The Religion Question

atlascott's picture
Submitted by atlascott on Fri, 2006-06-23 12:38

Julian contributed a wonderful C.S. Lewis quote  here:

Linz responded that it is a "[s]hame Lewis became a barking mad Christian."

And that got me thinking...

So does the fact that a person holds some religious belief mean that all of their contributions and thoughts are suspect?

Or can we compartmentalize the religiosity, put it aside, and enjoy the individual and his accomplishments without being immediately suspiciousof the underpinning of his ideas and the validity of his reasoning?

What do YOU do, and what do you think OUGHT to be done on this subject?

The obvious issue to me is that the vast majority of brilliant intellectuals I have studied throughout my schooling professed at least some religious beliefs, not the least of which were the Founding Fathers.  The same arguments were advanced then as now for and agaisnt the existence of God, though organized religion was a much more powerful, and possibly necessary, part of life in years past.  Great men of all ages past have overwhelmingly held religious beliefs--should be essentially write them off?  Esteem them as great but flawed?  Or just esteem them for their contributions and brilliance? 

You can probably tell, I choose option 3...

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Good comments

xsryder's picture

Yes in history the majority of scholars have held riligeous beliefs, parhaps because writting itself was an exerice reserved and passed on by religeious people and institutions in the early days. In modern times, socio-economics in the large part determine the make up intelectuals; mainly white middle class christians.
Interestingly Charles Darwin held religeous beliefs throughout his life, yet in his work he was focused on discovery and explaining his observations of the natural world. He didn't allow his beliefs to prevent or taint his work. I'm thinking that some would describe Darwin as "nutty", not because of his religeous beliefs, but because what he wrote has cast so much doubt on the book of Genesis.

You gotta say yes to another excess

Is a religious founding

User hidden's picture

Is a religious founding father better than a socialist? Of course!

But religious people believe in something that doesn't exist. They have no proof, and yet they take some imaginary super hero on faith. That has inherent nuttiness. Otherwise known as dishonesty and un-integration.

But I'd vote for a deist classical liberal in a second. But I'd know he has nuttiness in him, and I'd watch out.


Eh, I think you gotta judge person by person...

atlascott's picture

Just as I am uncomfortable with right-wing relisious people saying that only people who believe in God should serve in political office, so I am not comfortable concluding that religious beliefs are conclusive and final evidence of a person's nuttiness.

Many of the greatest minds in history were devout, do not forget.

I say, go person by person.

Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur!

Taking the good

Rex Wilkinson's picture

I totaly aggree that a religious person can make an intelligent contribution to the collective intelligence of society.I don't like government being so dumb though.I can excuse an individuals flaky side but a government with all it's suposed intelligent advisors to make sure they get it right,I can't accept that we should tolerate ignorance from them.Anybody in a position of responsibility should have a firm grasp on reality,would you leave your child in the hands of a molester?would you leave your childs mind in the control of a mad person?,should we employ racist police?drug addict doctors?I don't feel comfortable knowing christians are in parliament.

Tracking the context

AdamReed's picture

The general solution is to keep track of the context while reading the writings of a barking mad Christian like CS Lewis, while listening to the music of raving delusional anti-Semite Richard Wagner etc. I don't buy the idea of treating a person and their work as a package. When the creator's craziness does not affect the work enough to undercut its usefulness, enjoy. That Einstein was a Socialist does not make his physics any less useful. Same with the economics of that radical Kantian subjectivist von Mises. Etc. Etc.

Incidentally, this also goes among people who identify themselves as Objectivists or Randians. Sciabarra is a dishonest backstabber, but that does NOT put a hex on JARS, especially when one does not have a better refereed journal on hand to publish one's academic work. Neera Bhadwar published a monograph under the auspices of TOC, but that did not stop Tara Smith from citing Bhadwar, favorably and early, in Tara's recent book. An example of virtue in action.

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