Posted by: gcarkner | February 20, 2016

Political Scientist Examines the Secular-Religious Debate

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Response by Dr. Olav Slaymaker, Professor Emeritus, Geography

Audio File Thomas Heilke

Full Biography For Thomas Heilke

 Thomas Heilke received his Ph.D. from Duke University in 1990. After 23 years as a faculty member and a variety of administrative positions at the University of Kansas, he has been Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean of the College of Graduate Studies UBC Okanagan since January, 2014. He is the recipient of three teaching awards, and has written on a variety of topics in political philosophy, including civic friendship, political theology, the political thought of Friedrich Nietzsche, Eric Voegelin, John Howard Yoder, and Thucydides, and Anabaptist political thought. He has authored or co- authored four books and edited or co-edited six further volumes. His work has appeared in journals that include American Political Science Review, Political Theory, Polity, The Review of Politics, and Modern Theology. Among his published books are Voegelin on the Idea of Race: An Analysis of Modern European Racism (1990); Nietzsche’s Tragic Regime: Culture, Aesthetics, and Political Education (1998); Eric Voegelin: In Quest of Reality (1999). He co-edited with Ashley Woodwiss The Re-Enchantment of Political Science: Christian Scholars Engage Their Discipline, (2001). He belongs to the American Political Science Association and the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars.

Dialogue between Christians and Atheists: an interview with Education Philosopher Dr. Sam Rocha

What can atheists and Catholics learn from each other?

See also Blog Page: Literature on Religion and Politics 

Quotes on Secularity from Jens Zimmermann’s book Incarnational Humanism

Understanding the nature of reason is central to our conception of human existence. We have to resist a narrow conception of human rationality that excludes religion as irrational because such a view cripples our ability to analyze correctly the current state of Western culture. As Rodney Stark has argued in his book The Victory of Reason, Christianity’s ability to combine faith and reason with a progressive view of human nature laid the foundation for Western science and technological progress…. Building on Judaism, Christianity also allowed for the concepts of human dignity, personhood and individuality that have decisively shaped Western views of society. (25 & 26)

Neither the best nor the worst features of modernity are comprehensible without the transformative influence of Christianity on Greco-Roman culture. Without religion, the West would not be what it is, and without understanding the religious roots of Western culture and their continuing influence on Western thought, we lack the self-understanding necessary to address our current cultural crisis. (26)

The reduction of reason to scientific objectivity, combined with an individualistic understanding of the human self as an island of autonomous consciousness and will, has drawn a sharp line between faith and reason, between science and religion, between fact and value. (35)

Living in a postsecular world means that secularism is no longer the standard for reasonable thought. If indeed it is true that Western culture continues to experience a crisis of identity and purpose, the dogmatic exclusion of sources of transcendent purpose (i.e. religion) seems unwise…. Such dogmatism is not secular thinking, if secular is taken at its root meaning of “this worldly”. Rather, the arbitrary exclusion of religion from reasonable discourse is secularist ideology, a fundamentalist rejection of all interpretation of the world, except the materialist one that excludes religion.  (41)

When science begins to think, that is, when it moves beyond verification and begins to interpret the meaning of its findings, science takes recourse to philosophy and theology. (42)

Insightful Quotes from Jens Zimmermann’s book Hermeneutics: a very short introduction. (OUP, 2015)

For Gadamer, tradition and authority are not the enemy of reason or critical thought. Rather tradition furnishes the web of conceptions within which we live, move, and have our historical being. To be sure, as we all know, tradition and authority can often be abused, but such distortions should not mislead us into denying their important role for our perception of the world. Authority, for example, is ideally never imposed but derives from the superior skill or life-experience we recognize in others…. Indeed, authority and tradition are linked precisely in the recognition that our knowledge about the world depends on others who have mastered and passed on skills by tradition…. This positive view of tradition as the storehouse of human knowledge recognizes the natural limits of human finitude. No individual can reinvent from scratch insights gained over many generations, but rather always draws on the handed-down experience of tradition through recognized authorities…. The goal is to become aware of these guiding influences and creatively adopt those that are fruitful while weeding out those that cripple our thinking.  (44)

Natural science, economics, and politics depend on literature, philosophy, and religion for educating the imagination. Every chapter in this book shows that we cannot oppose facts to values, but that all facts are integrated into meaningful wholes through personal commitment to some kind of vision of how things ought to be. If this universal hermeneutic claim is true, then the shaping of our imagination through historical, philosophical and literary texts in the humanities is indeed paramount. (69)

Both in science and in theology, facts are important, but what ultimately matters is the theory or world picture by which we integrate the individual parts of what we know into a meaningful whole. Even experimental verification by itself is no guarantee for arriving at the correct interpretation of reality…. Striving for coherence through the integration of particulars into a meaningful whole, science proceeds hermeneutically…. Science depends as much on tradition, personal involvement, commitment, and intuitive insight as does any other mode of knowing. The creative and visionary side of science also aligns scientific activity with the creative arts, poetry, and literature.  (128-29)

Hermeneutics enquires into the conditions of understanding…. Hermeneutic philosophy provides an important antidote to fundamentalism. Secular and religious fundamentalists still defend the modernist illusion of timeless, certain knowledge. Their shrill voices are defensive, sometimes even violent, stances towards others are driven by the fear of relativism. In contrast, by insisting on the interpretive nature of all human knowledge without falling into relativism, hermeneutics encourages the interpretive humility essential to any dialogue. Acknowledging the profound mediation of even our deepest beliefs through history, tradition, and language should induce us to admit that we could be wrong and are thus open to correction. The awareness that our own interpretive framework can benefit from another’s encourages conversation in order to learn…. Insofar as hermeneutic philosophy encourages conversation among those of different faiths and cultures, hermeneutics will remain an essential part of our future. (131-2)

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Quotes from Jens Zimmermann, The Passionate Intellect.

Self-knowledge requires transcendence, requires some greater whole to give meaning to each human experience. Even philosophers who realize this need, however, will not concede that any one religion or metaphysical system has such definitive insight. The best that such philosophy can do is to admit the need without specifying the content. (36)

Power is not univocal: it can be used to repress or to enable; it can be horded or equitably distributed. At times it is centralized and intentional; at other times, it is diffused and without a key broker. There are both conspiracies and self-regulative strategies around power. It is at its best when neither hegemonic nor too centralized. The hope is for individual selves to discover new empowerment and move out of negative power-contests. Power is not always a negative thing and can be negotiated by appropriate power-brokers who have integrity. It is negative if it is isolated within too small a group as in elitist or ethnocentric/racist structures or used against other people, especially the poor and vulnerable. Above all, power of any kind begs for a sound ethical framework within which it can properly operate for the common good. Christians can make claim to such a framework. The twentieth and now twenty-first century has taught us some stark lessons about the abuse of political, military and financial power in particular. Paul Johnson in A History of the Modern World: from 1917-1990’s gives telling evidence of abusive power’s brutality. See also Andy Crouch’s book Playing God.

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