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Religion || Education || Public Issues

Religion

 

Transcending Religious Differences
John H Dreher, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Southern California

Abstract
Following Hegel’s Sophocles, ethics is the discipline that seeks to adjudicate differences between conventional law and divine or ‘natural’ law.  In the current international context, ethics appears to be overwhelmed by its defining challenge.  Differences among religious points of view appear to be nearly unbridgeable. Moreover, purely secular views have become increasingly hostile to all forms of religions, arguing that they are sources of irrational controversy and even hatred.
This paper seeks to lay the groundwork of a philosophical perspective that is consistent with all divergent points of view concerning religion.  It argues that religious faith is essentially personal and private and that religious belief deserves the respect of secular world (and of competing religions) as long as it remains tolerant of competing points of view.  The paper concludes by arguing that only universal human values, like the respect for Earth itself, can serve as the foundation of genuinely ecumenical ethics.

 

A Review of Catholic Schools in the United States: The Struggle to Maintain a Preferential Option for the Poor
Karen K. Huchting and Matthew P. Cunningham

Abstract
When discussing education in the United States, issues related to “church and state” are often viewed from the perspective of how faith based initiatives impact the public school setting. However, equally important to the broader understanding of the field of education is a discussion of how faith-based schools influence the public good. The purpose of this manuscript is to review, in particular, literature related to the impact of Catholic educational settings. Related to this discussion is a review of how the governance structure and financial model of Catholic schools differs from public educational institutions. As such, the advantages of both approaches —the state and the church—on education will be explored.

“God in Literature”: A Comparison of Early Modern and Modern Perspectives in Thomas More and Graham Greene
Lanier Burns, Research Professor of Theological Studies, Senior Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary

Abstract
This paper will attempt to compare early modernity with the Twentieth Century under the topic “God in Literature.” It will seek to accomplish this by analyzing selected works of Thomas More and Graham Greene. Both authors were influential English Catholics, who were affiliated with Oxford for a time. Their respective views on social authority and order expose their differences and insightfully reflect their centuries. In conclusion, this paper will briefly explore the implication of their differences for our thinking about public policy. For More social order and harmony was vested in the Catholic Church as the cohesive bond of God’s ordained “chain of being.” God is mysterious, so Europeans should accept and live obediently in his “one trew catholyke fayth, wyth all old holy doctors and sayntes” as the basis of certainty in extraordinary change. By the Twentieth Century, the chain had been replaced by individual autonomy as “the very foundation of contemporary Western thought.” Greene also affirmed the mysteriousness of God, but in a different sense than More. The severest of evils in church and society were a mix of evil and virtue. In the darkness of the world hovers “an appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.” More’s certainty as a backdrop for Greene’s uncertainty can affect the way that policy issues are prioritized.
      

 

Religion, conflict and peace: Questions, hypotheses and recommendations
Jannie Malan, Senior Researcher, African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, Durban, South Africa.

Abstract

History and ongoing events show that with regard to conflict and peace a religious perspective can, with good intentions, play one role or another. It can cause or further a conflict, it can try to resolve conflict in a merely pacifist way, or it can address the root causes of a conflict and promote the structural and attitudinal changes needed to transform a conflict situation into one of peaceful coexistence. The main purpose of this paper is to explore why religions tend to cause conflict and how they can contribute to effective (not superficial) conflict resolution. Findings of research into the origins and development of religion(s) are noted. The importance is emphasised of thinking ourselves into the way original religious experiences could have been communicated, interpreted and understood. Special attention is given to the way in which receivers of accounts of genuine experiences could have focused on the inner meaning or on the contents of the communication, or on both. A few hypotheses are presented about levels of understanding and scarcity of internalising. These hypotheses are tested by using examples of conflict and peace – especially the old South African anti-apartheid conflict and the emerging coexistence in the new South Africa. The probabilities are discussed that outward observance religion can cause or contribute to conflict, and that inner change religion can promote understanding, tolerance and cooperation. Among the recommendations coming forward from this line of thinking and arguing are the following: Religions should become more honest and modest about their perceived certainties and superiorities. Religions should focus more on inner commitment (including believing as a relationship [fides qua creditur], and being oriented to inter-human coexistence) than on external features (including creed [fides quae creditur], code and cult).

A Religious and Spiritual Quest in the Works of Elie Wiesel
Diane M. Plotkin, Professor, Brookhaven College

Abstract 
Every book written by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel deals, in one way or another, with the question or the subject of God. Born and raised as a religious, young boy, because he was Jewish, he was arrested by the Nazis in 1944 and taken to Auschwitz, the largest of the concentration camps. Seeing and experiencing the horrors of the torture, the gas chambers, the crematoria, and all the other aspects of man’s worst inhumanity to man, young Eliezer begins to question not only his own deeply held beliefs, but the very existence of a God who would allow such things to occur. To quote:
Evil unleashed and unrestrained, at last caused Eliezer to see God in the face of a dying child. Forced to watch his murder a man asked accusingly, “Where is God now?” And Eliezer heard an inner voice respond: “Where is He? Here He is… He is hanging here on this gallows…”
            In each of his subsequent books, Wiesel, in one way or another, deals with the psychological, moral, and religious dilemma of God’s silence. As he writes:
How does one answer the person who demands an interpretation of God’s silence at the very moment when… man has greater need than ever of His word, let alone His mercy?
            Elie Wiesel’s writings dwell, on one way or another, with this question as well as the role of religion, any religion, in modern society.

 

Separation of Church and State, Neutrality, and Religious Freedom in American Constitutional Law
Robert A. Sedler, Distinguished Professor of Law, Wayne State University

Abstract
Religious freedom is a favored value under the United States Constitution. The Constitution provides two-fold protection to religious freedom by means of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. The Establishment Clause protects against the “establishment” of an official church by the government and against governmental action “establishing religion,” while the Free Exercise clause is a textual guarantee of peoples’ right to practice their religion and to hold and act on religious beliefs, free from governmental interference.  The Establishment Clause would appear to an outside observer as strongly endorsing the concept of separation of church and state, and the Supreme Court has sometimes referred to the Establishment Clause as creating a “wall of separation” between church and state. However, the concept of separation of church and state has not in theory or practice guided the Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence. To the contrary, the Court has interpreted the Establishment Clause not as requiring separation of church and state in the sense that the government may not constitutionally become involved with religion, but as only requiring that the government must maintain a course of complete official neutrality toward religion. This means that the government may not favor one religion over another religion and may not favor religious belief over non-religious belief. But as a constitutional matter, the government may become involved with religion in a number of ways so long as it maintains a course of complete official neutrality toward religion.  It is the thesis of this paper that the guiding force governing the Supreme Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence has been a concern with protecting religious freedom, and that the Court will only find an Establishment Clause violation when the law or governmental action in question has the potential for interfering with the religious freedom of individuals or groups who are not the beneficiaries of that law or governmental action. While the cases demonstrate that the Court has found many Establishment Clause violations over the years, the Court has also upheld laws or governmental actions that have the effect of treating religion equally with non-religion. This trend has been particularly evident in recent years with respect to the government’s including the religious with the secular in the receipt of governmental benefits. The Court has also upheld against Establishment Clause challenge governmental actions that are precisely tailored to protect the religious freedom of individuals and religious institutions.  In the final analysis, as this paper will demonstrate, the function of the Establishment Clause in the American constitutional system is to protect religious freedom by requiring that the government maintain a course of complete official neutrality toward religion. The government is not required by the Establishment Clause to be hostile toward religion, but to the contrary may treat the religious and the secular equally and may act affirmatively to protect the religious freedom of individuals and religious institutions.

The Fallacy of Misplaced Temporality in Western Philosophy, Natural Science, and Theistic Religion
Isidoro Talavera, Philosophy Professor and Lead Faculty, Department of Humanities & Communication Arts, Franklin University

Abstract
The whole of Western philosophy and (derivatively) natural science have been haunted by a contradictory conception of time: time has been thought of and articulated as essentially transitory, while at the same time (and in the same sense) assumed to stand still (apart from the world of temporal items and happenings).  In the extreme, this bifurcation of time (and/or corresponding bifurcation of knowledge) has led some to commit the fallacy of misplaced temporality, which privileges one aspect of time (i.e., the static or dynamic) over another.  In its most damaging form, the fallacy dismisses essential aspects of true time by quietly disposing of constancy (labeling it as timeless) and/or quietly disposing of change (labeling it as lower/subjective or unreal).  This problem arises in force when the context is shifted from philosophy to theistic religion.  A case in point is the Judeo-Christian tradition that sees God as active within the historical process which, in consequence, represents not only a causal but also a purposive order, but locates God outside of time—entirely external to theperishable (or lower) realm of change and process.  Accordingly, variations of the Fallacy of Misplaced Temporality arise in efforts to derive creaturely time from divine eternity—to establish a rational relation between God and the world.  But, to sustain that God is either in time or out, given that an infinite and immutable God is over and above all created things, strongly suggests that there is no rational relation between the static nature of divine eternity and the dynamic character of the physical universe.  As a result, when we factor in the aspects of true time there cannot be a rational relation between God and the world.

 

 

 

 

 

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