Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rationalist Religionists - lonely minority, or silent majority?

I was sent an article by a Rabbi by the name of Geoffrey Mitelman. In it, he describes his belief that it is possible to be religious, while being fully rational. Based on the short article, I think he means that in the same way that I would—not as a claim that standard religious beliefs are, themselves, rational. Rather, that it's possible to believe in a religion which doesn't require us to believe anything that isn't rational. That we can acknowledge that part of our religious traditions aren't rational, and were developed in a time quite different from our own. Saying that to be religious is to believe all those things would be like saying that to be scientific we have to accept the science of the 1800s. Knowledge and thinking progress, and that has to be true in religion, too.

What's really interesting, to me, is the e-mail conversation which he has with an author (Hank Davis) who feels that religion isn't very rational. Millman lays out his beliefs, and the author responds:

... If you were even remotely typical of the clergy, I would change my view and probably would never have written Caveman Logic. But you're not ... you're probably way to the left of center in your own denomination. In short, I'd like and admire you as a friend, but I can't imagine you as a spokesperson for either religion or the clergy. You speak for what it might have been had it gone right. But it didn't ...

[Your point of view is] sadly, about three standard deviations to the enlightened side of average.

You know, it's something I've wondered myself. Obviously, the kind of religion in which I believe, about which I preach, isn't the one we read about in the press. And, it often feels like I'm a distinct minority—that the world is made up mostly of people who are either quite literalist (and therefore, I'd say, not fully rational) in their beliefs, or self identified atheists. That the number of people who love religion, who try to be religious, but attempt to be rigorously rational at the same time is very small, indeed. But, I wonder if that's true. Maybe the silent majority of our world (or country?) are more like me than I think?


Don't know if anyone out there has an opinion, or can shed some light on this. But, I do think it's an interesting question.


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