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Sun Jan 15, 2012, 02:57 PM

Ronald Dworkin: Religion without God.

Dworkin gave the Einstein Lectures at the University of Bern on December 12, 13, and 14. Videos of his lectures (about 1 hour and 20 minutes each) can be found: here:

Here is an excerpt from the abstract of the lectures: :


"For most people religion means a belief in a god. But Albert Einstein said that he was both an atheist and a deeply religious man. Millions of ordinary people seem to have the same thought: they say that though they don’t believe in a god they do believe in something “bigger than us.” In these lectures I argue that these claims are not linguistic contradictions, as they are often taken to be, but fundamental insights into what a religion really is.

A religious attitude involves moral and cosmic convictions beyond simply a belief in god: that people have an innate, inescapable responsibility to make something valuable of their lives and that the natural universe is gloriously, mysteriously wonderful. Religious people accept such convictions as matters of faith rather than evidence and as personality-defining creeds that play a pervasive role in their lives.

In these lectures I argue that a belief in god is not only not essential to the religious attitude but is actually irrelevant to that attitude. The existence or non-existence of a god does not even bear on the question of people’s intrinsic ethical responsibility or their glorification of the universe. I do not argue either for or against the existence of a god, but only that a god’s existence can make no difference to the truth of religious values. If a god exists, perhaps he can send people to Heaven or Hell. But he cannot create right answers to moral questions or instill the universe with a glory it would not otherwise have.

How, then, can we defend a religious attitude if we cannot rely on a god? In the first lecture I offer a godless argument that moral and ethical values are objectively real: They do not depend on god, but neither are they just subjective or relative to cultures. They are objective and universal. In the second lecture I concentrate on Einstein’s own religion: his bewitchment by the universe. What kind of beauty might the vast universe be thought to hold – what analogy to more familiar sources of beauty is most suggestive? I propose that the beauty basic physicists really hope to find is the beauty of a powerful, profound mathematical proof. Godly religions insist that though god explains everything his own existence need not be explained because he necessarily exists. Religious atheists like Einstein have, I believe, a parallel faith: that when a unifying theory of everything is found it will be not only simple but, in the way of mathematics, inevitable. They dream of a new kind of necessity: cosmic necessity.

a little bit more ...






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Reply Ronald Dworkin: Religion without God. (Original post)
Jim__ Jan 2012 OP
cbayer Jan 2012 #1
digonswine Jan 2012 #2
GliderGuider Jan 2012 #3

Response to Jim__ (Original post)

Sun Jan 15, 2012, 03:05 PM

1. Excellent! Thanks so much for posting this.

I don't think I have ever seen this concept put so eloquently.

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Response to Jim__ (Original post)

Sun Jan 15, 2012, 06:24 PM

2. This is simply shifty language-

In these lectures I argue that these claims are not linguistic contradictions, as they are often taken to be, but fundamental insights into what a religion really is.

Religionists see the beauty of god in all creation.
Physicists will see it as a lovely equation.

We cannot square these two things.

I see the beauty of nature, but this is not a religion.
A religion starts with supposed truth and looks for evidence.


"How, then, can we defend a religious attitude if we cannot rely on a god? In the first lecture I offer a godless argument that moral and ethical values are objectively real: They do not depend on god, but neither are they just subjective or relative to cultures. They are objective and universal. In the second lecture I concentrate on Einstein’s own religion: his bewitchment by the universe".

I think they are subjective and relative to cultures. Lots of pretty talk.

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Response to Jim__ (Original post)

Sun Jan 15, 2012, 07:45 PM

3. My vote goes to "eloquent".

 

On one hand I'm not convinced that there can be an objective, universal system of ethics. However, the idea that a truly religious sense of wonder can be found in mathematics and other elegant formalisms accords with my own experience.

Thanks!

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