Un-linking Ethics & Religion: Peter Singer’s “Pratical Ethics”

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From Practical Ethics, by Peter Singer

“Religion was tought to provide a reason for doing what is right, the reason being that those who are virtuous will be rewarded by an eternity of bliss while the rest roast in hell. (…) Not all religious thinkers have accepted this argument: Kant, a most pious Christian, scorned anything that smacked of a self-interested motive for obeying the moral law. (…) Our everyday observation of our fellow human beings clearly shows that ethical behaviour does not require belief in heaven and hell.” (Cambrigde Press, p. 4).

LECTURES

I ) Ethics & Living Ethically, at New College of the Humanities

II) The Christian God

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Jean-Marie Guyau (1854-1888)

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“Les vieillards sont, en général, plus inclinés que les jeunes gens à devotion. Il y a sans doute bien des raisons à cela, l’approche de la mort, l’affaiblissement du corps et de l’intelligence, le besoin croissant d’un appui, etc., mais il en existe un raison plus profonde: le vieillard, toujours plus isolé que le jeune homme et privé des excitations de l’instinct sexuel, est réduit à une moindre dépense d’affection e d’amour. Ainsi s’accumule en lui un trésor d’affection non utilisé, qu’il est libre d’appliquer à tel ou tel objet; or l’amour de Dieu est celui qui coûte le moins d’efforts, qui s’accomode le mieux à l’indolence naturelle des vieillards, à leur souci d’eux-mêmes; ils deviennent donc dévots, moitié par égoisme, moitié par besoin de préoccupations désinteressées. Dans notre coeur à tous brûle toujours quelque grain d’encens dont nous laissons le parfum monter à Dieu quand nous ne pouvons plus le donner à la terre.

Signalons aussi la perte des êtres aimés, les malheurs de toute sorte, les infirmités irréparables, comme provoquant naturellement une expansion vers Dieu. Au Moyen Âge, la misère a été parfois un des plus importants facteurs de la piété; qu’il arrive à un homme un très grand malheur immérité, il y a toute chance pour qu’il devienne croyant et religieux, à moins qu’au contraire il ne se fasse athée: cela dépend souvent de sa force d’esprit, de ses habitudes, de son éducation. Quand on frappe un animal, il peut arriver également qu’il vous morde ou qu’il se couche à vos pieds. Toutes les fois que notre coeur est violemment refoulé, il se produit en nous une réaction inévitable; il faut que nous répondions du dedans aux coups venus du dehors: cette réponse est tantôt la révolte, tantôt l’adoration.

Tous les faibles, tous les déshérités, tous les souffrants, tous ceux à qui le malheur ne laisse même pas la force nécessaire pour s’indigner, n’ont q’un recours: l’humilité douce et consolante de l’amour divin. Quiconque sur terre n’aime pas assez et n’est pas assez aimé, cherchera toujours à se tourner vers le ciel…”

Jean-Marie Guyau (1854-1888)
L’Irréligion de L’Avenir.
Paris, 1930, Librairie Félix Alcan. Pg. 99

 

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)

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On Being: He bestowed the title “Mahatma” on Gandhi. He debated the deepest nature of reality with Einstein. He was championed by Yeats and Pound to become the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Rabindranath Tagore was a polymath — a writer and a painter, a philosopher and a musician, and a social innovator — but much of his poetry and prose is virtually untranslatable (or inaccessibly translated) for modern minds. We pull back the “dusty veils” that have hidden his memory from history.

Listen to the podcast:

 

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Sadhana: The Realisation of Life
Download e-book (McMillan, 1913, English) or Listen to audiobook:

NIETZSCHE AND THE SHADOWS OF GOD – By Y. Yovel in “Dark Riddle: Hegel, Nietzsche and the Jews” (1998)

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NIETZSCHE AND THE SHADOWS OF GOD

“Metaphysical fictions are involved in the central concepts and values of Western culture, which dominate and distort every individual’s life. (…) The whole network of epistemological and moral concepts in which we live expresses, in this respect, a psychology of escape and repression. In Nietzsche’s terms it is a fear of facing the truth, the cowardice of the person retreating before the abyss. Further, the system of rational fictions we project on the world enables us, the weak, to dominate the world in an imaginary way and thus express our will to power in a rather devious manner. In subjecting, as it were, the world to a network of rules and laws of our own invention, we establish our alleged superiority over it and subject the universe itself to our metaphysical illusions.

The Christian religion, even more than rationalistic science and morality, produces and offers a veil of mystification which serves human weakness, meekness, and the negation of life. Images of a transcendent god and a next world make real earthly life appear null and worthless; and by means of moral images of punishment and reward, divine Providence, a moral world order, conscience, repentance, and guilt feelings, men and women interiorize their hatred of life and become self-oppressed.

Though Nietzsche was called a nihilist, he himself regarded nihilism as his number one enemy. Genuine nihilism, he claims, resides in Christianity, whose essence is to deny life’s value, to opress life, and to fight against it. The ascetic ideal – the summit of spirituality in Christian eyes (and also in the eyes of the atheist Schopenhauer) – is to Nietzsche the greatest distortion of the spirit which Christianity propagates.” (pg. 108)

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the_gay_science_by_nietzsche_book_cover_v2_by_ruckenfigur-d5kx81y“This attempt at a radical critique, both in its roots and in its scope, is dramatically expressed in Nietzsche’s dictum about the death of God, and even more in his less well-known but more accurate exclamation in The Gay Science: ‘When will all these shadows of God cease to darken our minds? When will we complete our de-deification (*) of nature?’ (GS, 125)

(*) entogöttilicht, literally “freed of God”

Even after God’s death, his shadows still dominate the world. Hence the true role of philosophical criticism is to purge the world of the shadows of the dead God (GS, 108). These shadows are the vestiges of belief in a rational world, a cosmos ruled by a logos, the validity of the natural sciences, of the ‘pure’ laws of logic, the dominion of causality, and the cogency of the concepts of substance and identity. Modern natural science pretended to have banned God from the picture of nature, but has reinstated God’s shadows through the back door.

Philosophical rationalism and the belief in science are disguised versions of the old religious notion of a moral world order, and are likewise based on anthropomorphism – the projection of man’s wishes, needs, customs, and aspirations on the structure of the universe. (…) In contrast to Spinoza, for whom the world was saturated (because identical) with God, for Nietzsche the demand to grasp nature as ‘clear of God’ is the precondition for man to ‘become nature again’: that is, to be cured of decadence.” (pg. 112)

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“Life’s meaning is not something ready-made, by its mere existence, but is shaped through a process of self-overcoming. A precondition for this is the recognition that there are no objective meanings and values out there in the world, that the world is disrobed of God and his shadows. Therefore the test of the noble person – the “overman” which Nietzsche pretends to announce – lies in the question: ‘How much truth can be bear?’

Child Dionysus riding a tigress (Museum El Djem)

Child Dionysus riding a tigress (Museum El Djem)

Tearing away as many of his protective masks as he or she can, the Dionysian person is supposed to face a universe stripped of rational meaning and of all support by permanent values, and to be capable of converting this terrifying recognition into a new source of life’s power and even a new kind of joy. (‘Joyous knowing’ is, I think, a better rendering of Nietzsche’s famous ‘La Gaya Scienza’).

But what kind of knowing is this? It is certainly not merely a cognitive disposition; it is equally a self-commitment, a passion, a form of willing. It is a mode of recognition and realization, two words which imply taking a stand, performing an act, placing oneself in some firm position. The Dionysian person’s knowing is not the affirmation of a statement, nor even a simple disillusionment, but an act of the whole person which affirms a whole existentical ‘fate’ and accepts a certain way of living, which others would consider miserable, as a basis for joy and creativity.

The psychology of ordinary people is different. When facing hard truths, such people are liable to react by negating life, plunging into despair and nihilism, or running back to the consoling lap of illusion. Weak persons opt for optimism because they cannot overcome pessimism, whereas for the kind of person Nietzsche foresees, a “pessimist” view of existence is merely the starting point to be overcome, an introduction to the affirmation of life and the acceptance of difficulty and suffering, by which to gain new sources of power and joy.

This dialectical overcoming of the temptation of nihilism (and also of superficial optimism) is Nietzsche’s main message; it is the crux of his Dionysian stance, the essence of tragedy and the tragic way of life. The Dionysian person neither shuns suffering (mental and physical) and the recognition of chaos, nor lets them drag him into the abyss of despair. Rather, by saying ‘YES’ to life with all its contingent, absurd, and horrible aspects, he converts this recognition into a source of existential power.”

YIRMIYAHU YOVEL
Dark Riddle: Hegel, Nietzsche and the Jews
(1998, Pennsylvania State University, Pgs. 107 -114)
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Yovel is Professor of Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
and Hans Jonas Professor at the New School for Social Research in New York.
He also wrote Spinoza and Other Heretics and Kant and the Philosophy of History,

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BBC’s doc Human All Too Human

# Dangerous Thoughts – Opinions on religion by Nietzsche, Epicurus, Voltaire, R. Dawkins, C. Hitchens, B. Franklin, Mark Twain, and others…

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Friedrich Nietzsche was a preacher’s son, brought up in the fear of the Lord. It is the ideal training for sham-smashers and freethinkers. Let a boy of alert, restless intelligence come to early manhood in an atmosphere of strong faith, wherein doubts are blasphemies and inquiry is a crime, and rebellion is certain to appear with his beard. So long as his mind feels itself puny beside the overwhelming pomp and circumstance of parental authority, he will remain docile and even pious. But so soon as he begins to see authority as something ever finite, variable and all-too-human – when he begins to realize that his father and his mother, in the last analysis, are mere human beings, and fallible like himself – then he will fly precipitately toward the intellectual wailing places, to think his own thoughts in his own way and to worship his own gods beneath the open sky. As a child Nietzsche was holy; as a man he was the symbol and embodiment of all unholiness. At nine he was already versed in the lore of the reverend doctors, and the pulpit, to his happy mother – a preacher’s daughter a well as a preacher’s wife – seemed his logical and lofty goal; at thirty he was chief among those who held that all pulpits should be torn down and fashioned into bludgeons, to beat out the silly brains of theologians.”


HENRY LOUIS MENCKEN (1880-1956).
The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.
3rd Edition. Tucson, AZ: See Sharp Press, 2003.

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Some of Nietzsche’s works in e-book (free download):

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You might also enjoy these other delightful provocations (click to enlarge):

God-Is-Dead-Quotes

COLLISION: Is Christianity Good For The World? [Download the documentary]

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“COLLISION carves a new path in documentary film-making as it pits leading atheist, political journalist and bestselling author Christopher Hitchens against fellow author, satirist and evangelical theologian Douglas Wilson, as they go on the road to exchange blows over the question: “Is Christianity Good for the World?”. The two contrarians laugh, confide and argue, in public and in private, as they journey through three cities. And the film captures it all. The result is a magnetic conflict, a character-driven narrative that sparkles cinematically with a perfect match of arresting personalities and intellectual rivalry. COLLISION is directed by prolific independent filmmaker Darren Doane (Van Morrison: Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl, The Battle For L.A., Godmoney).” – Official Web Site

Download: http://bit.ly/1f7iCUG (torrent).

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OVERVIEW

In May 2007, leading atheist Christopher Hitchens and Christian apologist Douglas Wilson began to argue the topic “Is Christianity Good for the World?” in a series of written exchanges published in Christianity Today. The rowdy literary bout piqued the interest of filmmaker Darren Doane, who sought out Hitchens and Wilson to pitch the idea of making a film around the debate.

In Fall 2008, Doane and crew accompanied Hitchens and Wilson on an east coast tour to promote the book compiled from their written debate titled creatively enough, Is Christianity Good for the World?. “I loved the idea of putting one of the beltway’s most respected public intellectuals together with an ultra-conservative pastor from Idaho that looks like a lumberjack”, says Doane. “You couldn’t write two characters more contrary. What’s more real than a fight between two guys who are on complete opposite sides of the fence on the most divisive issue in the world? We were ready to make a movie about two intellectual warriors at the top of their game going one-on-one. I knew it would make an amazing film.”

In Christopher Hitchens, Doane found a celebrated prophet of atheism. Loud. Funny. Angry. Smart. Quick. An intimidating intellectual Goliath. Well-known for bullying and mocking believers into doubt and doubters into outright unbelief. In Douglas Wilson, Doane found the man who could provide a perfect intellectual, philosophical, and cinematic counterpoint to Hitchens’ position and style. A trained philosopher and and deft debater. Big, bearded, and jolly. A pastor, a contrarian, a humorist–an unintimidated outsider, impossible to bully, capable of calling Hitchens a puritan (over a beer).

It was a collision of lives.

What Doane didn’t expect was how much Hitchens and Wilson would have in common and the respectful bond the new friend/foes would build through the course of the book tour. “These guys ended up at the bar laughing, joking, drinking. There were so many things that they had in common”, according to Doane. “Opinions on history and politics. Literature and poetry. They agreed on so many things. Except on the existence of God.”

BIOS

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
Christopher Hitchens (b. April 13, 1949) is a popular political journalist and the author of several books, including “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything”. Hitchens is regarded as one of the most fundamental figures of modern atheism. A regular contributor to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly and Slate, Hitchens also appears regularly on The Daily Show, Charlie Rose, Washington Journal, and Real Time with Bill Maher. He was named one of the US’s “25 Most Influential Liberals” by Forbes and one of the world’s “Top 100 Public Intellectuals” by Foreign Policy. Hitchens died in December, 2011.

DOUGLAS WILSON
Douglas Wilson (b. June 18, 1953) is a pastor of Christ Church, editor of Credenda/Agenda magazine, and a Senior Fellow at New Saint Andrews College. A prolific writer, he is the author of many books, including The Case for Classical Christian Education, Letter from a Christian Citizen, Reforming Marriage and Heaven Misplaced: Christ’s Kingdom on Earth. Wilson lives in Moscow, Idaho.

DARREN DOANE
Darren Doane is a Los Angeles-based independent filmmaker. Doane made his name as a music video director. His work for Blink-182, AFI, Jimmy Eat World and Pennywise is credited for helping bring punk rock into the mainstream in the 1990s. His previous documentary film, The Battle For LA, explored the underground battle rap scene in Los Angeles. Doane is currently in production on the documentary film To Be Born Again about legendary musician Van Morrison and has also written and directed several feature films, including Godmoney, 42K and Black Friday.

“IF YOU WANT TO BE AWE-INSPIRED…”