Category Archives: Religion

Value Crisis of Modernity

There are many examples in the modern world showing how this doctrine of the free market—the pursuit of self-interest—has worked out to the disadvantage of society.

— CAMBRIDGE PROFESSOR JOAN ROBINSON, 1977, cited in Buddhist Economics.

The approach used here concentrates on a factual basis that differentiates it from more traditional practical ethics and economic policy analysis, such as the “economic” concentration on the primacy of income and wealth (rather than on the characteristics of human lives and substantive freedoms).

— NOBEL LAUREATE AMARTYA SEN, DEVELOPMENT AS FREEDOM, cited in Buddhist Economics

In Buddhist economics, people are interdependent with one another and with Nature, so each person’s well-being is measured by how well everyone and the environment are functioning with the goal of minimizing suffering for people and the planet. Everyone is assumed to have the right to a comfortable life with access to basic nutrition, health care, education, and the assurance of safety and human rights. A country’s well-being is measured by the aggregation of the well-being of all residents and the health of the ecosystem.

Brown (2017, 2), in Buddhist Economics

As Toyota President Akio Toyoda recently commented, Toyota’s renewed commitment to society extends from putting customers first to “putting people first” and aiming to serve society as a whole. This mission statement stems from Toyota’s earliest values and explains why the company is closely aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals as inspiration for its long-term global sustainability strategy. At a European-level, the company is following this lead by contributing to society through its social and employment practices, such as its focus on diversity and inclusion

(….) “As we transform from an automotive to mobility company, and to produce mass happiness, we need to make more than cars, vans and trucks. We need to align with the Sustainable Development Goals, Green Deal and a better future”

Automotive World, Toyota’s mission to produce “happiness for all” with its business transformation programme, December 7, 2020

We live in the age of kikikan (危機感). Civilizational crisis is everywhere to be seen for those who are awake. The way forward is gapponshugi, a vision embodying a new motive for economic striving.

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In the most dramatic moments of Italy’s debt crisis, the newly installed “technical” government, led by Mario Monti, appealed to trade unions to accept salary cuts in the name of national solidarity. Monti urged them to participate in a collective effort to increase the competitiveness of the Italian economy (or at least to show that efforts were being made in that direction) in order to calm international investors and “the market” and, hopefully, reduce the spread between the interest rates of Italian and German bonds (at the time around 500 points, meaning that the Italian government had to refinance its ten-year debt at the excruciating rate of 7.3 percent). Commenting on this appeal in an editorial in the left-leaning journal Il Manifesto, the journalist Loris Campetti wondered how it could be at all possible to demand solidarity from a Fiat worker when the CEO of his company earned about 500 times what the worker did.1 And such figures are not unique to Italy. In the United States, the average CEO earned about 30 times what the average worker earned in the mid-1970s (1973 being the year in which income inequality in the United States was at its historically lowest point). Today the multiplier lies around 400. Similarly, the income of the top 1 percent (or even more striking, the top 0.1 percent) of the U.S. population has skyrocketed in relation to that of the remaining 99 percent, bringing income inequality back to levels not seen since the Roaring Twenties. (Arvidsson et. al. 2013, 1-2)

The problem is not, or at least not only, that such income discrepancies exist, but that there is no way to legitimate them. At present there is no way to rationally explain why a corporate CEO (or a top-level investment banker or any other member of the 1 percent) should be worth 400 times as much as the rest of us. And consequently there is no way to legitimately appeal to solidarity or to rationally argue that a factory worker (or any of us in the 99 percent) should take a pay cut in the name of a system that permits such discrepancies in wealth. What we have is a value crisis. There are huge differentials in the monetary rewards that individuals receive, but there is no way in which those differentials can be explained and legitimated in terms of any common understanding of how such monetary rewards should be determined. There is no common understanding of value to back up the prices that markets assign, to put it in simple terms. (We will discuss the thorny relation between the concepts of “value” and “price” along with the role of markets farther on in this chapter.) (Arvidsson et. al. 2013, 2)

This value crisis concerns more than the distribution of income and private wealth. It is also difficult to rationalize how asset prices are set. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis a steady stream of books, articles, and documentaries has highlighted the irrational practices, sometimes bordering on the fraudulent, by means of which mortgage-backed securities were revalued from junk to investment grade, credit default swaps were emitted without adequate underlying assets, and the big actors of Wall Street colluded with each other and with political actors to protect against transparency and rational scrutiny and in the end to have the taxpayers foot the bill. Neither was this irrationality just a temporary expression of a period of exceptional “irrational exuberance”; rather, irrationality has become a systemic feature of the financial system. As Amar Bidhé argues, the reliance on mathematical formulas embodied in computerized calculating devices at all levels of the financial system has meant that the setting of values on financial markets has been rendered ever more disconnected from judgments that can be rationally reconstructed and argued through.5 Instead, decisions that range from whether to grant a mortgage to an individual, to how to make split-second investment decisions on stock and currency markets, to how to grade or rate the performance of a company or even a nation have been automated, relegated to the discretion of computers and algorithms. While there is nothing wrong with computers and algorithms per se, the problem is that the complexity of these devices has rendered the underlying methods of calculation and their assumptions incomprehensible and opaque even to the people who use them on a daily basis (and imagine the rest of us!). To cite Richard Sennett’s interviews with the back-office Wall Street technicians who actually develop such algorithms: (Arvidsson et. al. 2013, 2-3)

“I asked him to outline the algo [algorithm] for me,” one junior accountant remarked about her derivatives-trading Porsche driving superior, “and he couldn’t, he just took it on faith.” “Most kids have computer skills in their genes … but just up to a point … when you try to show them how to generate the numbers they see on screen, they get impatient, they just want the numbers and leave where these came from to the main-frame.” (Arvidsson et. al. 2013, 3)

The problem here is not ignorance alone, but that the makeup of the algorithms and automated trading devices that execute the majority of trades on financial markets today (about 70 percent are executed by “bots,” or automatic trading agents), is considered a purely technical question, beyond rational discussion, judgment, and scrutiny. Actors tend to take the numbers on faith without knowing, or perhaps even bothering about, where they came from. Consequently these devices can often contain flawed assumptions that, never scrutinized, remain accepted as almost natural “facts.” During the dot-com boom, for example, Internet analysts valued dot-coms by looking at a multiplier of visitors to the dot-com’s Web site without considering how these numbers translated into monetary revenues; during the pre-2008 boom investors assigned the same default risks to subprime mortgages, or mortgages taken out by people who were highly likely to default, as they did to ordinary mortgages.8 And there are few ways in which the nature of such assumptions, flawed or not, can be discussed, scrutinized, or even questioned. Worse, there are few ways of even knowing what those assumptions are. The assumptions that stand behind the important practice of brand valuation are generally secret. Consequently, there is no way of explaining how or discussing why valuations of the same brand by different brand-valuation companies can differ as much as 450 percent. A similar argument can be applied to Fitch, Moody’s, Standard & Poor, and other ratings agencies that are acquiring political importance in determining the economic prospects of nations like Italy and France. (Arvidsson et. al. 2013, 3)

This irrationality goes even deeper than financial markets. Investments in corporate social responsibility are increasing massively, both in the West and in Asia, as companies claim to want to go beyond profits to make a genuine contribution to society. But even though there is a growing body of academic literature indicating that a good reputation for social responsibility is beneficial for corporate performance in a wide variety of ways—from financial outcomes to ease in generating customer loyalty and attracting talented employees—there is no way of determining exactly how beneficial these investments are and, consequently, how many resources should be allocated to them. Indeed, perhaps it would be better to simply tax corporations and let the state or some other actor distribute the resources to some “responsible” causes. The fact that we have no way of knowing leads to a number of irrationalities. Sometimes companies invest more money in communicating their efforts at “being good” than they do in actually promoting socially responsible causes. (In 2001, for example, the tobacco company Philip Morris spent $75 million on what it defined as “good deeds” and then spent $100 million telling the public about those good deeds.) At other times such efforts can be downright contradictory, for example when tobacco companies sponsor antismoking campaigns aimed at young people in countries like Malaysia while at the same time targeting most of their ad spending to the very same segment. Other companies make genuine efforts to behave responsibly, but those efforts reflect poorly on their reputation. Apple, for example, has done close to nothing in promoting corporate responsibility, and has a consistently poor record when it comes to labor conditions among its Chinese subcontractors (like Foxconn). Yet the company benefits from a powerful brand that is to no small degree premised on the fact that consumers perceive it to be somehow more benign than Microsoft, which actually does devote considerable resources to good causes (or at least the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation does so). (Arvidsson et. al. 2013, 3-4)

Similar irrationalities exist throughout the contemporary economy, ranging from how to measure productivity and determine rewards for knowledge workers to how to arrive at a realistic estimate of value for a number of “intangible” assets, from creativity and capacity for innovation to brand. (We will come back to these questions below as well as in the chapters that follow.) Throughout the contemporary economy, from the heights of finance down to the concrete realities of everyday work, particularly in knowledge work, great insecurities arise with regard to what things are actually worth and the extent to which the prices assigned to them actually reflect their value. (Indeed, in academic managerial thought, the very concept of “value” is presently without any clear definition; it means widely different things in different contexts.) (Arvidsson et. al. 2013, 4)

But this is not merely an accounting problem. The very question of how you determine worth, and consequently what value is, has been rendered problematic by the proliferation of a number of value criteria (or “orders of worth,” to use sociologist David Stark’s term) that are poorly reflected in established economic models. A growing number of people value the ethical impact of consumer goods. But there are no clear ways of determining the relative value of different forms of “ethical impact,” nor even a clear definition of what “ethical impact” means. Therefore there is no way of determining whether it is actually more socially useful or desirable for a company to invest in these pursuits than to concentrate on getting basic goods to consumers as cheaply and conveniently as possible. Consequently, ethical consumerism, while a growing reality, tends to be more efficient at addressing the existential concerns of wealthy consumers than at systematically addressing issues like poverty or empowerment. Similarly, more and more people understand the necessity for more sustainable forms of development. And while the definition of “sustainability” is clearer than that of “ethics,” there are no coherent ways of making concerns for sustainability count in practices of asset valuation (although some efforts have been made in that direction, which we will discuss) or of rationally determining the trade-off between efforts toward sustainability and standard economic pursuits. Thus the new values that are acquiring a stronger presence in our society—popular demand for a more sustainable economy and a more just and equal global society—have only very weak and unreliable ways of influencing the actual conduct of corporations and other important economic actors, and can affect economic decisions in only a tenuous way. More generally, we have no way of arriving at what orders of worth “count” in general and how much, and even if we were able to make such decisions, we have no channels by means of which to effect the setting of economic values. So the value crisis is not only economic; it is also ethical and political. (Arvidsson et. al. 2013, 4-5, emphasis added)

It is ethical in the sense that the relative value of the different orders of worth that are emerging in contemporary society (economic prosperity, “ethical conduct,” “social responsibility,” sustainability, global justice and empowerment) is simply indeterminable. As a consequence, ethics becomes a matter of personal choice and “standpoint” and the ethical perspectives of different individuals become incommensurate with one another. Ethics degenerates into “postmodern” relativism. (Arvidsson et. al. 2013, 5, emphasis added)

It is political because since we have no way of rationally arriving at what orders of worth we should privilege and how much, we have no common cause in the name of which we could legitimately appeal to people or companies (or force them) to do what they otherwise might not want to do. (The emphasis here is on legitimately; of course people are asked and forced to do things all the time, but if they inquire as to why, it becomes very difficult to say what should motivate them.) In the absence of legitimacy, politics is reduced to either more or less corrupt bargaining between particular interest groups or the naked exercise of raw power. In either case there can be no raison d’état. In such a context, appeals to solidarity, like that of the Monti government in Italy, remain impossible. (Arvidsson et. al. 2013, 5-6)

There have of course always been debates and conflicts, often violent, around what the common good should be. The point is that today we do not even have a language, or less metaphorically, a method for conducting such debates. (Modern ethical debates are interminable, as philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre wrote in the late 1970s.) This is what we mean by a value crisis. Not that there might be disagreement on how to value social responsibility or sustainability in relation to economic growth, or how much a CEO should be paid in relation to a worker, but that there is no common method to resolve such issues, or even to define specifically what they are about. We have no common “value regime,” no common understanding of what the values are and how to make evaluative decisions, even contested and conflict-ridden ones. (Arvidsson et. al. 2013, 6)

This has not always been the case. Industrial society—that old model that we still remember as the textbook example of how economics and social systems are supposed to work—was built around a common way of connecting economic value creation to overall social values, an imaginary social contract. In this arrangement, business would generate economic growth, which would be distributed by the welfare state in such a way that it contributed to the well-being of everyone. And even though there were intense conflicts about how this contract should apply, everyone agreed on its basic values. More importantly, these basic values were institutionalized in a wide range of practices and devices, from accounting methods to procedures of policy decisions to methods for calculating the financial value of companies and assets. Again, this did not mean that there was no conflict or discussion, but it did mean that there was a common ground on which such conflict and discussion could be acted out. There was a common value regime. (Arvidsson et. al. 2013, 6)

We are not arguing for a comeback of the value regime of industrial society. That would be impossible, and probably undesirable even if it were possible. However, neither do we accept the “postmodernist” argument (less popular now, perhaps, than it was two decades go) that the end of values (and of ethics or even politics) would be somehow liberating and emancipatory. Instead we argue that the foundations for a different kind of value regime—an ethical economy—are actually emerging as we speak. (Arvidsson et. al. 2013, 6)

Laughing Buddha: Jesus as Messiah

The Jesus movement very early on exchanged the vision for the visionary. Those first enthusiastic followers were enthralled by the world Jesus encapsulated in the parables and aphorisms, but, since they were unable to hold on to the vision embodied in those verbal vehicles, they turned from the story to the storyteller. They didn’t know how else to celebrate the revelation. They turned the iconoclast into an icon. (Funk 1996: 10-11)

One of my most memorable adventures as a cultural intermediary occurred about twelve years ago when I translated for a Christian colleague who was visiting the monastery in southern India where I was living. He was there working on a translation of a Buddhist text, and I volunteered my services as interpreter. One day, in the course of his conversations with one of the senior scholars of the monestary, it came up that he was a Christian, and my teacher asked him to share some of his beliefs. My friend chose to focus on Jesus’ identity as messiah. As I finished translating the words of my colleague, my teacher broke out in a fit of laughter, much to my embarrassment. He then proceeded to question his interlocutor in a kind of pointed and unabashedly adversarial way that is typical of the Tibetan monastic debate courtyard. There ensued a lively exchange, but when all was said and done, my teacher’s basic question was this: How can the death of one individual act as the direct and substantive cause for the salvation of others?

Behind this interreligious impasse there are of course operative several Buddhist doctrinal presuppositions that are in marked contrast (at times even in opposition) to those of traditional Christianity, not the least of which is the Buddhist vision of what constitutes liberation.

Several corollaries to the Buddhist view of liberation are especially relevant as responses to the Christian confession of Jesus as messiah. (1) Each of us is responsible for our own lot in life. We each cause our own suffering, and each of us is ultimately responsible for our own liberation. (2) Our salvation is not dependent on any one historical event. Specifically, our salvation is not dependent upon the appearance of any one personage in history. True, the actions of others can help us or hinder us on the way, but no action (or lack of action) on the part of another individual—whether human or divine—can seal our fate, either as regards salvation or damnation. (3) Soteriologically, there is no end to time, no time after which sentient beings will suffer, and thus long will there be the possibility of their liberation. (4) No being has the capacity to decide whether or not we will be saved. Salvation is not granted to us, or withheld from us, by some external force. It is self-earned. (5) No single action on our part can instantaneously cause our liberation. What brings about salvation is not mere belief or faith, even a faith that is sustained throughout en entire life. Certainly, it is not the instantaneous belief in something (e.g., the belief that Jesus is Lord) that brings about salvation, but the long and arduous process of radical mental transformation, which requires more than simply belief.22

Together these various tenants make it impossible for Buddhists to accept a messianic creed of the traditional Christian sort. Jesus may have been an extraordinary human being, a sage, an effective and charismatic teacher, and even the manifestation of a deity, but he cannot have been the messiah that most Christians believe him to have been.23 (Gross et. al. 2000, 27-28, José Ignacio Cabezón, A God, but Not a Savior, Iliff School of Theology.)

22 I am not unaware of the fact that in the history of Buddhism there have been movements that challenge this notion of the nature and path to salvation. Especially important to mention in this regard are certain schools of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism. But again, I remind my readers that I am speaking here principally from an Indo-Tibetan Buddhist doctrinal perspective.

23 Of course, if the Jesus Seminar is right, than Jesus did not make this claim of himself. See Funk et. al, The Five Gospels, pp. 32-34.

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It is well known within the comparative religious studies field that there exists a phenomena whereby a founder reveals a teaching of experience and after passing another teaching about the founder develops in the minds of those who are tasked with creating the social institutions that perpetuate the founder’s teachings. It is the teachings of the founder distinct from the teachings about the founder that are important and often lost in historical time until recovered through critical religious scholarship. This of vs. about distinction is important. The teachings of Jesus are distinct and separate from the teachings about Jesus that developed after his death. The atonement doctrine which in light of modernity is nothing more than divine child abuse was a doctrine developed after Jesus lived, taught, and died and is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus as he revealed them through his life and teachings as exemplified in his many parables. The same can is found in the life experience of Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit/Devanagari: सिद्धार्थ गौतम Siddhārtha Gautama, c. 563/480 – c. 483/400 BCE) and many other religious teachers. Similarly the teaching of Honen Shonin were modified by Shinran Shonin’s teachings which were adapted by Rennyo Shonin’s teachings and so on it goes.

It may well seem to you that the gospel of Jesus did not include all that is high and holy in the Christian gospel as we know it. All those magnificent, transcendent, Christian beliefs seem absent from the original gospel of Jesus his “gospel” may seem minimal by comparison with the gospel! Missing from his gospel are not only where he came from (“conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary”), but also what he came to do. Where, after all, is “the saving work of Christ”: dying for our sins, rising on the third day, appearing to the apostles resurrected from the dead? These are, after all, the gospel about Jesus, which you, understandably enough, believe and cherish. But if you really are committed to Jesus, then you should be committed to the gospel of Jesus, which is what I have written this book to try to help you see and understand: the “good news” Jesus offered people during his public ministry. (Robinson 2005: 225)

Robinson, James M. The Gospel of Jesus: In Search of the Original Good News. New York: HarperCollins; 2005; p. 225.

Toyohiko Kagawa (賀川 豊彦)

The Knowledge of God

There are very many religions in the world to-day. There are religions of self-interest, of tradition or convention, of authority, of sex desire, religions which worship a given social organization, an so forth…. But the religion which Jesus taught was a Way of Life, which experiences God intuitively through life and love. For that reason the teachings of Jesus cannot be understood through theory alone. The God of Jesus is not a theoretical God of the philosopher — “The Absolute,” “The Infinite”; the God of Jesus is Himself very Life (John i. 1-4). (Kagawa 1931: 19)

The religion of Jesus is a religion of life. People who are fully alive, people who are living strongly, can understand it; but those who deny life, who do not want to live, cannot get its meaning. The God of Jesus is a God of Action. People who stay at home and read their Bibles and pray and meditate, and do nothing for the poor, who beg help before their very doors–such people will find the God of Jesus unintelligible. His God is One who is naturally reflected in a man’s heart when he has saved even one suffering human being, or lifted up one who has been oppressed. The loveless do not know God. Only when a man has plunged into the blindly struggling crowd and tried to save them from their sins and failures, can he know this God. Only through the active movement of love will he intuitively come to know the God of Action. (Kagawa 1931: 19-20)

It is important to bear in mind this distinction between the God of idea and the God of Action. Jesus thought that when the conscience is keen, God will naturally grow in the soul. It will not be out of place therefore to examine some of those attitudes of soul which Jesus pointed out to be necessary to the knowledge of God: (Kagawa 1931: 20)

(1) The Mind of the Child (Matt. xi. 25, Luke x, 21, Luke xviii, 17). There are some very difficult religions in the world. For instance, the religion of Theosophy, recently so popular, could not be understood by babies. But Christianity can be comprehended in a wonderful way even by babes in their mothers’ arms. A child a year and a half old can pray. Or again, the study of the Zen philosophy in Buddhism is unsuitable for children two or three years old. If we had to read Spinoza, Bergson, Paul Natorp, or Riechelt, in order to know God, only a few of the intelligentsia could hope to be saved. But Jesus declared that his God is intelligible to children rather than to philosophers. The revelation of God in a child’s heart shows that God naturally lives in the hearts of human beings. If God really exists, there must be no time from babyhood till death when He is not with us. (Kagawa 1931: 20-21)

When the theory of Evolution was first introduced, people concluded that Evolution had conducted the funeral of God. When Rationalism was popular, people relied on reason and dispensed with God. But more recently, since religious psychology has been studied seriously, it has become clear that religion is deeply rooted in the heart of both the individual and the race…. Some say, “Karl Marx is enough for men. I have no use for religion.” However it may be for others, for me, since my birth, I could not help but be religious…. I was made in such a fashion that I could not help but worship God. I cannot possibly be satisfied with Materialism. A desire to believe God inevitably springs up in my heart, and I cannot help but seek Him. (Kagawa 1931: 21)

Religion is like one of the senses. It is the power of the perfect human being to perceive the ultimate values…. The experience of God is a growing as well as an intuitive one; Jesus pointed to the heart of a child, when speaking of how to know God…. God reveals Himself only in an innocent heart. (Kagawa 1931: 22)

(2) The Pure in Heart. (Matt. v. 8). This is but another description of the heart of the child. To see God, one’s heart must be clear. (Kagawa 1931: 23)

(3) The Heart of the Publicans and Sinners (Matt. xxi. 31). There is a special beauty in the return of a man who, confessing his sin in his wandering life, comes back to God. (Kagawa 1931: 24)

Christianity possesses three essential elements, different from those of other religions: (1) Life, (2) Self (personality, character), and (3) Salvation. It is a characteristic of the religion of Jesus that through it people who have lost their personality through living an aimless life are once more able to share in the life with God. It is for this reason the religion of Jesus is called a religion of salvation. (Kagawa 1931: 24)

Unless a man recognizes his need, that there is something lacking in himself, and longs to have that lack made up, no matter how much he reads his Bible and hears preaching, he will not understand Christianity. (Kagawa 1931: 24)

Faith acquired through reason only is liable to run away like water from an open sluice-pipe. (Kagawa 1931: 24)

But there is something strong and courageous in the man who comes straight back to God from a wandering life. Therefore Jesus said that traitors and prostitutes are quicker to enter the Kingdom of God. There is a deep meaning in the words of Jesus that the healthy do not desire a physician, but the sick. (Kagawa 1931: 25)

It [Jesus’ own religion] is not a one-way natural religion, it is a religion of salvation which makes a man right-about-face and be reborn again. Jesus pointed to himself as a revelation of this God of Salvation. As has been said already, Jesus thought of God as Spirit or Life. (Kagawa 1931: 25)

Again, Jesus said that God is One (Matt. xxiii. 9). (Kagawa 1931: 25)

God is our Father. Jesus felt intuitively that God is our Father. Jesus did not call God, as some Christian’s to-day do, “The Absolute” or “The Infinite.” He simply called Him the Father, or Holy Father, or Righteous Father. I do not know whether the Father is Absolute or not, but I do believe this Father. Christianity is a “Papa” religion, one that even children can understand. If God were a supplementary God, added on afterwards, He might be the Absolute and the Infinite; but since He is inborn, the God who grows in the very soul, He is “Abba Father.” Just as the baby calls his father, so Jesus called Him affectionately, “Abba, Father.” (Kagawa 1931: 25-26)

The God of Jesus is transcendent…. To sum up, the God of Jesus is the God who can be seen intuitively in life and love and conscience [service]. Unless there is a God of life and love there can be no religion of action. (Kagawa 1931: 26)

If we fully experience such a God, happiness such as we have never known before springs up in our hearts, or at least should do. Nevertheless, some people after they have become Christians are still pessimistic…. Such people know only the Cross of Jesus by not His Resurrection [more importantly, his life]. (Kagawa 1931: 28)

… many … know nothing about the powers of life and resurrection, they wander about seeking outside stimuli. But if you restore the freedom of God within, and the inner life springs up within you, outside stimuli become entirely unnecessary. Is there any stronger impetus in the world than that which we feel when our inner light shines out and the reviving power springs up from the bottom of our heart. (Kagawa 1931: 28)

There are two sides to religious experience: the one is man’s experience of God, the other God’s experience of man. (Kagawa 1931: 31)

To-day there are many theories as to the purpose of human life. Pater says that the purpose of human life is the aesthetic life. Epicurus said the real pleasure exists in pain. But, on the other hand, the Stoics asserted that the purpose of human life is self-denial. Still others say that the life of evolution is the true life. The Neo-Hegelian, Green, expounded the doctrine of perfection. It is not easy to read the hundreds of pages of his book of ethics. (Kagawa 1931: 31)

But Jesus taught us the doctrine of perfection long before Greed did. He taught us God as our ideal. “Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Without referring to the works of Spencer and to Green, I find this teaching entirely sufficient. (Kagawa 1931: 32)

This ideal can be reached through prayer. God requires our prayer. “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Kagawa 1931: 32)

All religions can be divided into two classes: those which emphasize abstract meditation, and those which emphasize prayer. Examples of the first class are Zen, and medieval mysticism. Christianity from the first has been a religion of prayer…. The reason is that our God, that is, Life itself, works from within, through our personality. If we live within God, our prayers must be answered. (Kagawa 1931: 32)

Ask from your heart, through your personality, through all your life, and you will certainly get what you desire. It is never a mistake to ask of God. Therefore, if we pray from the bottom of our hearts for the reconstruction of mankind, our prayer will be heard…. But without reconstruction in the inner man society cannot be saved…. Social reconstruction is useless without the love of God. (Kagawa 1931: 33)

Bertrand Russell, in the last part of his book, Roads to Freedom, says that after all the various reforms have been carried out there will still remain a problem. That is, “even when Socialism or Communism is established, there are bound to be some people who revolt against society. It is a problem as to how to deal with such people.” The final problem of social reconstruction, and the one that is hardest to solve, is the problem of sin. The religion which cannot furnish a solution for this problem is useless to the human race. The God experienced through Jesus Christ is a God Who has power to solve this final problem of sin. (Kagawa 1931: 33-34)

But our religious experience through Jesus does not cease here…. There is another side to our religious experience; it is God’s experience as Man. (Kagawa 1931: 34)

A religion is not true which regards God simply as an ideal, towards whom we are pulled as by a cord. True religion says that God Himself possesses us. God Himself seeks man. There must be not only the experience of man going to God, but also of something coming back to man from God. The definition of religion has been rewritten by Jesus. It is not merely a question of man relying on God; it is also of God coming down to earth and experiencing man’s way of living. That is, God as Jesus, entered into man’s experience. God does not remain merely a god; He works inside man’s heart as the life of God. If this be true, then the Incarnation represents an event without parallel in human history. God’s incarnation in the body of Jesus–this is the supreme religious experience. When one thinks that God gave up His Throne and came down to live with man as Jesus, a labourer of Nazareth, for us to go and live in the slums is no great sacrifice. (Kagawa 1931: 34)

That is the sphere where God and man melt together. One is free to live either God’s life or man’s life. It is a life of the highest freedom. If we are taken hold of by God, we can go anywhere…. I have never been unsteady in my faith: this is not due to my holding on to God, but because God has possessed me. We must experience the “Abide with me” God, that is, the sphere where God and man melt together. (Kagawa 1931: 35)

If through the experience of Jesus we come to live the life of oneness between God and man, how can we thereafter, degenerate? We have entered the sphere of the deepest religious experience, in which we reflect God’s image in our hearts and make our hearts communicate with the heart of God. Such religious life naturally becomes a matter of the inner life, and refuses all petrified formalism, though it may make use of symbolism…. Jesus relentlessly rejected all religious conventions which were obstacles in the way of genuine religious life. (Kagawa 1931: 35)

Fasting itself may not be bad…. But when fasting becomes only a religious form, with God absent from it, then it is a hindrance to religion. In the time of Jesus, some Pharisees observed this convention. Jesus mercilessly criticized their formalism. He made a point of eating with the common people without distinction, even though they called Him a gluttonous man for doing so…. But the religion of Jesus was concerned with the commonest of common things; in it God experienced man’s life, and purified the whole of daily life. Some may say that for a religious person to take part in a social movement is to cheapen religion, but we participate in it because we are disciples of Jesus…. It is the same with regard to prayer; it must not be a mere formality…. Jesus absolutely rejected such forms. (Kagawa 1931: 35-37)

Sometimes the Sabbath day becomes a convention, and dries up the real life of religion. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time had forty prohibitions about the Sabbath day. Some of those came from the Law of Moses and others were added by themselves. These latter mostly related to work. They thought it was sinful for tailors to use needles and for clerks to use pens after dark on Friday evenings; women were not allowed to look in a mirror lest they become guilty of pulling out their grey hairs, that would be work! (Kagawa 1931: 37)

… to value the seventh day and get together once a week to worship God. It was begun because people needed a regular stimulus for the development of their souls. It is in this that there is to be found the importance of Sundays. But to think of Sunday superstitiously or idolatrously is another thing. Jesus endeavored to break down such idolizing of time. He strenuously rejected convention and taught people to worship God with their whole selves. (Kagawa 1931: 37-38)

Some live only a busy, superficial life, others live only in books, and there is no real life in it. But if you dig down hundreds of feet, the water under the ground will spring up unceasingly and with tremendous power. If the ship is caught in the Gulf Stream, it will go all the faster, the speed of the current plus that of the ship. Unless we move with the stream of God springing up in our hearts, we have not yet reached true salvation. Push out into the deep! Go with the tide! Why do you everlastingly bustle about daily business, digging a narrow ditch for yourself, while God’s great Gulf Stream is trying to move you? (Kagawa 1931: 38)

Jesus and Men’s Failures

The ministry of Jesus had one peculiar feature: He limited His religious mission to the sick, the weak, the poor, the wanderers and the sinners. That is, Jesus penetrated into the essence of the universe from the pathological aspect. In this chapter we will consider how Jesus and the God of Jesus strive to remedy the failure and weakness of mankind. (Kagawa 1931: 39)

What then, is failure; and what is success? It is important to know the meaning of these words…. What definition did Jesus give to “success”? He said that true success is to complete one’s life. It is to attain to eternal life; all else is failure. (Kagawa 1931: 41)

When we lack faith, our enterprises often fail. The great achievements of the world’s history have almost always started from some great faith…. The first people who talked of Socialism, beginning with Saint-Simon, were all imbued with the religious spirit. In particular the disciples of Saint-Simon were deeply religious. And among them Enfantin especially thought that religion and science must be harmonized, and the ideal life is one in which this has been achieved. (Kagawa 1931: 41-42)

Paul taught us Christian omnipotence: “I can do all things through Christ Who strengtheneth me.” We must learn faith-omnipotence. We must not too quickly accept “character-determinism.” …. Faith is a lever…. While we have this faith, we need have no fear of failure. But some people who have faith lack patience. Man’s works always needs time. Therefore we need patience. (Kagawa 1931: 42-43)

The Christian faith cannot be fully tasted in one or two years. Even a husband and wife, if they live together twenty or thirty years, and endure each other, will have a least a pleasant taste to one another. Justin Martyr was once called before Caesar in Rome and required to burn incense before an idol. He was an old man and almost dying, but he refused to do it. “What matter!” he cried, “I have believed in Jesus for a long time. How can I throw away my faith? I will follow Him to the end.” “Follow Him to the end!” Anyone who keeps his faith the end will surely be saved. (Kagawa 1931: 43-44)

Jesus Christ was crucified as a failure, and His disciples all ran away from Him. But, nevertheless, Jesus Christ did not call Himself defeated. Jesus was a success, though apparently a failure. There are many who think themselves successful, and do not realize that actually they are failures. (Kagawa 1931: 45)

Once I visited the home of a shipping millionaire with the chief editor of the Osaka Nichi Nichi newspaper. This house, a villa at Suma, was larger than a palace. It was said that the owner spent £600,000 to build this house in the style of Momoyama. It was a grand mansion, built of ancient cryptomeria wood. When I went to the house, I asked the editor, “What will the owner do with this house?” He replied, “He will confine himself in it!” At that time I was living in a house six feet square and found it quite comfortable. When Kropotkin was in prison, he walked five miles a day in his cell. This was because, in St. Petersburg, the air is damp, and he would run the risk of rheumatism if he took no exercise. When I was put in the Tachibana prison in Kobe, I followed Kropotkin’s example. My cell was about six feet square, and I could walk about six steps. I walked I the cell for about two miles every day. Thus I could think of my residence as being two miles wide! The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews could say, “Be content with such things as ye have; for He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee”; while St. Paul from prison wrote, “I have learned in whatever state I am therewith to be content.” (Kagawa 1931: 45-46)

Jesus Christ spent his life in destitution and had nothing to the last moment. But nevertheless the Crucified One was the most successful man who ever lived. True success is to succeed in, to inherit, life. The truly successful man is the one who can enjoy the life of God. (Kagawa 1931: 46)

When Japanese Christians become dead in earnest enough to sell off even their house-mats for the sake of their religion, Christianity will have power. (Kagawa 1931: 46)

Man’s life comes from the very origin of life. (Kagawa 1931: 49)

Jesus pointed to the perfection of the Heavenly Father as our ideal of perfection. If I ought to climb up to a hundred feet high, and stop at thirty, I am a sinner to the degree of the difference. Anyone who is meant to be a king, and stops at being a village headman, I losing as much value as a king minus a village head. Jesus Christ said a tremendous thing. If the omnipotent God is our Father, and the perfection of the Heavenly Father is our ideal standard, we must not stupidly stop half-way. (Kagawa 1931: 52)

When God is loved, for the first time Nature seems to us a lovable thing. When God and man are fused together, then man can be fused to Nature. For people who live the life of perfection, and love God, sickness, persecution, imprisonment and any other things will never be irritating, because theirs is the life which lays hold on the power which controls all Nature. (Kagawa 1931: 52)

Everything is mine! The mountains, rivers, stars–all of them–the Centaurus, the constellation nearest the earth, is mine also…. This is much more progressive than Communism. Instead of Kyosan-shugi, common-possession-ism (=Communism), I call this Shinsanshugi, “God-possession-ism.” (Kagawa 1931: 52-53)

But if we have all these riches in God, at the same time we need to remember that human personality is by no means completed. “God is the one perfect Personality” (Lotze)…. It is difficult for an imperfect personality or a faulty personality to understand the personality of God. Since God is a perfect, completed personality, we can only indistinctly see Him through our broken personalities. In proportion to the completion of our personalities He is revealed to us. Our personalities are extremely imperfect. (Kagawa 1931: 53)

We have to learn that since we ourselves have faults we must also forgive one another. (Kagawa 1931: 53)

Many people do not see each other’s good points, but only their weak points, and speak ill of them saying, “But So-and-so has such-and-such faults.” The very word “but” is often used with this criticizing meaning in Japan. They think that unkind gossip is valuable criticism…. We must always be forgiving each other’s sins. This is the best way for the completion of personality. (Kagawa 1931: 54)

Whole generations often go astray. And if in such an age we do not have the revelation of God, the consciousness of the true way to live, and of sin, will become blurred. In such a time we must fix our eyes upon some pure personality and imitate it…. [A]nd people look to Jesus as the only personality Who never wandered, and as the revealed God, then the age is bound to be revived. Through imitation of Christ our way of life will once more return to the right track. (Kagawa 1931: 55)

We cannot see how far we are degenerated at present because we do not look to Jesus as our criterion. An insane person is one who does not recognize the condition of his own mind; he cannot do so until he has recovered from it. But many people to-day do not recognize how far they have gone astray from God, and think themselves to be righteous. It is the present condition of mankind to be terribly unconscious of their sins. (Kagawa 1931: 55-56)

Jesus and Prayer

Jesus Christ prayed very often. Some people think that strong persons need not pray; but Jesus at all events felt the necessity. As has been said above, the religions of the world can be divided psychologically into two kinds: the religion of meditation, and the religion of prayer. (Kagawa 1931: 60)

We can have religious experience most in prayer. In Jesus’ experience, prayer and meditation were always one. Jesus usually prayed in a lonely place. This seems to have been His habit…. Jesus was not at all lonely when He was alone, but prayed always. We are strongest when we pray. We can know how earnest Jesus was in His attitude toward prayer through what He prayed about everything–and in every circumstance. (Kagawa 1931: 61)

We cannot be really religious until we have made our daily life and the problem of bread religious. Religious life is not something extraordinary, lie growing wings in order to fly up to heaven; it is simply to reveal God in our daily life, in the very problem of bread…. It is to be hoped that at our dinner tables there is always a deep religious atmosphere. (Kagawa 1931: 65)

… [I]f you eat in the mood of prayer, even though your meal is nothing but a rice-ball, you can eat pleasantly…. We cannot be said to be complete in religion until we come to handle even the problem of bread religiously in our daily life. Jesus often ate with His disciples. He made eating one of the religious rituals and added the problem of bread to the Lord’s Prayer. We need to remember this very clearly. (Kagawa 1931: 65)

On another occasion when the seventy disciples returned from their successful mission, Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth” (Luke x. 21-22). Jesus prayed when he was glad. (Kagawa 1931: 66)

We want to be those who pray at all times. True prayer is conversation with God. We must have more of this conversation and more praise of God in our prayer…. If we have contact with children in the spirit of prayer and bless them with our whole hearts, the children will grow up to be great persons. (Kagawa 1931: 68)

Jesus … did not teach a form of prayer, but in compliance with the request of the disciples He showed them a model prayer. That is the Lord’s Prayer. It was originally given by Jesus to His disciples in order to educate them. Tolstoi went so far as to say about it, “Our prayer must not be more than this. It is selfish to pray beyond the limits of this prayer.” From whatever aspect it is viewed, the Lord’s Prayer is a model prayer: “Our Father in heaven, enable us to worship you; let the ideal kingdom come, and make your will completely accomplished.” If prayer be such a thing as this, how can it be called superstitious or contrary to reason? If we always had such a beautiful religious spirit, the purified spirit of prayer, we should never make a mistake. (Kagawa 1931: 69)

Again, Jesus knew the defects of mankind, and so in the next place He prayed that we might forgive one another. He did not forget to pray that in horizontal contacts–that is, socially–we should forgive one another’s sins; nor did He forget to pray that in vertical contacts–that is, in our relation to God–our daily lives might be protected from mistakes. (Kagawa 1931: 70)

“Thy will be done.” Do your very best, but after that leave the matter entirely to God. (Kagawa 1931: 71)

Prayer is a part of man’s original nature. He can never be satisfied with merely meditative religion, and naturally and involuntarily inclines to move on to the religion of prayer. For example, the Shin sect of Buddhism forbids prayer, but when the Emperor Meiji was dying, we saw that their formula of invocation was changed to prayer. Indeed this very formula, which they have to repeat countless times daily, already shows a transition from the religion of meditation to that of prayer. (Kagawa 1931: 73)

… if we think of prayer as the expression of our aspiration for God, we give up vain repetitions or forms…. Our prayers should be simple and to the purpose. Jesus warned the scribes who made long prayers for a show. Another feature of Jesus’ prayer in this connexion is that He used the simplest language. (Kagawa 1931: 74)

The important thing is that our daily life itself should become religious, and all religious life be woven into daily life. It is kind of malady that to-day our daily life is disunited into two or three compartments, and in some that there is not a religious compartment at all. In our life there ought not to be any such distinction as “the religious life,” “the artistic life,” etc. (Kagawa 1931: 74-75)

Some may think that unless a thing is difficult it is not deep; and so they may feel grateful for the Kegon Sutra, which common people cannot understand. But the deepest religion must be that which has most contact with our daily life, and is in closest touch with reality. The religion which is rooted in our original desire, and grows up from out of it, is the only real one. To pray we need not use artificial words. There is nothing wrong if we pray in our ordinary everyday language. (Kagawa 1931: 75-76)

But there are some folks who say they prefer a difficult religion. Religions of the world may be divided into two groups: religions centering round a person, and impersonal religions. In the former the emphasis is on God, but in impersonal religion the emphasis is on Law or Reason. Impersonal religion does not recognize personality or will, therefore it makes man’s desire itself an illusion and would destroy it. (Kagawa 1931: 76)

In India there originated a religion which emphasized the thought of nothingness. Many people are interested in it because their desires are not granted. In Japan there are many Nihilists to-day. From the view-point of “Mu no shisô” — Nothingness Idea — such a religion might be more interesting than the religion which starts from personality and self. This form of religion in its most purified form becomes pantheism. (Kagawa 1931: 76)

But the religion of personality starts first from myself, from me. Incidentally this is the most natural scientific method. It discovers the existence of psychological law in the universe where God and man, also man and man, stand face to face. A poet, Shiki Masaoka, left as his last poem one called “The Autumn Wind.” In it occurs the line:

“To me, no god, no buddha.” (Kagawa 1931: 77)

This is not merely a nihilistic idea; it seems to me to be his realization that there is some religious idea even in the depth of the void. But the religion Jesus taught was a religious life where prayer grows in the warm contacts of personality with personality. Jesus taught us to pray together. Prayer has a social aspect. (Kagawa 1931: 77)

The world is opened by prayer. What one prays for is always accomplished. Prayer, at the very least, uplifts the heart of the one who prays, and develops high ideals in his mind…. His [Jesus’] daily life was worship…. We must take our gladness and sorrow and all of everything to God, and look into the world where God and man melt together. (Kagawa 1931: 77)

The Death of Jesus Its Before and After

The Apostle Paul said, “For those who are on the way to destruction the story of the Cross is nonsense, but to us who are being saved, it means all the power of God” (I Cor. i. 18). There have been few who express the issue so clearly. Nothing has been more discussed in the world than the problem of the Cross. There is a school of thought to-day which says that Christianity has become too doctrinal: that it has become a religion of the Cross — the worship of suffering: but this is not real Christianity: that real Christianity is the life of Jesus Himself: it is necessary therefore to emancipate Christianity from the religion of Paul, the religion of the Cross, and come back to Jesus Christ Himself. (Kagawa 1931: 78)

A religion which does not look at life, self and God squarely is easily corrupted by one or another of these forms of idolatry [space-idolatry or time-idolatry], and will never be thoroughly completed either in culture or in expression. (Kagawa 1931: 82)

The religion of Jesus is the religion of crucifixion, that is, of redemption. It is the religion of action which unites meditation and prayer. To walk in prayer, continually asking and receiving power from God, and again to transform this power into new actions of love, this was the religion of Jesus…. Jesus discovered this law and established the religion of redemption in which prayer and meditation are combined into one. (Kagawa 1931: 84-85)

The disciples of Jesus were blamed for picking ears of barley and rubbing them with their hands on the Sabbath, because it was the same as the labour of grinding them in a mill. Religion itself had become to that extent external and superficial. Jesus of course, strongly emphasized inward religion against such superficial and outward religion. (Kagawa 1931: 86)

It is undeniable that the disciples experienced something on this occasion. Ten or eleven different groups or disciples actually saw the risen Jesus. Some people criticize hastily, saying that such an extraordinary thing could not have happened; but Christianity is founded on this strange faith. The idea of resurrection has existed from the early days, but there have been no certain instances of resurrection except in the case of Christ. However people may deny the resurrection of Christ, they cannot deny the fact that by it the history of the world has been turned upside down…. Jesus was truly revived in the hearts of the disciples. (Kagawa 1931: 103)

Jesus’ disciples must be those who serve other people …. The true value of Christianity is shown in doing menial and subordinate work willingly. (Kagawa 1931: 116-117)

Jesus said, “Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth. But I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard from the Father I have made known unto you.” (Kagawa 1931: 118)

Instead of having a special school building, He took His disciples to the mountains, to the beach, and to the park very frequently, and taught them while they were walking in the fields and mountains…. Moreover, Jesus’ school is a school of love. Modern schools teach us knowledge but not love. Jesus taught how to love people and how to serve community. (Kagawa 1931: 123)

It is not necessary to be intellectual, nor to practice self-mortification by going to the mountains or to the sea. Jesus’ religion is contained in the experience of the God of Action. “He that loveth not knoweth not God: for God is love.” Whoever lacks love lacks religious feeling. We must love people before we argue with them. In that loving, God Himself will be revealed. (Kagawa 1931: 125)

A blind man came to see Mr. Juji Ishii, the Christian philanthropist. He was illiterate and could not read anything, but he asked Mr. Ishii to let him learn Christianity. Mr. Ishii said to him, “If, when you practice massage, and are paid for it, you give that money to the blind men poorer than yourself, then you will see God.” So then this blind man, practicing massage every evening in Okayama City, used to go after one o’clock in the morning to the place where many blind men came together after their work, and put 2-sen pieces secretly into the long kimono sleeves of the poorest. He continued this every night, and gradually the heart of this man with sightless eyes was opened. After two weeks he cam again to Mr. Ishii and said, “Teacher, I have come to understand. God is love.” This man learned to know God by himself by loving men. God, who is unintelligible when thought of in a room or a library, will become known when one loves people. (Kagawa 1931: 125-126)

Uchimura Kanzō (内村 鑑三)

Uchimura saw the origins of denominations … as reflections of secular history in the country concerned. He asked which of these teachings actually represented Jesus’ ideas as opposed to historical accretions of almost two millennia. (Howes 2005: 10)

To me, forms are not only not helps for worship, but positive hindrances. I worship God inwardly in spirit and serve him outwardly in ordinary human conduct. [This formless Christianity is called mukyokai-shugi-no-Kirisutokyo, Christianity of no-church principle.] It is not a negative faith but positive; else my countrymen would never have received it….

Faith and Thinking

Faith is not thinking; what a man thinks is not his faith. Faith is rather being; what a man is is his faith. Thinking is only part of being; rather a superficial part . The modern man thinks he can know God’s truth by thinking . [but] Faith is the soul in passive activity. It is the soul letting itself to be acted upon by the mighty power of God. Passive though faith is, it is intensely active because of the power that works in it. This is the paradox of faith . The Christian is a newly created soul which engenders special activity called faith. Faith is thus a Christian activity of far higher order than thinking. It is the whole soul in beneficent action. (Howes 2005: 336)

Christianity the enemy of Buddhism? Not so! Christianity is a sworn enemy of these warlike Westerners, and not of Buddha and his peace-loving disciples. To make Christianity represent the Warlike West, and make it an enemy of Buddhism, a religion of love and non-resistance, is the greatest possible misrepresentation that can be made of it. (Howes 2005: 337)

Oracles of Science

[S]cientism“—an exaggerated and ideologically explainable respect for a certain mistaken image of science. Indeed, two of the most remarkable figures in thrall to “scientism” were Freud and Marx themselves. Their own theories must be reinterpreted in order to free them from this incubus.

Alexander Rosenberg, Philosophy of Social Science, 2016, p. 156.

[S]cientism is] an exaggerated and often distorted conception of what science can be expected to do or explain for us. One aspect of scientism is the idea that any question that can be answered at all can best be answered by science. This, in turn, is very often combined with a quite narrow conception of what it is for an answer, or a method of investigation, to be scientific. Specifically, it is supposed that canonical science must work by disclosing the physical or chemical mechanisms that generate phenomena. Together these ideas imply a narrow and homogeneous set of answers to the most diverse imaginable set of questions. Everywhere this implies a restriction of the powers of the human mind; but nowhere is this restriction more disastrous than in the mind’s attempts to answer questions about itself.

John Dupré, Human Nature and the Limits of Science, 2002, p. 2.

Science as Pseudo-Religion

Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, one of the greatest particle physicists of the twentieth century, assured his readers that the universe was “pointless” in his classic The First Three Minutes, still selling briskly a quarter century after its initial publication. We look in vain, says Weinberg, for a purpose for human existence or anything else and must console ourselves selves with the knowledge that science can lift the human experience above its natural level of “farce” and give it the “grace of tragedy.” (Giberson and Artigas 2007, Kindle Locations 40-43)

[Oracles of Science argue] that outside science we cannot find respectable truth; this, of course, is scientism, not science…. Scientism is a belief that serves its adherents very well, assuring them that only science provides vides a valid paradigm for assessing knowledge claims. Scientism is, however, an obviously self-defeating ideology. Its claims about its own epistemology are not the consequence of any scientific investigation but rather reach outside itself into the very realm that it claims does not exist. The claim that there is no valuable knowledge outside science certainly cannot be supported from within science. This is an extremely simple philosophical error, akin to a child claiming that because all the people he knows are in his house, that there cannot be any people outside his house. (Giberson and Artigas 2007, Kindle Locations 565-570)

When we reflect on science—its aims, its values, its limits—we are doing philosophy, not science. This may be bad news for the high priests of scientism, who reject philosophy, but there is no escaping it. Dawkins is a good scientist and a brilliant communicator and certainly would have been an effective lawyer or politician, but he seems strangely unaware that he is an abysmal philosopher and an even worse theologian. (Giberson and Artigas 2007, Kindle Locations 570-573)

How a scientist becomes a disciple of scientism is mysterious, because science and scientism are incompatible. Science owes its success to its restricted focus—its acknowledged inability to even address questions like those raised by scientism, much less answer them. Scientists concentrate on very particular subjects, generally astonishingly narrow, and use rigorous methods to study them, submitting their hypotheses to careful scrutiny and avoiding extrapolations or unwarranted generalizations. In contrast, scientism is an unsupported generalization, bad philosophy masquerading as science or one of its consequents. This qualifies as a virus of the mind, to use Dawkins’s own terminology. Most of scientism’s disciples are casual and probably not even aware that they hold this philosophy, but when scientism is seriously adopted, it becomes a sort of pseudo-religion, providing a meaning to life, and an ideal for which one will fight. Conversion to this strong form of pseudo-religious scientism often derives from two related factors: a disillusionment with some form of traditional religion, and the discovery that science is wonderful and seems to provide meaning and values, in addition to knowledge. (Giberson and Artigas 2007, Kindle Locations 573-579)

There are indeed important values associated with scientific work, and the progress of science contributes to their spread. Progress in crucial aspects of contemporary culture reflects the spread of scientific values. But as most practicing scientists have discovered, one can work in science, easily mixing its values with unrelated extra-scientific interests. (Giberson and Artigas 2007, Kindle Locations 579-580)

Dawkins points, repeatedly and with enthusiasm, to the diversity of religions and concludes that their very diversity proves that no one of them is reliable. Of course, Dawkins’s ideas are themselves much debated among scientists, and serious disputes do indeed exist regarding the very aspects of evolutionary theory that he champions. This, however, hardly constitutes an argument that all these various points of view are equally vacuous and that there can be no serious discussion about them. Dawkins seems strangely unmoved by the large number of thoughtful scholars—including his colleagues leagues at Oxford University, like Keith Ward, Alister McGrath, and Richard Swinburne—whose religious beliefs are accompanied by serious reflection and considerations of evidence. (Giberson and Artigas 2007, Kindle Locations 580-584)

There is, to be sure, a great difference between the general unanimity of science and the diversity of religions. But there is a considered response to this. We reach the peculiar agreement and intersubjectivity of natural science only when we deal with repeatable patterns in the natural world. Scientists have the luxury of gathering together in laboratories to share common, repeatable, and predictable experiences. It is no surprise that when we pose problems related to meaning and spiritual realities, it is more difficult to reach agreement. When we insist on testability, empirical control, quantification, repeatability, and so on, we should be aware that we are confining our study to those realities that meet these criteria. This study is both wonderful and exciting, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the scientism that would impose its straitjacket on the human mind, denying the value or validity of other explorations. (Giberson and Artigas 2007, Kindle Locations 584-589)

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The Ideological Uses of Evolutionary Biology in Recent Atheistic Apologetics

Why should we be concerned about biology and ideology? One good reason is that the use of biology for non-biological ends has been the cause of immense human suffering. Biology has been used to justify eugenic programs, enforced sterilization, experimentation on living humans, death camps, and political ambitions based on notions of racial superiority, to name but a few examples. We should also be concerned because biological ideas continue to be used, if not in these specific ways, then in other ways that lie well beyond science. Investigating the past should help us to be more reflective about the science of our own day, hopefully more equipped to discern the ideological abuse of science when it occurs. (Alexander and Numbers 2010)

One of the most remarkable developments during the opening years of the twenty-first century has been the appearance of a number of high-profile populist books offering an aggressively atheist critique of religion.’ This “clustering” of prominent works of atheist apologetics in the period 2004-7 is of no small historical interest in its own right, and is widely taken to reflect a cultural reaction against “9/11”-the suicide attacks tacks in New York in September 2001, widely regarded as being motivated by Islamic extremism. (Alexander and Numbers 2010)

Yet the appearance of these works is of interest for another reason. A central theme of two of them is that developments in biology, especially evolutionary biology, have significantly negative implications for belief in God. Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell and Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, both published in 2006, express the fundamental belief that the Darwinian theory of evolution has such explanatory power that it erodes many traditional metaphysical notions-such as belief in God-through its “universal acid.” This represents an extension of the basic lines of argument found in earlier works, in which an appeal to biological understandings of human origins, subsequently amplified to include accounts of the origins of human understandings of purpose and value based on evolutionary psychology, which was made in order to erode the plausibility of belief in God. (Alexander and Numbers 2010)

From its first appearance, some saw Darwinism as a potential challenge to at least some aspects of the traditional Christian view of creation. Yet it is important to appreciate that most early evolutionists, including Charles Darwin himself, did not consider that they were thereby promulgating or promoting atheism. Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, serious ous Christian thinkers had come to realize that at least some metaphorical interpretation was demanded in considering the early chapters of Genesis, so that their possible incompatibility with evolution was not the major stumbling block for the intelligentsia that might be expected (see also Harrison, Chapter 1, this volume).’ Nor is there any shortage of later significant evolutionary biologists who held that their science was consistent with their faith, such as Ronald A. Fisher, author of The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection (1930), and Theodosius Dobzhansky, author of Genetics and the Origin of Species (193’7).’ The emphasis upon Darwinism as an acid that totally erodes religious belief, though anticipated in earlier periods, appears to have reached a new intensity in the first decade of the twenty-first century. (Alexander and Numbers 2010)

This chapter sets out to explore the emergence of this focused appeal to evolutionary biology in Dennett’s and Dawkins’ recent works of atheist apologetics, both considering it in its historical context and offering an assessment of its impact on the popular understanding of Darwinism in the early twenty-first century. This appeal to biology in the defense of atheism is complex and nuanced, and there are significant differences of substance and emphasis between atheist writers who adopt such an approach. Nevertheless, some common factors emerge, which suggest that this is an appropriate line of inquiry to pursue, of no small intrinsic intellectual interest to both historians and evolutionary biologists. (Alexander and Numbers 2010, emphasis added)

As my concern in this chapter is specifically with biological issues, I shall not engage with the more general argument, also embedded within some recent atheist writings, that the natural sciences as a whole make faith in God intellectually irresponsible or risible.’ This argument occasionally reflects an implicit presumption, generally not defended by an appeal to historical scholarship, of the permanent validity of a “warfare” or “conflict” model of the historical interaction of science and religion.” It is clear that this model has continuing cultural authority, especially at the popular level. It may have been radically revised, even discredited, by academic historians; it is, however, clear that this development has yet to filter down to popular culture. While this atheist argument merits close attention, as it has relevance for the calibration of traditional Christian approaches to evidence-based apologetics, it is not a topic that I propose to address further here. My main theme is the manner in which Darwinism has been transposed in recent atheist apologetics from a provisional scientific theory to an antitheistic ideology. My focus is on the ideological use of the biological sciences, especially evolutionary biology, in recent atheist apologetics, a topic which I believe is best considered under three broad categories: (1) the elevation of the status of Darwinism from a provisional scientific theory to a worldview; (2) the personal case of Charles Darwin as a role model for scientific atheism; and (3) the use of the concept of the “meme”-a notion that reflects an attempt to extend the Darwinian paradigm from nature to culture-as a means of reductively explaining (and hence criticizing) belief in God. (Alexander and Numbers 2010)

Darwinism as an ideology

One of the most interesting developments of the twentieth century has been the growing trend to regard Darwinian theory as transcending the category of provisional scientific theories, and constituting a “world-view.” Darwinism is here regarded as establishing a coherent worldview through its evolutionary narrative, which embraces such issues as the fundamental nature of reality, the physical universe, human origins, human nature, society, psychology, values, and destinies. While being welcomed by some, others have expressed alarm at this apparent failure to distinguish between good, sober, and restrained science on the one hand, and non-empirical metaphysics, fantasy, myth and ideology on the other. In the view of some, this transition has led to Darwinism becoming a religion or atheist faith tradition in its own right. (Alexander and Numbers 2010)

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Science as a Social Activity

Most sociologists and anthropologists agree on the definition and the domain of their disciplines; the same holds true for many psychologists, political scientists, and almost all economists. The same cannot be said for philosophers and philosophy. Philosophy is a difficult subject to define, which makes it difficult to show social scientists why they should care about it—the philosophy of social science in particular…. [T]he subject is inescapable for the social scientist…. [W]hether as an economist or an anthropologist, one has to take sides on philosophical questions. One cannot pursue the agenda of research in any of the social sciences without taking sides on philosophical issues, without committing oneself to answers to philosophical questions. (Rosenberg, Alexander. Philosophy of Social Science. Boulder, CO: Westview Press; 2016; p. 1.) 

(…) Questions about what ought to be the case, what we should do, and what is right or wrong, just and unjust, are called normative. By contrast, questions in science are presumably descriptive or, as sometimes said, positive, not normative. Many of the normative questions have close cousins in the social and behavioral sciences Thus, psychology will interest itself in why individuals hold some actions to be right and others wrong; anthropology will consider the sources of differences among cultures about what is good and bad; political science may study the consequences of various policies established in the name of justice; economics will consider how to maximize welfare, subject to the normative assumption that welfare is what we ought to maximize. But the sciences—social or natural—do not challenge or defend the normative views we may hold. In addition to normative questions that the sciences cannot answer, there are questions about the claims of each of the sciences to provide knowledge, or about the limits of scientific knowledge, that the sciences themselves cannot address. These are among the distinctive questions of philosophy of science, including questions about what counts as knowledge, explanation, evidence, or understanding. (Rosenberg 2016, 2-3)

PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEMS OF SOCIAL SCIENCE

If there are questions the sciences cannot answer and questions about why the sciences cannot answer them, why should a scientist, in particular a behavioral or social scientist, take any interest in them? The positions scientists take on answers to philosophical questions determine questions they consider answerable by science and choose to address, as well as the methods they employ to answer them. Sometimes scientists take sides consciously. More often they take sides on philosophical questions by their very choice of question, and without realizing it. The philosophy of science may be able to vindicate those choices [or undermine them]. At least, it can reveal to scientists that they have made choices, that they have taken sides on philosophical issues. It is crucial for scientists to recognize this, not just because their philosophical positions must be consistent with the theoretical and observational findings of their sciences. Being clear about a discipline’s philosophy is essential at the research frontiers of the disciplines, it is the philosophy of science that guides inquiry…. [T]he unavoidability and importance of philosophical questions are even more significant for the social scientist than for the natural scientist. The natural sciences have a much larger body of well-established, successful answers to questions and well-established methods for answering them. As a result, many of the basic philosophical questions about the limits and the methods of the natural sciences have been set aside in favor of more immediate questions clearly within the limits of each of the natural sciences. (Rosenberg 2016, 3)

The social and behavioral sciences have not been so fortunate. Within these disciplines, there is no consensus on the questions that each of them is to address, or the methods to be employed. This is true between disciplines and even within some of them. Varying schools and groups, movements and camps claim to have developed appropriate methods, identified significant questions, and provided convincing answers to them. But among social scientists, there is certainly nothing like the agreement on such claims that we find in any of the natural sciences. (Rosenberg 2016, 3)

The social and behavioral sciences have not been so fortunate. Within these disciplines, there is no consensus on the questions that each of them is to address, or the methods to be employed. This is true between disciplines and even within some of them. Varying schools and groups, movements and camps claim to have developed appropriate methods, identified significant questions, and provided convincing answers to them. But among social scientists, there is certainly nothing like the agreement on such claims that we find in any of the natural sciences. In the absence of agreement about theories and benchmark methods of inquiry among the social scientists, the only source of guidance for research must come from philosophical theories. Without a well-established theory to guide inquiry, every choice of research question and of method to tackle it is implicitly a gamble with unknown odds. The choice of the social scientist makes it a bet that the question chosen is answerable, that questions not chosen are either less important or unanswerable, that the means used to attack the questions are appropriate, and that other methods are not. (Rosenberg 2016, 4)

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The reason for the everlasting interaction between science and philosophy transpires clearly. The human mind musters an admirable ability to think up equations for physical systems. But equations need to be interpreted in terms of physical models and mechanisms. Science requires conceptual understanding. This understanding employs fundamental philosophical notions. (….) The scientific enterprise comes with philosophical commitments, whether the scientist likes it or not. The scientist needs philosophical ideas, simply because amongst the experimental and mathematical tools in the toolbox of the scientist there are conceptual tools, like fundamental notions. The despairing scientist may ask: ‘Will we ever get an answer?’ The philosopher replies: ‘Not a definitive answer, but a few tentative answers.’ Recall that the philosopher (and the scientist qua philosopher) works with conceptual models. At any one time only a few of these models are in circulation. They cannot provide the definitive answers of which the scientist is fond. But this is typical of models even in the natural sciences. (Weinert, Friedel. The Scientist as Philosopher: Philosophical Consequences of Great Scientific Discoveries. Berlin: Springer-Verlag; 2004; pp. 278-279. )

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Science is not above criticism. On the contrary, because of its influence on modern society, science and scientists need careful scrutiny as much as they deserve admiration and support. As Helen Longino eloquently puts it, science is a social process, and one that is far too important to be left in the hands of scientists alone. Perhaps the most dangerous fallacy a scientist can commit, often subconsciously, is to only do science and never think about it. Yet many scientists who I know are not aware of the broad discussion about how science is done (or shouldn’t be done) that permeates the literature in philosophy and sociology of science. Worse yet, when asked, they positively sneer at the idea of doing philosophy or sociology of science. (Pigliucci 2002: 247)

This lack of understanding of philosophy and sociology of science by scientists is, of course, at the root of … scientism … [When] a scientist of the caliber of Noble Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg can even go so far as writing a book chapter entitled “Against Philosophy,” in which he argues that philosophy is not only useless, but positively harmful to the scientific enterprise … [we see a] sort of hubris that offends many [religionists] … (not to mention philosophers), and they have every right to be offended. (Pigliucci 2002: 247)

Golden Rule and Business Ethics

[This extensive publishing of chapter eight of Jeffrey Wattles Golden Rule was done with his permission.]

The Golden Rule of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in America were times of great economic expansion and inequality, opportunity and abuse, times of American power and of world war. Early scientific doctrines of evolution were being used to gain understanding of the human species and social life, and the result was a profound challenge to traditional religion. Does religion render a person less fit for the rigors of competition, or does real religion empower a person to deal in a progressive way with those very challenges? As that debate went on, America was a center of a dynamic, religiously motivated golden rule movement, affecting society, politics, economics, business, and interfaith relations. Many enthusiastic individuals chose the rule as their motto; a popular literature on the rule arose; many a store was called “Golden Rule Store”; it was the custom to bestow on exemplars of the rule the nickname “Golden Rule.” Authors expounding the maxims for the exercise of a given craft would dub their principles “golden rules,” and many books carried titles such as Golden Rules of Surgery. A Golden Rule Brotherhood was formed with the intention of unifying all the religions and peoples of the world. During this period the golden rule came to symbolize a wholehearted devotion to the service of humankind. (Wattles 1996, 90)

This movement, which spread beyond the boundaries of Christianity, held the conviction that all men and women are brothers and sisters in the family of God, and they formulated the essentials of religion in the gospel of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. The phrase “brotherhood of man” was used to include, not exclude women. Since the struggle to synthesize religious idealism with scientific realism had become especially urgent, the golden rule became caught up in the debate. Does living by the rule render the individual needlessly vulnerable to rugged, evolutionary competition and conflict, or is the rule itself a vehicle of evolutionary progress? (Wattles 1996, 90)

There had been a growing sense that each individual is akin to every other human being. The fabric of humanity had been torn by religious wars between Christians and Muslims during the Middle Ages and between Protestants and Catholics during the early modern period. Europeans disgusted with the slaughter turned toward tolerance, especially since it was clear that professing a religion was no guarantee of morality and that some atheists lived highly moral lives. In the eighteenth century, Hume had proclaimed that every person has a spark of benevolent sentiment toward humanity, and Kant and others attempted to distill universally acceptable basics of religion and morality. In the nineteenth century, at all levels of culture, religious and secular humanitarianism flourished. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony used Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” which reads, in translation: “Joy, beautiful divine spark. . . . your magic binds together what convention had strictly divided; all men become brothers where your gentle wing rests.” Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) abandoned the life of a Russian nobleman and the privileges of literary success for a life in some ways like that of a peasant. He defined art in terms of its capacity to arouse the feeling of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. His radical application of the Sermon on the Mount and his critique of luxury and oppression stimulated the idealism of many others throughout the world. (Wattles 1996, 90-91)

Among German theologians, Albrecht Ritschl ( 1822-1889) drew on Kant for a conception of the kingdom of heaven as the organization of humanity through moral action inspired by love; Ritschl’s influential student Adolf Harnack ( 1851-1930) used historical study with the aim of separating the kernel of original Christianity from the husk of associated Greek philosophic dogma. Painstaking scholarship enabled Harnack boldly to read between the lines of the New Testament text and to discover afresh Jesus’ persistent tendency to speak of religion in terms of family life. He presented the teachings of Jesus as, in sum, the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and the infinite value of the individual soul. With this conception of religion, the golden rule would find new meaning and historical vitality. In interreligious relations, the new conception of religion reached an historic high-water mark at the World’s Parliament of Religions, organized in Chicago in 1893 by Presbyterian minister Dr. John Henry Barrows in conjunction with the Columbian Exposition. It is not surprising that the most frequently mentioned principle of morality at the parliament was the golden rule. Praise for the rule came from representatives of Confucianism, Judaism, and Christianity. The golden rule was perhaps the most widely shared commitment among all the religions; and it came to symbolize the participants’ commitment to live the warm brotherly and sisterly unity that most of them had experienced together during their days of the parliament. (Wattles 1996, 91)

FROM RELIGIOUS ETHICS TO BUSINESS ETHICS: ARTHUR NASH

Two sides of the American golden rule movement are represented by Arthur Nash ( 1870-1927) and J. C. Penney ( 1875-1971) respectively. Each wrote an autobiography from the perspective of a successful Christian business leader offering advice concerning the practical, moral, and spiritual principles of living that had proven themselves through years of personal experience in the competitive arena. Nash, whose story is recounted here in more detail, participated in the social drama of urban Christianity during the years surrounding World War I, and his application of the rule is religiously motivated from the start. Penney, by contrast, was a traditional, rural and small-town man who followed the golden rule as a moral principle and achieved success in business without religious motivation until his evangelical conversion later in life. (Wattles 1996, 97)

Is religion a sphere apart from business activity, or should there not be continuity between one’s religion and the way one conducts one’s business? As a bridge of continuity between religion and business was being built by those whose primary motivation was religious, it was found that the bridge could be traversed by others whose primary motivation was economic. In some cases, the intertwining of religious and business ideas resulted in an ambiguity that has lent itself to cynical interpretation. If Jesus could be popularly portrayed as the greatest advertiser and salesman in history in Bruce Barton 1924 bestseller The Man Nobody Knows, business writers could also promote religion as a tonic that would inspire an individual to conduct relationships in a way that should conduce to prosperity. Many unwitting secularists painted a veneer of religious idealism on their enterprises. (Wattles 1996, 97)

Although Arthur Nash had some tendency to let the rise and fall of his business affect his confidence in the evident, practical worth of religious principles, he remains one of the most sincere of the exponents of the golden rule as the guide to business relationships. Nash was born in a log cabin in Indiana in 1870, the eldest of nine children of strict Seventh Day Adventist parents. He referred to his parents as having a “stern, rigid, uncompromising” faith and “great and sterling character.” He was educated in Adventist schools and seminary and was sent to Detroit as an instructor in a school for Adventist ministers and missionaries. His refusal to conform to denominational boundaries led to conflict and the first of his two breaks with Christianity. He left Detroit and did not return for years. When he did, however, he was touched by the plight of the unemployed there, and with the help of others was able to open a laundry in which he was able to provide many jobs for poor people. Church people began to send him their business, and he met the Christian woman who would be his wife and the mother of his three children, and who convinced him that his objections to Christianity were not to the religion of Jesus but to the very lack of it. Inspired again, he reentered the ministry with the Disciples of Christ. But when in a funeral service he eulogized a man of considerable character who had no professed religion, he was asked to resign his ministry. He then found work to support his family selling clothing—and did very well at it. In 1909 he moved to Columbus, Ohio, started manufacturing men’s clothing, began to prosper, but lost nearly everything in the flood of 1913. He then moved to Cincinnati and was able to organize the A. Nash Company in 1916 with sixty thousand dollars in capital, making made-to-order suits for individual clients. A short while after the Armistice was concluded, he acquired ownership of the small shop that had been making his garments under contract. (Wattles 1996, 97-98)

Then came the breakthrough, the pivot of this narrative. Nash took over the limping business of a man who had leased floor space in the building of the A. Nash Company. The tenant had run a sweatshop in the depressed clothing manufacturing industry of Cincinnati. When payroll time for his new employees came around, Nash realized that some fine and vulnerable people were only earning four dollars per week. He had recently become impressed with the kind of world that could result if people would only practice the golden rule, and he had been giving speeches to that effect. He thought of raising wages substantially, but his son, freshly disillusioned from having participated in the war in Europe, resisted the idea. They had lost four thousand dollars during the previous fiscal year, but Nash decided he would close up shop rather than exploit people to stay in the clothing business. The stockholders agreed to close the company, and Nash agreed to make up their losses, but he decided to pay a living wage until they went out of business; he would put whatever capital remained as a down payment on a farm where he would at least have the satisfaction of honest earnings. He went in to announce the decision to the small group of workers. The speech is worth quoting in full (Wattles 1996, 98):

“Friends, you have heard no doubt that we have bought this shop, and I have come in to get acquainted with you. No doubt, too, you have heard a great deal about the talks that I have been giving during the War about Brotherhood and the Golden Rule, while pleading the cause of Christianity and its affiliation to my conception of true Democracy. Now I am going to do a bit of talking to you. First, I want you to know that Brotherhood is a reality with me. You are all my brothers and sisters, children of the same great Father that I am, and entitled to all the justice and fair treatment that I want for myself. And so long as we run this shop [which to me meant three or four months longer], God being my helper, I am going to treat you as my brothers and sisters, and the Golden Rule is going to be our only governing law. Which means, that whatever I would like to have you do to me, were I in your place, I am going to do to you. Now,” I went on, “not knowing any of you personally, I would like you to raise your hands as I call your names.”

I read the first name. Under it was written: Sewing on buttons—$4.00 per week. I looked straight before me at the little group, but saw no hand. Then I looked to my right, and there saw the old lady I have referred to holding up her trembling hand. At first I could not speak, because, almost instantly, the face of my own mother came between that old lady and myself. I thought of my mother being in such a situation, and of what, in the circumstances, I would want someone to do for her. I hardly knew what to say, because I was aware that when I went into the shop, that after agreeing to stand all of the loss entailed by the liquidation of the company, I could not go too far in raising wages. It seemed to be my obvious duty to salvage something for the boys who were coming home from military service, and for the daughter just entering the university. But as I looked at that old lady, and saw only my mother, I finally blurted out: “I don’t know what it’s worth to sew on buttons; I never sewed a button on. But your wages, to begin with, will be $12.00 a week. (Wattles 1996, 98-99)

Nash continued through the list, giving equal 300 percent raises for those earning the least, and raising the highest wages from eighteen to twenty-seven dollars. It was not a move made out of ecstasy, but in blunt lucidity about what it would subtract from the money he would have to invest afterward in a farm. For months thereafter he gave little attention to the clothing business, but when he needed to see how it was doing financially, he was surprised: their little business was putting out three times the quantity it had done the previous year. He then learned that after his little speech the Italian presser had concluded that if he were the boss and had just spoken like that to his employees and raised their wages, he would want his employees to “work like hell.” And that is exactly what they did. Soon the shop had more orders than it could handle. Encouraged, Nash turned his business into a laboratory for the application of the golden rule, and the business prospered greatly. (Wattles 1996, 99)

Nash’s leadership with the golden rule led to many changes in his business. He proposed a profit-sharing plan; the workers chose to take their benefits in the form of higher wages. By 1923 the workers owned nearly half of the company stock. The best-paid employees petitioned to extend the distributions based not on the wages but on time worked. “The higher-paid workers, therefore, on their own motion thus relinquished their claim to a considerable sum of money in order that the lower-paid workers, whose need was greater, could be better provided for.” Nash continued to raise wages, limited the profit of capital to 7 percent, and reinvested remaining profits in the extension of the business. He lived simply. When Nash proposed to withhold bonuses from those who had worked less than six months (since an employee had joined for a short time and left right after receiving a bonus), the workers insisted that the golden rule indicated assuming sincere motivation in every employeeand they prevailed. Nash and the workers agreed that the consumer should play a role in the setting of prices, and consequently their prices were drastically cheaper than others’ (sixteen to twenty-nine dollars for a suit instead of fifty to a hundred). They also agreed to return extra profits to the customer in the form of better goods and extra trimmings. And they proposed, during a time of unemployment, to take a wage cut and make additional work for the unemployed in Cincinnati. They had abundant sunshine and fresh air and a healthy vapor heating system, and they remodeled their plant according to a schedule that the group agreed to. The work week was reduced to forty hours, and Nash was resolutely opposed to overtime. Every change was either proposed by one of the workers or thoroughly discussed in a company meeting. Nash supported labor unions; his firm unanimously agreed to make no clothes for a firm fighting a union and looked askance at someone taking a striker’s job; but he thought there was a better way to safeguard the rights of workers, and so he had no union in his plant. An experienced factory observer visited Nash’s workers and concluded that he was watching piecework, so rapid was the labor; but those people were working for an hourly wage. In one room, however, workers were taking such painstaking care with their work, the observer was sure they were on an hourly wage; but they were in fact the only one’s getting paid by the piece. Even during hard economic times they continued to grow from around $132,000 in 1918 to $3,750,000 in 1922. (Wattles 1996, 99-100)

Nash became widely known, and in 1923 he published an autobiography, proclaiming the golden rule as his cardinal principle, telling of his path to success, and reproducing two appreciative commentaries. After writing the triumphant account of his spiritual, social, and material success, the former preacher finally had a national pulpit that could not be taken from him. (Wattles 1996, 100)

In a posthumous 1930 edition of his book, completed by an associate, we learn the rest of the story. As a result of his renown, Golden Rule Nash became overcommitted to travel and speechmaking, and during the last four years of his life his business, now grown quite large, began to weaken in sustaining its original spirit. As Nash came to employ not a few hundred but 140,000 employees, the service motive did not permeate as thoroughly as before. Previously he had estimated that 90 percent of his workers identified with the spirit of his undertaking, and the other 10 percent worked alongside them faithfully. But now some people began to take advantage of the looser system of control; some subordinate executives did not keep pace with their leader. Favoritism, discrimination, and poor workmanship became noticeable, and morale slackened as Nash was away much of the time on speaking engagements with dinner clubs, lodge and church conventions, and chambers of commerce. (Wattles 1996, 100)

Nash’s resolution of the problem led to an expansion of his management philosophy. At first he approached a group of ministers and invited them to examine every phase of his operation and to report any situation where the teachings of Jesus could be more truly put to work. They refused, deferring to his greater experience in business. At length he decided to turn to a union. Previously, despite his sympathies with the union movement, Nash had endeavored to treat his workers so well that they would feel no need for a union. The enmity between labor and management, especially in the clothing industry, had been strong during the previous decade; now, however, in December of 1925, he turned to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union, on account of its sustained dedication to the skills of the trade and to the welfare of the workers. The union’s technical competence, which Nash had previously rejected as deadening, proved most helpful. New methods accounting, inventory management, and finance were introduced. Thus many techniques of scientific management that he had scorned as mere mechanical substitutes for human cooperation were introduced, and he found that they in fact constituted the very extension and application of the golden rule itself. The business weathered a slump and emerged stronger than ever; sales for 1926 were fourteen million dollars. The workers owned most of the stock. It became evident that the supreme desire to apply the golden rule did not enable Nash to discover by himself every step of forward progress that he needed to take. He needed the union to show him that techniques he had opposed were in fact required by his own purposes. Nonetheless, it was by following the golden rule that he came to the union and thus to accept ideas he had previously rejected in the name of the rule. (Wattles 1996, 100-101)

He founded the Nash Journal as a forum for popular and inspirational tidbits of wisdom, business advice, editorials, news of the company and the world. In one of his rare forays in the direction of philosophy, Nash responded to an article in which his company’s success was explained in terms of the golden rule plus other factors of business judgment. He challenged the separation of the golden rule from good business judgment. (Wattles 1996, 101)

In order to perfectly live the Golden Rule, one in business, to begin with, would be compelled to buy his merchandise in such a way that he would be dealing with the seller on the basis of the Golden Rule, as well as buying for his customers on the basis of the Golden Rule. The thought I want to bring out, is that we have left most things religious and spiritual down in the boggy swamps of sentimentalism. The efforts of the church in the past have not been directed as much as they may be toward educating and equipping men and women to live large and full lives. Whatever success has come to the A. Nash Company in living the Golden Rule has come because there has been enough business knowledge to enable us to live it to just that degree, and whenever we have failed in exercising the very highest and keenest business judgment on a truly ethical basis, it has been because we did not have sufficient insight to understand our obligation measured by the Golden Rule. . . . In other words, perfect and infallible living of the Golden Rule would require infallible mentality and undaunted courage. (Wattles 1996, 101)

Nash’s book argued that religion is needed for the socially effective practice of the golden rule. Any acceptable economic success must be based not upon profit-hungry manipulation but upon good relationships between those involved. Acting in accord with the golden rule is required in order for a business enterprise to flourish in its social relations, since the rule stimulates improved service. The practice of the rule in business should not be regarded as suicidal; often it is an aid to success. Religious motivation is usually necessary to motivate the wholehearted practice of the golden rule. Therefore, religion is essential for the flourishing of business and consequently for the flourishing of society and of civilization. In sum, Nash used the rule as a symbol of his Christian ideals of brotherhood and service and as a method to discover new ways of treating his workers and his customers well. (Wattles 1996, 102)

FROM BUSINESS ETHICS TO RELIGIOUS ETHICS: J. C. PENNEY

J. C. Penney experienced the golden rule during his early years more as a symbol of the rigorous, edifying, and self-denying morality of his “good and dedicated” father rather than as a symbol of the spiritual example of his “unselfish and saintly” mother. The son of a Primitive Baptist preacher (and the grandson of a preacher), the third child of twelve children (six of whom survived to adulthood), growing up on a farm, Penney recalls learning self-reliance by having to earn the money for his clothes beginning at age eight. He ran errands. He raised pigs. But when the neighbors complained about the smell, his father obliged him to stop raising pigs—an early lesson about the unwelcome implications of living by the golden rule. The boy turned to growing watermelons, spending the last nights before harvesting in the field with a dog and a shotgun to protect his crop. He took them to the county fair to sell them, and set up his wagon close to where the crowds were entering. Sales were becoming brisk when his father interrupted and ordered him to close down and go home. The lad had unwittingly broken the norm of selling along with other merchants who had set up inside the fair and had paid for a concession to do so. This was his second hard lesson about the implications of the golden rule. (Wattles 1996, 102)

The next phase of his life with the golden rule were his early years in business. He learned to sell dry goods. “I concentrated on two points: knowing the stock and exactly where everything was, and giving the customer the utmost in service and value, making only a small profit on each sale. I was particularly interested in the idea of keeping the store sold out of old stock.” He learned how “to add service and value from the woman’s point of view.” He stayed away from the cities, feeling that he knew “how to get close to the lives of small town people, learning their needs and preferences and serving them accordingly.” He liked working where he and those who worked with him “understood our neighbors as readily as they could understand us.” In 1902 he opened a store in Kemmerer, Wyoming, with the sign: Golden Rule Store. He and his wife worked together without any help at first, working hard, too hard, as Penney recalls, from early in the morning to late at night seven days a week. They abided strictly by the golden rule, they were extremely frugal, and they made money. As they began to hire people, Penney never hired anyone who did not have a “positive belief in a Supreme Being”; he selected people with “character, enthusiasm, and energy. ” He had large ambitions: “By our service to our customers we would create in them that spring of sparkling good will which would prompt them to want to help us to serve them.” (Wattles 1996, 102-103)

The last period of his life was marked by his religious conversion. Chronically troubled by his merely external engagement with religion, he had not been able to convince himself wholeheartedly that “it was enough for a man to lead a moral and upright life.” At the age of fifty-eight, having financially overextended himself in philanthropy when the Great Depression hit, this wealthy and successful man was brought to bankruptcy, alcoholism, and despair. Through an evangelical mission in New York City, he found God in a radiant and satisfying way and could then speak anew of the golden rule. “From our spiritual wellsprings come our capacities for unselfishness.” Penney proclaimed that the world must be transformed, would be transformed, and could only be transformed by the spiritually motivated practice of the golden rule, service to all people as one’s neighbors. (Wattles 1996, 103)

As civilization grew and horizons widened, the definition of “brotherhood” took on more exact meaning, and people came gradually to understand the golden rule as a basic principle, applicable to all relationships. In former periods business was identified as secular, and service as sacred. In proportion as we have discerned that between secular and sacred no arbitrary line exists, public awareness has grown that the golden rule was meant for business as much as for other human relationships.

Penny 1950, 52

Thus Penney joined men like Nash and Jones in holding to a religious conception of brotherhood as the basis for the replete practice of the golden rule. (Wattles 1996, 103)

CONCLUSION

The golden rule has functioned to mobilize sympathies, to sustain human dignity, and to express religious experience on a diverse planet in need of unifying ideals. Despite the follies of some of its champions, the rule, interpreted through the gospel of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, has showed itself a sturdy player in the encounter between religious idealism and scientific realism. (Wattles 1996, 103)

Evolution means progress as well as struggle. Not only does idealism need realism to make its ideals effective, but realism also needs idealism in order to keep pace in a progressive world. The fact that the rule provided a focus for the experience of harmony among members of different religions and the fact that the rhetoric of the golden rule could be an effective lever of reform give hope for the moral sense within the human heart and an incipient spiritual community. How, then, shall the golden rule be applied in practice? There is no formula for finding the proportion of legitimate self-interest in a life dominated by the service motive. There is no formula for determining when a sacrificial deed will have great leverage. Nor is the golden rule a substitute for gifted leadership, though it can contribute the moral focus for inspired leadership and teamwork. (Wattles 1996, 104)

Simply to ridicule the follies of idealism or to expose the scandals of a narrow-minded realism may make people more cynical about the prospect of combining idealism with realism. Pointing beyond cynicism, the biographies summarized here show how some, daring to treat others as they would be treated, found their way. Arthur Nash discovered that his apparently self-sacrificing wage increases won a profitable response from his workers, and they gained national attention for joining religious and moral dynamism with business progress. J. C. Penney respected the rule as a moral constraint on profit seeking and as a guide to service, and in the end also wrote of religiously motivated brotherhood. Samuel Jones, despite relative economic and political success, continued to aim, sometimes unwisely, for social and personal objectives beyond his reach. His sense of the pathos of life’s contradictions was much sharper than that of Penney or Nash. Nash and Penney showed that an individual and a company can flourish with a profound commitment to the rule. Jones, however, also showed that a society transformed by the practice of the rule is a long way off. (Wattles 1996,104)

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American Taliban: It Is Happening Here

How did we get from John F. Kennedy’s eloquent speech at the Rice Hotel in Houston on September 12, 1960, in which he urged voters effectively to bracket a candidate’s faith out of their considerations when they entered the voting booths, to George W. Bush’s declaration on the eve of the 2000 Iowa precinct caucuses that Jesus was his favorite philosopher?

— Balmer, Randall. God in the White House: A History. New York: HarperOne; 2008; p. Preface.

The qualifications of a candidate should not be issue-oriented as much as character-oriented. They should be “able” and “experienced” men of course for the position which they seek. Beyond that, Scripture says they should be men who “fear God, ” that is, they should be Christians, as affirmed by John Jay. They should also be “men of truth” and “wise and discerning” men. This means that they should be Christians with a Biblical worldview–men who reason from absolute truth, not human wisdom. Many candidates may claim to be “Christians,” but do not hold to a Biblical worldview. Former President Jimmy Carter was an example of a Christian whose mind was unrenewed by Scripture and thus reasoned and governed from a “humanistic” worldview. Finally, Scripture says that our representatives must “hate dishonest gain.” This means that beyond a correct worldview, they must have Christian character, a godly home life, and pure motives…. Even if Christians manage to outnumber others on an issue and we sway our Congressman by sheer numbers, we end up in the dangerous promotion of democracy. We really do not want representatives who are swayed by majorities, but rather by correct principles.

— Beliles, Mark A. and McDowell Stephen K. (1991, 265) America’s Providential History

Trump wears religion like a John wears a condom. And the scandal of the evangelical mind is that there isn’t much of any mind … Or much of any soul, or moral integrity, or spiritual truth, or compassion, or empathy, or love, or fruits of the spirit. They have slid drip by drip from evil, into sin, and having made sin habitual, fully embraced the cup of iniquities and are drinking Trump’s spiritual blindness and venomous bile to the full as they scream “Barabbas! Barabbas! Barabbas!” crucifying the living Christ as they worship an abomination incarnate in Trumpism.

God Mocking: Be not deceived; God is not mocked. Whatever Social Media sows, this our Social Fabric all will also reap. (Galatians 6:7)

What was emerging from this and similar meetings was a political force — the so-called Religious Right — that injected into the Republican Party a new emphasis on the promotion of religious morality (an area of concern which most early Goldwater activists thought belonged in the private, not public, and not political, arena). The focus of this new religion-centered “conservatism” was not on liberty and limited government but on what Russell Kirk had called the “transcendent moral order.”

By 1989, the Moral Majority, the late Jerry Falwell’s organization which had emphasized religious values across sectarian lines and often shared a common purpose with many conservatives and orthodox Jews, had all but disappeared. In his place rose the Christian Coalition, led by Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed. The Religious Right had become the overtly Christian Right. (Edwards 2008: 40-41)

(….) Through aggressive grassroots activism the movement’s members and supporters won elections, took over party organizations, and dominated party conventions. Later, when George W. Bush’s political advisor Karl Rove would speak of “the Republican base,” this was who he had in mind. (Edwards 2008: 41)

The Christian Right was hardly the Republican base (the party’s voters were often much more moderate in their views than were Robertson and his followers), but because Robertson’s forces tended to dominate conventions and primaries in which voter turnout is often low, they exerted influence far beyond their numbers. In the process, they transformed the republican Party and indeed the conservative movement itself into an arm of religion, precisely the outcome the First Amendment of the Constitution was designed to prevent. There were instrumental in galvanizing the conservative opposition to death with dignity laws in Oregon, private medical decisions in Florida, and scientific advances in the nation’s medical laboratories. (Edwards 2008: 41)

A wall was erected between church and the state … as an extension of the founder’s experience with religious persecution in Europe. Placing religion in a position to dictate, or heavily influence, national policy had led to sanctions, torture, murder, and war. European battlefields were littered with the corpses of men sent to war on behalf of one religious sect or another. In a nation founded on Lockean principles of individual rights, there would be no place given to sectarian terror. (Edwards 2008: 64)

The wall between religion and statecraft serves an additional purpose. The enemy of civility (a necessary ingredient in the governance of a diverse society) is certitude. And nothing breeds certitude more than religious belief. Religion is often a positive force in the lives of individuals, but when the true believer feels compelled to impose upon the whole of the society the truths that have enriched his or her life, the threads that bind us as a nation begin to fray. (Edwards 2008: 123)

(….) Conservatism’s central philosophy has long been based on the regard for the individual rather than the collective. Yet today many are willing to support the imposition of the personal beliefs of some, be they a majority or a minority, on others, who do not subscribe to those beliefs. The title of Sinclair Lewis’s novel about a politician who rose to power on a wave of religious fervor was ironic: It Can’t Happen Here. Its message was: yes, it can. (Edwards 2008: 124)

Because the Constitution’s central premise is liberty — it is a document designed for a free people–it was created to prevent both the concentration of power in a few hands … and the ability of the majority to impose its will on the minority… The rule of law, not the rule of the masses or rulers, defines American constitutional government. But that is a lesson conservatives have forgotten. (Edwards 2008: 128-129)

The Constitution is for all Americans — Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, and nonbeliever alike. We are free to practice or not as we deem fit. Religion is a personal thing; government is what we hold in common, and that distinction lies at the heart of American conservatism [opposed to extremist fundamentalism as exhibited above]. Community is not the same thing as government. The U.S. government is a secular institution, and its policy decisions should not be required to conform to religious doctrine. (Edwards, Mickey. Reclaiming Conservatism. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2008; pp. 40-166) 

Now is the time to remember that our great religious traditions, notably Christianity, once upon a time could not even conceive of reducing religious engagement with public life to a narrow list of hot-button issues. They were too concerned with the whole person and the whole of society to limit their reach to a handful of questions. Now is the time to heed the call to social justice and social inclusion embedded deeply in in the scriptures. (E. J. Dionne Jr., Forward, in Lew Daly (2009) God’s Economy: Faith Based Initiatives & the Caring State. University of Chicago Press)