Religion Under the Lens
A Definition of Religion said...
Reason and Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, Michael Peterson, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach, and David Basinger (Oxford University Press: 2008), p. 7.
In spite of the difficulties in defining and applying the term "religion," we need a tentative, working definition. For our purposes, religion is constituted by a set of beliefs, actions, and experiences, both personal and corporate, organized around the concept of an Ultimate Reality which inspires worship or total devotion.
"Death is Homecoming", in Jewish Reflection on Death, ed. Jack Riemer (New York: Schocken Books, 1974), 62.
Paradoxically, the problem of man arises more frequently as the problem of death than as the problem of life. It is an important fact, however, that unlike other Oriental religions, where the preoccupation with death was the central issue of religious thinking, the Bible rarely deals with death as a problem. There is no rebellion against death, no bitterness over its sting, no preoccupation with the afterlife. In striking contrast to its two great neighboring civilizations — Egypt with its intense preoccupation with the afterlife, and Babylonia with the epic of Gilgamesh who wonders in search of immortal life, the story of the descent of Ishtar, and the legend of Nergal and Ereshkigal — the Bible is reticent in speaking about these issue. The Hebrew Bible calls for concern for the problem of living rather than the problem of dying. It's central concern is not, as in the Gilgamesh epic, how to escape death, but rather how to sanctify life.
"An Ideal of Service to Our Fellow Man" in This I Believe (1950).
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious — the knowledge of the existence of something unfathomable to us, the manifestation of the most profound reason coupled with the most brilliant beauty. I cannot imagine a god who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, or who has a will of the kind we experience in ourselves. I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with the awareness of — and glimpse into — the marvelous construction of the existing world together with the steadfast determination to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature. This is the basis of cosmic religiosity, and it appears to me that the most important function of art and science is to awaken this feeling among the receptive and keep it alive.
Albert Einstein on True Religion said...
The Merging of Spirit and Science
The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend is as the center of true religiousness.
"Is Religion Evil?" in God Is Great, God Is Good, eds. William Lane Craig and Chad Meister (IVP Books: 2009), pp. 128-9.
When a society rejects the idea of God, it tends to transcendentalize alternatives — such as the ideals of liberty or equality. These now become quasi-divine authorities, which none are permitted to challenge. ¶ Perhaps the most familiar example of this dates from the French Revolution, at a time when traditional notions of God were discarded as obsolete and replaced by transcendentalized human values. In 1792 Madame Rolande was brought to the guillotine to face execution on trumped-up charges. As she prepared to die, she bowed mockingly toward the statue of liberty in the Place de la Révolution and uttered the words for which she is now remembered: "Liberty, what crimes are committed in your name." Her point is simple, and I believe it to be irrefutable. All ideals — divine, transcendent, human or invented — are capable of being abused. That's just the way human nature is. And knowing this, rather than lashing out uncritically at religion, we need to work out what to do about it. The problem lies in human nature.
"Is Religion Built on Lies", a debate between Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan at Belief.net (March 2007).
The reason I find fundamentalism so troubling — whether it is Christian, Jewish or Muslim — is not just its willingness to use violence (in the Islamist manifestation). It is its inability to integrate doubt into faith, its resistance to human reason, its tendency to pride and exclusion, and its inability to accept mystery as the core reality of any religious life. You find it troubling, I think, purely because it upholds truths that cannot be proved empirically or even, in some respects, logically. In that sense, of course, I think you have no reason to dislike or oppose it any more than you would oppose my kind of faith. Your argument allows for no solid distinctions within faiths; my argument depends on such distinctions.
Cur Deus Homo ("Why God Became Man") (1033-1109).
When it is said that what God wishes is just, and that what He does not wish is unjust, we must not understand that if God wished anything improper it would be just, simply because he wished it. For if God wishes to lie, we must not conclude that it is right to lie, but rather that he is not God. For no will can ever wish to lie, unless truth in it is impaired, nay, unless the will itself be impaired by forsaking truth. When, then, it is said: "If God wishes to lie," the meaning is simply this: "If the nature of God is such as that he wishes to lie;" and, therefore, it does not follow that falsehood is right, except it be understood in the same manner as when we speak of two impossible things: "If this be true, then that follows; because neither this nor that is true;" as if a man should say: "Supposing water to be dry, and fire to be moist;" for neither is the case. Therefore, with regard to these things, to speak the whole truth: If God desires a thing, it is right that he should desire that which involves no unfitness. For if God chooses that it should rain, it is right that it should rain; and if he desires that any man should die, then is it right that he should die. Wherefore, if it be not fitting for God to do anything unjustly, or out of course, it does not belong to his liberty or compassion or will to let the sinner go unpunished who makes no return to God of what the sinner has
Antony Flew on Hell said...
The Presumption of Atheism: God, Freedom, and Immortality, (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1984), p. 84.
Now, if anything at all can be known to be wrong, it seems to me to be unshakably certain that it would be wrong to make any sentient being suffer eternally for any offence whatever.
Gaily the Troubadour (E.P. Dutton: 1936), p. 38.
First dentistry was painless, then bicycles were chainless, and carriages were horseless, and many laws enforceless. Next cookery was fireless, telegraphy was wireless, cigars were nicotineless, and coffee caffeineless. Soon oranges were seedless, the putting green was weedless, the college boy hatless, the proper diet fatless. Now motor roads are dustless, the latest steel is rustless, our tennis courts are sodless, our new religions godless.