Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Prager on subjectivism in religion

Of course, commentator and radio talk show host Dennis Prager would never actually agree with the idea that religion as such is subjective and yet, every once in while, the blatant truth of this proposition has to shine through. In an excellent column today Prager joins those who have been advocating for some time that this war is misnamed and the enemy is very much religious in nature. However, in an interesting passage in this article Prager writes:
With a background in religious studies and having studied Arabic and Islam, many listeners have called my radio show asking me if I consider Islam to be inherently violent or even evil. From 9-11 to now, I have responded that I do not assess religions; I assess the practitioners of religions. Why? Because it is almost impossible to assess any religion since its own adherents so often differ as to what it is. For example, is Christianity the Christianity of most evangelicals or that of the National Council of Churches? On virtually every important moral issue, they differ. The same holds true for right- and left-wing groups within Judaism.[emphasis added]
This has been my criticism of those claiming that religion can provide the basis for morality. Religious people such as Prager claim that without God there can be no morality. Why? Because, Prager would argue, reason is incapable to deriving "ought" from "is" or morality from facts. As a result, supposedly we will just end up with a lot of different opinions of what's right and what's wrong but no absolute or objective standard. Judeo-Christian values, however, do provide absolute right and wrong, it is claimed, and thus people in favor of morality ought to support religion and Judeo-Christian values in particular.

But clearly, by Prager's own admission, if the problem is that people might disagree, religion provides no solution. Even putting aside the issue of the existence of multiple different religions, people within the same religion often disagree quite strongly as to the interpretation of their sacred texts. So frankly, as far as I'm concerned religious people are back to square one.

Needless to say, this ignores multiple other problems with basing morality on religion rather than reason and reality, such as the fact that religion is based on impossible fantasies, which must be taken on faith, the result of which can hardly be considered objective. It is really no surprise that disagreements on interpretations of these fantastic ideas persists.

No comments: