A More Excellent Way
There is a growing dissonance between secular and non-secular life. Many people are turning away from religion for a number of reasons. Over the last few millennia a lot of evil has been done either behind a religious facade or even in the name of religion. There are historical examples of religion, wound tightly with state governing power, suppressing scientific progress. There are many and frequent contemporary examples of religion being used as a political wedge to drive religious-leaning folks away from vital science. Let’s face it, there are many legitimate reasons for people to doubt the need for religion. However, for every example of religion mucking things up, there is clear evidence that without something for us to look to, without some polestar to which we can turn, without a more excellent way, we lose our way and treat each other only as a means to an end — components to an algorithm.
Those of you who might be religious are probably still reading. Those who lean toward singularly secular thought may have already stopped reading. If you haven’t, thanks(!) and give me a couple more paragraphs before you shuffle me into your brain’s garbage bin.
Here We Are
Whether you like it or not, religious values have brought us to where we are. Many of the great thinkers and leaders gained inspiration in their pursuits by foundational religious
beliefs (Dr. King, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Francis Bacon, Gregor Mendel, and so on).
So I’m going to try an experiment. I’m going to weave into my weekly writing concepts derived from the sacred writings of religion and philosophy. In a way I’ll try to make the case that religion shouldn’t be viewed either as some naive superstition or great impediment to scientific or social progress. We can apply principles from many sources — Christianity, Confucianism, Judaism, Islam, even from the stoics and more — in our secular efforts. In fact, we must, if we hope to truly make our lives, and those of our fellows, better. I look at it as a more excellent way.
I’m not doing this as a religious evangelist — I’m no preacher by any means. And I’m not holding myself up as some example of a person who has achieved any greatness. I’m not a felon or heathen either. But it’s clear to me that there is a more excellent way to live, regardless of one’s station in life.
Some might accuse me of cherry picking concepts from religion and ignoring totality. Guilty as charged! But that doesn’t refute the validity of any one philosophy or belief system. And I’m not trying to prove the truth of any one particular religion.
One last point — for the sake of transparency — I’m christian (I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (often referred to by the nickname ‘Mormon church’)). So please cut me some slack if, when discussing the application of a teaching from Islam, for example, my views seem overly simplistic or shallow to those who are lifelong students of that particular faith.
Let me know what you think. Contact me by email (email@example.com), LinkedIn, or Twitter. Or just comment below.
Hi, Sceptical. You sound like you have a genuine curiosity. I hope this is true.
You mentioned there is evidence that without “something”, we lose our way.
This reminds me very much of, and therefore I put forth the same challenge as Christopher Hitchens to you.
“Let someone name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever. And here is my second challenge. Can any reader of this [challenge] think of a wicked statement made, or an evil action performed, precisely because of religious faith?” -Christopher Hitchens