Saturday, December 29, 2012

A "Sense" of God

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks enumerates the familiar arguments for the advantages of religion (The Moral Animal, NY Times, Dec 24).  Sam Harris in his "The Moral Landscape" dates the evolutionary origins of religious practices back  some 95,000 years, when evidence of human burials were first discovered.  Harris continues to argue that there may very well be a genetic (Darwinian) advantage to "religion" or forms of "superstition".  Harris would, then, agree with Sacks - there are definite advantages to such beliefs.  

However, the apparent need for religion, the apparent need for the belief in a supernatural deity has nothing to do with the the reality of an actual existence of someone called God.  The concept of God, a concept most people demand in order to explain the "unanswerable" questions of life - questions such as compassion co-existing with human evil, or natural disasters of overwhelming proportion - can remain only as a concept, not more.  It is a quantum leap to equate a concept with a reality.

Sacks explains the evolution of religion thusly: "an idea that society can do without it flies in the face of history and now, evolutionary biology."  He then concludes by indicating that "It certainly shows that the free societies of the West must never lose their sense of God."

He, correctly, chose the phrase "sense of God," and not the phrase "existence of God."

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