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Friday, October 27, 2006

In the Absence of God

I just finished the short book In the Absence of God: Religious Humanism as Spiritual Journey: with special reference to Julian Huxley by John H. Morgan, published this year. The title suggests that it covers Religious Humanism with an emphasis on Julian Huxley when in fact it is about Julian Huxley with an emphasis on his own formulation of Religious Humanism. If you have already read some of the original writings of Julian Huxley and you liked what you read, you will enjoy this book.

I wanted to share with you a couple of my favorite passages where the author quotes Huxley:
A Religion is an organ of man in society which helps him to cope with the problems of nature and his destiny -- his place and role in the universe. It always involves the sense of sacredness or mystery and of participation in a continuing enterprise; it is always concerned with the problem of good and evil and with what transcends the individual self and the immediate and present facts of every day. [p64]

For want of a better, I use the term divine, though this quality of divinity is not truly supernatural but transnatural -- it grows out of ordinary nature, but transcends it. The divine is what man finds worthy of adoration, that which compels his awe. [p84]

I caught an interview on the radio last night with Julia Sweeney, former castmember of Saturday Night Live and current atheist activist. If you listen to the audio archive, you will hear two things that I found quite interesting in light of what I recently read in Morgan's book. The first is that Sweeney believes that even when we lose our childhood fear of divine judgment, we remain moral because we have evolved to be so. I suspect that Morgan, who also authored Naturally Good: The Behavioral History of Moral Development, would agree.

The second is that toward the end of the interview Sweeney expressed her sense that something was missing from her life and that of her young daughter ever since she left the Catholic church. As she stated, it was not something that she could get from her local tennis club. I suggest it is what my wife and I were seeking for our family just as many others have before us ever since the revelation by Darwin about the origins of life on this planet. In the words of Morgan, it is this:
A humanistic religion, a religion based on the science of evolution and fostered by the awe and wonder perceived and adored in the creation of the cosmos by the human community, invites conscious development as we invite and work to foster ever deepening appreciation of nature and music and art within our offspring. [p119]


Michael LaTorra said...

Hi David,
Community is the major element that is missing from most atheist groups. We are few in numbers (and especially thin on the ground outside the major metropolitan areas). The virtual communities of the internet are better than nothing. But as yet they are a poor substitute for face-to-face meetings (such as ours at the Alcor Conference in October 2006).
Mike LaTorra

David Wallace Croft said...

Speaking of virtual communities, I just subscribed to the humanists and huumanists-mem mailing lists at UUA: