented in the narratives? The social world presupposed by the narrative? (Tatum 1995: 38)

        These questions, and others, share a common feature. They involve the study of the biblical documents within the first-century setting out of which they originated. They are not questions about the beliefs and theology of the persons who ask them in the twentieth century. They are questions about the documents and those who wrote them. These questions, therefore, represent expressions of the general method used by Gospel critics–the historical-critical method. (Tatum 1995: 38)

        (….) The use of the historical-critical method in the service of Christian faith rests upon the additional assumption that an adequate appreciation of the biblical message for our lives today requires an understanding of that message in its original setting. (Tatum, W. Barnes. In Quest of Jesus. Nashville: Abingdon Press; 1995; pp. 38-39.)

      • Rob
        May 20, 2019 at 3:19 am

        Whoops, should read, “The fact is that within the surrounding cultures there existed a diversity of religions and cults that ranged from polytheistic nature cult to sublime monotheistic concepts of a supreme Deity.”

      • Rob
        May 20, 2019 at 6:43 am

        [N]o-where gives evidence of pre-Christian use of the Latin ‘religio’. ~ Dave Taylor

        Perhaps Dave thinks the Hebrews (or Jesus himself) invented Latin and hence, Smith’s historical study of the usage of the term religio in pre-Christian Roman religion and culture is not evidence. It cannot get any clearer than Smith does below (I include the section in its entirity since Dave’s imagination is straining to think there could actually be any pre-Christian religion period); we are talking about pre-Christian and non-Jewish origin and usage of the Latin term religio and its various derivations. Dave must think that Latin was invented by the Hebrews, or perhaps Jesus himself! Or that Cicero and Lucretius were contemporaries with Jesus ;-) Of course the real underlying gist of his silly argument is that the only true religion is Christianity and therefore to apply the word “religion” to those “pagans” just doesn’t make sense.

        The word is originally from the Latin religio, a term that eventually was used in a great variety of senses, even by a single writer, without precision. In any case its pristine significance, continuing at least until Roman religious and other life came under the powerful and transforming influence of Greece, was much more restricted and specific than what it came to mean later. Modern scholars4 are divided as to whether it first designated a power outside man obligating him to certain behaviour under pain of threatened awesome retribution, a kind of tabu, or the feeling in man vis a vis such powers (or, indeed, whether the religious connotations are secondary developments from an originally secular word). The difference between the former two can easily become blurred, since these powers, we as outsiders would hold, were conceived subjectively—though they were believed, or felt, to reside in some objective thing or practice. Thus that in which ‘mana’ was felt to dwell, and the person whose scrupulousness towards it was vivid, were each termed religious. There were religiosae locae, sacred places; and viri religiosi, reverent or devout persons careful in the conscientious fulfilment of the corollary prescriptions.

        Over against the luxuriant and loose development of the meaning ing of the noun in later centuries, it is perhaps allowable to call attention here to the point that the Latin adjective had a considerably siderably more stable history than did the substantive. This is perhaps because it is more legitimate, or at any rate more manageable, able, to think of these matters in terms of a quality of men’s lives or a colouring of the world that they perceive, than in terms of some independent substance or entity. We shall consider later the notion that human history might prove more intelligible if we learned to think of religion and the religions as adjectives rather than as nouns-that is, as secondary to persons or things rather than as things in themselves.

        To return: the early phrase religio mihi est is illuminating. To say that such-and-such a thing was religio for me meant that it was mightily incumbent upon me to do it (alternatively, not to do it: both are found, as is not unusual with ‘mana’, ‘tabu’, the holy, the sacred). Oaths, family proprieties, cultic observances and the like were each religio to a man; or, showing the ambivalence, one could equally say that to break a solemn oath is religio, that is, is tabu–as we might say, is sacrilegious.

        Also the ritual ceremonies themselves were designated religiones. Throughout Latin usage right to the end of its development, the sense of rite, the outward observance of a particular practice, is to be found. This is, perhaps, to be related to a Roman tendency to perceive what we would call the divine or the holy not so much, or not only, in the form of a figure or ‘god’ as in that of a series of standardized acts. Whenever one meets the word in the later writers, the possibility must be borne in mind that this is what is meant. The religio of a specified god could then designate the traditional cultic pattern at his shrine.

        This particular way of seeing and feeling the world has largely lapsed, and most of us today have become accustomed to a religious orientation that is quite different (whether we accept it or not) . We therefore need considerable imagination to conceptualize the Roman situation wherein the cultic practice was in some significant ways more important, more holy, than the god. The word religio, referring to the ceremonies, consequently designated objectively what we tend to call the outward expression of a belief or attitude that for us is primarily directed elsewhere. Yet it accumulated the highly charged emotional connotation and subjective reference that we associate not primarily with the ritual but with the transcendent reality in whose name the ritual is observed.

        By the first century B.C., Roman life had developed considerable sophistication; and under the impact of Greek thought, two important books were written significant for the development with which we are concerned. One was Lucretius’s intense and stirring poem De Rerum Natura (‘On the nature of things’), which welcomed scientific materialism as liberating man from the burden and terror of religio. The other was Cicero’s De Natura Deorum (‘On the nature of the gods’), which urbanely speculated not about religion itself but, as the title indicates, about what we would call the object of religion, the divine.

        (….) In his long poem of over six thousand lines, Lucretius uses the word religio only eight times, and its plural six; and in general he is perhaps more concerned, as his title indicates, to promote his vision of the world than to attack other people’s. In some instances, here too the sense of religious practices, observances, is evident. In an arresting passage near the opening, however, which in some ways sets the tone for the whole poem, he virtually personifies Religio as a celestial being that glowers at mankind. In this and perhaps three or four other places, the concept of religion as a Great Something is born.

        One should note that the poet is attacking not actually the gods, whom he even invokes, but the way men have worshipped and feared them. Curiously, he calls these ways ‘impious”‘, and in an impassioned, powerful passage he portrays true piety not as the traditional rigmarole of Roman ritual but as an almost mystic quietude in nature.

        Cicero, on the other hand, is concerned not with religion as a phenomenon but with the gods; and in so far as his work treats these from the standpoint of a human relation to them it is philosophers’ ideas of the gods primarily, and not traditional religious practices, that are discussed. (Indeed, in the traditional religious practices of his society he is not much interested.) The term religio therefore occurs incidentally, although not infrequently. He presents the speakers in his imagined colloquium as using the word in more than one sense. That of the actual ritual is one, especially for the plural; or perhaps more accurately (especially the singular), the performance of the ritual. There is also, however, a distinctive tendency of his usage towards a personalism and subjectivism. Here religio is an attitude.

        He has not only generalized but also very considerably softened the archaic meaning of religio as that awe that men felt in the presence of an uncanny and dreadful power of the unknown. Yet he preserves that orientation by thinking of it as a feeling, a quality ity of men’s lives. That religio is something within men’s hearts is once directly indicated’6. And in introducing what has remained mained ever since an important discrimination of ‘religious’ from ‘superstitious’ persons17, he bases the distinction between the two on the attitude with which as worshippers they perform their observances.

        Altogether, then, although it is incidental and indirect, Cicero’s work contributed gently to the development of a notion of religion as a generic something in human life that is an attitude or practice of reverence and due diligence towards the gods. While Lucretius fortified the strand that used the term to refer to something thing ‘out there’ impinging on man, Cicero’s designation was usually of something interior to persons. (Smith 1991. The Meaning and End of Religion (Kindle Locations 322-369). Kindle Edition.)

      • Rob
        May 20, 2019 at 7:59 am

        Rob quotes just one “authority” (and another quoting that) who no-where gives evidence of pre-Christian use of the Latin ‘religio’. ~ Dave Taylor

        Dave complains Wilfred Cantwell Smith is “just one ‘authority’ (and another quoting that …” completely oblivious to the fact, ludicrously so I note and proof he is no scholar or interested in truth, for the weight of the argument rests not so much on ‘authority’ real or imagined, but the content and quality of the evidence. Dave offers up biased and prejudiced opinion masquerading as scholarly truth, when it is pure polemic BS. 

        One could easily produce volumes building upon the scholarly work if Cantwell Smith, but I’ll limit myself to one cogent comment from a fellow Catholic, and just go back to ignoring Dave as best I can:

         

        Christian theologians must imaginatively participate in the faith of the other religions: “Faith can be theologized only from the inside”[72] …. The requirements of a global theology are indeed “hard.” They call for more than expanded knowledge. More radically, “this new theology call for a new kind of theologian with a new type of consciousness—a multi-dimensional, cross-cultural consciousness.”[74]

        72 W.C. Smith, Towards a World Theology, p. 124.

        74 Cousins, “Raimundo Panikkar and the Christian Systematic Theology of the Future,” Cross Currents, 29 (1979), p. 145. 

        (Knitter, Paul F. No Other Name? A Critical Survey of Christian Attitudes Toward the World Religions. Second ed. New York: Orbis Books; 1986; c1985 p. 226. The American Society of Missiology Series.)

        BTW, I chose Cantwell Smith with clarity of foresight, for he (and those who follow his work and build on it’s like Knitter) most cogently disarticulate the exclusivist theology that Dave is proselytizing on RWER.

  3. Craig
    February 5, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    Whether one chooses Islam or Christianity or Buddhism as their vehicle, self actualizing grace as in love in action/policy is the first and last step in that process. All the more reason to awaken to the new paradigm of Abundantly Direct and Reciprocal Monetary Grace as in Gifting that will underlay and buoy us in that necessarily individual mental effort.

    There is absolutely no conflict between science and the natural philosophical concept and self actualized experience of grace, and a culture of grace/graciousness has always been the goal and the light we’ve simply needed to stand in….until it’s many aspects are part of our very beingness.

    • Helen Sakho
      February 5, 2019 at 11:45 pm

      My point was, remains and will be that religion is a system of beliefs, an ideology. Whether one is a Communist, a Buddhist, a Muslim or a Jew, there is no getting away from the fact that entrenched dogma/fascination (that is to say not seeing the bigger picture that is staring us in face, day after day on all really urgent matters that I shall refrain from repeating) is immoral by any measure.
      Economics (as far as I know!) was never a religion. Turning any religion that tries to explain it, or justify it, or contextual it at this crucial point in human history, will only give this very imperfect social science greater importance than it ever deserved. All this is intended to derail progressive discourse.

      • February 6, 2019 at 10:05 am

        Helen, your “one size fits all” attitude to religion doesn’t become you, and if your own dogma is that dogma is the enemy it follows that mainstream economics is an enemy. It is wise to recognise that fact and reasonable to debunk those who are dogmatists.

        The problem is, the dogma may be as near right as you are going to get, or the person you may see as being dogmatic is actually accepting positions he has come to agree with through a life-time of experience and critical reflection on the available evidence. Indeed, dogmas have to start with someone articulating them. Progressive discourse has to start by pointing out what a dogma (or dogmatic denial) is concealing by omission, e.g. the purposes of religion and economics. If something has no purpose one has no measure by means of which you can say it is moral or immoral.

        If on the other hand, the purposes of religion and economics are to thank God for life and to facilitate our service of each other, that is moral; if the unstated purpose of its teachers and adherents is to live comfortably at the expense of others, that is immoral. Debateably, thinking here of Craig and Frank, one needs to allow for innocent dogmatists comforting themselves instinctively with self-rightous belief in the truth of their dogma. It is not as if these two are living comfortably at our expense.

      • February 6, 2019 at 11:16 am

        PS. You say: “Economics (as far as I know!) was never a religion”. I mentioned “dogmatic denial” with Hume’s atheism in mind, and Adam Smith being a colleague of Hume, so perhaps it was (and is) an anti-religion.

        Incidentally, I have previously excused Hume to the extent that he was judging religion by the way the establishment clergy of his day were behaving, spelled out a little later by Cobbett, approaching Ryall near here on his Rural Rides, 25-27 September 1826.

      • Craig
        February 6, 2019 at 6:55 pm

        Grace, which is simply love in individual action/systemic policy, is the fulfillment of the law. Contemplate grace so it becomes your own SELF ACTUALIZED reality….and you’ll “never put a foot wrong” as the British say.

  4. Helen Sakho
    February 7, 2019 at 12:40 am

    Dear Dave, I honestly do not mind various sizes at all. What I do have a problem with is when sizes change so frequently that one forgets one’s own size!
    Try ordering a size ten tea shirt or trousers from any reputable dealer, and you will be in for a big surprise. Our body sizes are manipulated as are our brain sizes. But our conscience? This is where I welcome authentic “fundamentalism”. Otherwise, we never believed in anything constant.
    Economists are humans, so I would never attack them on a personal basis (even when I have been personally insulted on this blog – see the links for yourselves) But Economics ( and yes most mainstream Economists) do have a lot to answer for. They really need to change their positions and positioning.

  5. February 8, 2019 at 5:54 pm

    My point was, remains and will be that religion is a system of beliefs, an ideology. Whether one is a Communist, a Buddhist, a Muslim or a Jew, there is no getting away from the fact that entrenched dogma/fascination (that is to say not seeing the bigger picture that is staring us in face, day after day on all really urgent matters that I shall refrain from repeating) is immoral by any measure.

    Economics (as far as I know!) was never a religion. Turning [to] any religion that tries to explain it, or justify it, or contextual it at this crucial point in human history, will only give this very imperfect social science greater importance than it ever deserved. All this is intended to derail progressive discourse. ~ Helen Sakho

    As always I enjoy your comments Helen. I am new to the study of economics on more than mere superficial Econ 101 and 102 classes from business school. But over these last few years I have repeatedly ran across well known economists making the very claim that mainstream economics functions more akin to an ideological belief system than a science. More like a religion than a science. More like pseudo-science than science. And of course there is the every present point that economics was a moral and political philosophy before its age of mathematization under the progressive movements desire to rid economics of moral philosophy and turn into a science more like physics (P-Envy). Whether they be religious, atheitst, or agnostic it seems there is a rising choras of voices calling for a more human (ethical) working economy.

    Nelson lays a cogent argument down that economics as religion is alive and well even today. Scientism (materialism) is a religion every bit as dogmatic as the most dogmatic/ideologically encrusted religion. Science too can become an ideologically driven enterprise when it departs from the facts and espouses unfounded beliefs, disproven empirical claims, etc. The great strength of science has been its self-correcting mechanism that sooner or later the old dogmatists die off and a younger generation replaces them that is unafraid to challenge the dead dogma of their predecessors and reexamine old (and new) evidence through a new set of tinted glasses.

    Economists think of themselves as scientists, but as I will be arguing in this book, they are more like theologians. The closest predecessors for the current members of the economics profession are not scientists such as Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton; rather, we economists are more truly the heirs of Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther. Economists think that their role in society is to provide technical knowledge to operate the economic system. The members of the economics profession do make important contributions in this regard. The inflation, unemployment, and other data collected by economists, for example, are critical to monitoring the current state of the economy. However, another basic role of economists is to serve as the priesthood of a modern secular religion of economic progress that serves many of the same functions in contemporary society as earlier Christian and other religions did in their time.* Economic efficiency has been the greatest source of social legitimacy in the United States for the past century, and economists have been the priesthood defending this core social value of our era. (Nelson, Robert H.. Economics as Religion: From Samuelson to Chicago and Beyond . Penn State University Press. Kindle Edition.)

    References:

    1. Illiberal Reformers

    2. Economics as Religion

    3. Economics of Good and Evil

  6. May 19, 2019 at 8:04 pm

    Further to my answer to Rob dated May 19th, this too is perpetuating a category confusion. There is the word ‘religion’, an institution like the Catholic Church and a creed like that of the Catholic church. Of these, only the latter can be called an ideology. There is also an an assumption that an ideology is bad because it is an ideology, not because it is a false or misleading one. The fact is that in order for anything to get done people must have beliefs, but only if the beliefs are true is it preferable that they have the same ones. The reality is that we see the same realities from different points of view, so it is possible for different accounts of reality all being true so far as they go, but needing each other to cover all aspects of a problem. The problem we have in economics is that the accounts widely shared are demonstrably untrue, but the different points of view of dissidents again involve a category confusion, being views of the economy as it has become due to capitalist beliefs, in which the word ‘economy’ remains undefined but in practice has shifted from the original meaning of ‘household management’ to become what Aristotle two thousand odd years ago distinguished from it as ‘chrematism’.

    Let it be quite clear that I am objecting to the mis-use of the term ‘religion’ in much the same way I object to the mis-use of the term ‘economics’. I am prepared to accept the first as an honorary term for faiths like those of islam, buddhism etc which (from a Catholic point of view) represent less all-inclusive points of view, and belief in economic efficiency as the creed of mainstream economists, this being unchallenged by other observers of the system as it is (as against a very few like Frederick Soddy (who defined his terms) and E F Schumacher (who taught what I came to understand from my work: that efficiency is next to useless without reliability)). So yes, economists are acting more like seminary priests than theologians, but as a theologian I could object to the mis-use of the word ‘priest’ for a representative of one. The one’s draining the life-blood out of the economy are not the economists but the financiers.

    • Rob
      May 20, 2019 at 3:40 am

      Once again Dave is engaging in fundamentalist Christian polemics. There is nothing “honorary” or “universal” in Dave’s polemics. In his presumptuous ignorance he defines terms to suit his own narrow religious beliefs. Unfortunately, we live in world where “other” religionists get to define their own terms and where religious scholars delve deep and wide in historical studies that shed light on the “cumulative” histories of religious traditions, including our own. There is no “category confusion here” (another arrogant use of the sophistry of shifting definitions for rhetorical purposes and false red herrings) for Dave presumes to be presenting the “Catholic point of view” when as the evidence shows above he is not speaking for intelligent and enlightened Catholics, certainly not the one’s engaged in interfaith dialogue. It is a gross fallacy to even claim there is a singular “Catholic point of view” when the evidence shows there exists a diversity of views within even the Catholic tradition itself let alone the wider Christian tradition. He speaks for no one but himself yet presumes to speak for all Catholicism, and therein lies the hubris.

      Dave is simply wrong and digging a hole deeper and deeper in that the term “religio” or “religion” makes no sense outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition and now he dances around this fact with more fundamentalist sophistry. He makes false distinctions that have no meaning outside his own closed dogmatic conservative Catholic views. Dave has made clear in his many dogmatic statements that he is painfully ignorant of the history of Christianity, which is evident in Smith’s (an intelligent Christian scholar) cogent description of one aspect of

      cumulative tradition … [for] is not simply the continuation or extrapolation of its earlier history … Rather, its later history is the prolongation and enrichment of its earlier existence as modified by the intervention of the faith and activity of this man…. It is a part of this world; it is the product of human activity; it is diverse, it is fluid, it grows, it changes, it accumulates. It crystalizes in material form the faith of previous generations, and it sets the context for the faith of each new generation as these come along. A religious tradition, then, is the historical construct, in continuous and continuing construction, of those who participate in it. (Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. The Meaning and End of Religion. Minneapolis: Fortress Press; 1991; c1962 pp. 158-159; 165. Emphasis added.)

      • Rob
        May 20, 2019 at 3:42 am

        Correction, “Dave is simply wrong and digging a hole deeper and deeper in that he claims the term “religio” or “religion” makes no sense outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition and now he dances around this fact with more fundamentalist sophistry.”

      • Rob
        May 20, 2019 at 10:38 am

        Correction, “He speaks for no one but himself yet presumes to speak for all Catholicism, and therein lies the hubris.”

        Actually, the real sin of hubris is that Dave presumes to speak not only for all of Catholicism but all of Christianity and even Christ himself. Therein lies the betrayal of the Spirit of Truth and that humility that the spirit imparts to those truly connected to the vine and bearing fruits.

    • Rob
      May 20, 2019 at 4:40 am

      I am prepared to accept the first as an honorary term for faiths like those of islam, buddhism etc which (from a Catholic point of view) represent less all-inclusive points of view. ~ Dave Taylor

      If Catholic deserves capitalization so too then does Buddhism, Islam and any other religion Dave. The idea that Buddhism, or Islam, or any other major religious tradition of the world “represent[s] less all-inclusive points of view” is religious arrogance qua pseudo-intellectual sophistry.

      The many world religions are all good to the extent that they bring man to God and bring the realization of the Father to man. It is a fallacy for any group of religionists to conceive of their creed as The Truth; such attitudes bespeak more of theological arrogance than of certainty of faith. There is not a religion that could not profitably study and assimilate the best of the truths contained in every other faith, for all contain truth.

      Humans are homo religious and all these religions have arisen as a result of men’s and women’s variable intellectual response to his identical spiritual leading (despite what one may believe the origins of such leadings come form). They can never hope to attain a uniformity of creeds, dogmas, and rituals—these are intellectual; but they can, and some day will, realize a unity in true worship of the Father of all, for this is spiritual, and it is forever true, in the spirit all men are equal.

      The spiritually blind individual who logically follows scientific dictation, social usage, and religious dogma stands in grave danger of sacrificing his moral freedom and losing his spiritual liberty. Such a soul is destined to become an intellectual parrot, a social automaton, and a slave to religious authority.

      Dave is intellectually parroting outdated early eighteenth- nineteenth-century Christian (in this case Catholic) Christian polemic apologetics which is little more than blind intellectual ascent to a religion of authority rooted in dogmatic intellectual propositions that do not stand the test of time when confronted with real science, progressive religious scholarship, and modernity. Dave is trying to drag his fellows back into the middle ages when not even the core intellectuals in the Catholic church are so inclined or intellectually unaware of the world around the in terms of science, philosophy, and religion.

  7. May 20, 2019 at 11:17 am

    Rob’s trolling disappoints me. If readers can find my reasoned argument among his blather and repetition they will find I have answered such reasonable objection he has offered: why the word ‘religion’ has the form it has, the [not just his] lack of evidence for its use in pre-Christian latin, and the logical implications of the word ‘catholic’, which I’ve admitted have proved in practice an aspiration only – albeit an admirable one. We are all children of God intended to remain beloved, and – far more than in the middle ages – we Catholics now realise that includes those whose views or understanding is Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist etc. or even atheist. The best model I have come across is of a seventeenth century Jesuit South American mission community, surrounded by a fence but with an ever open door.

    To get back to Asad’s point of Islam’s gift to economics, it is interesting to compare it with the aims of St Benedict’s rules, which were written shortly before the birth of Mahomet. I’m not point-scoring: I’m hoping to agree common ground.

    • Rob
      May 20, 2019 at 12:18 pm

      You are the one who is trolling both Asad and myself Dave. You are clearly in the middle of a Freudian slip. As I said, there is nothing universal, reasonable, or Jesusonian about the exclusivist theology you troll Asad and this site with Dave. Asad as a Muslim draws on his religious heritage to point to universal human values, not to engage in apologetics and polemics, not to imply or infer others are less than or only deserving of an “honorary” (what BS!) status since they are “less all-inclusive” than your self-righteous theology, or as you say in your own words,

      I am prepared to accept the first as an honorary term for faiths like those of islam, buddhism etc which (from a Catholic point of view) represent less all-inclusive points of view. ~ Dave Taylor

      Paul F. Knitter (1985), a enlightened Catholic who really understands what it means to articulate a universal theology of religions fully aware of other’s faith traditions, with no need of surrounding himself with a “fence,” (a theological version of Trump’s “wall”), or arrogantly elevating oneself by labeling the “other” as only “honorary” and “less” than. Knitter exposes the intellectual, philosophical, moral, and spiritual failures of such an exclusivist theology.

      Whether you are capable of realizing it or not you are in your own words above articulating a theologically exclusivist theology. Perhaps when it is put into your face so black-and-white you feel some shame? Perhaps not?

      You clearly cannot deal with the facts or with truth or you would have the integrity to recognize them when they stare you in the face. Pride is one the seven deadly sins. You like to interlude your exclusivist polemics with banter about the Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man, but your exclusivist theology belies another motive. The two are not compatible.

      Great evils were perpetrated upon other nations, civilizations, and peoples under such an exclusivist theological worldview that seeps through your posts. Positivism alone is not the cause of modernity’s revolt against religion; theological arrogance of Christianity and its ecclesiastical totalitarian hold upon “freethinkers” was also part of the cause. But that is another story.

    • Rob
      May 22, 2019 at 3:09 am

      Although Nietzsche is not really one of my favourite German philosophers, he was very right when he said that every time he sees a religious man he wants to wash his hands. It is a habit that I have acquired from him, but only when I sense fake religion around me. Genuine faith does not usually make one sick. To the contrary, one can feel relief from the knowledge that fellow human beings are benefiting from a sense of relief or tranquility on this rotten earth. It is a belief system (imperfect like the rest) that is, nonetheless, genuine and self-correcting. It is never entrenched in self-promoting dogma. Its private face does not differ from its public. (Helen Sakho)

      .

      First, I refute Rob’s initial assertions: “The term religio predates Christ and the eventual evolution of Christianity…. ” In answer to the first point, Rob quotes just one “authority” (and another quoting that) who no-where gives evidence of pre-Christian use of the Latin ‘religio’…. I am inferring [from] the conditions in which Christians lived during the Roman persecutions that it was they that invented this word…. As a mathematician rather than a historian I tend to speak more summarily than he might like, but I do try to embrace the truth and not include misleading untruths…. Rob’s ‘Smith, 1964’ reads like a scholar’s account rather than an imaginative reconstruction of the thoughts and motivations of the times. While my interpretation of the word ‘religion’ may even be just my own…. As a scientist I began by being satisfied with most of what I was taught, but after sixty years of assessing why it was taught and demystifying its problems by resolving them in light of my own stock of examples, my faith is a well considered…. Has Rob been reading ‘Catholicity for dummies’, one wonders? (Dave Taylor, 5/19/2019, RWER)

      .

      Through an etymological study of “religion” (religio, in Latin), Smith contends that the term, which at first and during most centuries denoted an attitude toward a relationship between God and “man,” has through conceptual slippage come to mean a “system of observances or beliefs,” a historical tradition that has been institutionalized through a process of reification. Whereas religio denoted personal piety, “religion” refers to an abstract entity (or transcendental signifier) that Smith claims does not exist. Smith argues that the term, as vera religio found in Lucretius and Cicero, was internalized by the Catholic Church through Lactantius and Augustine to mean “true religion,” not “the true religion,” and as such equated with piety and justice or the personal moral-spiritual journey over and above abstract, doctrinal pursuits. During the Middle Ages, religio or vera religio were superseded by the term “faith,” which by contrast Smith favors. In the Renaissance, via the Christian Platonist Marsilio Ficino, “religio” becomes popular again, retaining its original emphasis on personal practice even in John Calvin’s Christianae Religionis Institutio (1536).7 (The Legacy of Wilfred Cantwell Smith (p. 50). State University of New York Press. Kindle Edition.)

      .
      One can read the original Latin of Lucretius and Cicero, who clearly are pre-Christian, and see for oneself how they use the term religio, religiones, etc. Or read Goossens (2005) Lucretius and Religion. work on Lucretius: De Rerum Natura. (Faculty of Philosophy. Ultrecht University.).
      .
      Dave’s willful presumptive ignorance is spiritually repulsive and utterly recklessness with truth. Such an attitude that his creed has THE TRUTH bespeaks more theological arrogance than certainty of faith. If Dave sincerely cared about not believing and/or stating “misleading untruths” he would reconsider his claim that Christians invented the word religio (i.e., religion). I have given him more then enough evidence to see the error of his claim, but nevertheless he persists in departing from the stage of historical fact thereby turning reason into a consort of false logic. Faith has falsified its trust when it presumes to deny realities and to confer upon its devotees assumed knowledge. Faith is a traitor when it fosters betrayal of intellectual integrity to fact and truth. The acceptance of a teaching as true is not faith; that is mere belief. The pride of unspiritualized learning is a treacherous thing in human experience. The true teacher maintains his intellectual integrity by ever remaining a learner.

      Keep in mind that Dave presumes to be schooling Asad (and myself) in history (something he now openly admits he is not well versed in) while asserting a historically false claim, and upon evidence to the contrary stiffening his neck and doubling down on arrogant assertions of misleading untruths (falsehood) interspersed with irrelevant misdirecting narrative. Falsehood is not a matter of narration technique but something premeditated as a perversion of truth. The shadow of a hair’s turning, premeditated for an untrue purpose, the slightest twisting or perversion of that which is principle—these constitute falseness. When Dave’s instructions (or dumbed-down Catholicism) are not heeded or worse, refuted, he resorts to ad hominem, such as “Has Rob been reading ‘Catholicity for dummies’, one wonders?” or simply calling people stupid:

      Be an idiot, then, John. Look a gift horse [his instructions] in the mouth. Confirm what “I’ve long suspected, no-one here wants to learn, only to teach or undermine”. (Dave Taylor, RWER, 4/20/2019)

      A simply “I am mistaken” would be enough. But that takes real faith grounded in a love of truth ebodies humility, teachability, and true brotherly love.

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