We utilize contemporary cognitive and social science of religion to defend a controversial thesis: the human cognitive apparatus gratuitously inclines humans to religious activity oriented around entities other than the God of classical theism. Using this thesis, we update and defend two arguments drawn from David Hume: (i) the argument from idolatry, which argues that the God of classical theism does not exist, and (ii) the argument from indifference, which argues that if the God of classical theism exists, God (...) is indifferent to our religious activity. (shrink)
In this book, Mark Johnston argues that God needs to be saved not only from the distortions of the "undergraduate atheists" but, more importantly, from the idolatrous tendencies of religion itself. Each monotheistic religion has its characteristic ways of domesticating True Divinity, of taming God's demands so that they do not radically threaten our self-love and false righteousness. Turning the monotheistic critique of idolatry on the monotheisms themselves, Johnston shows that much in these traditions must be condemned as false (...) and spiritually debilitating. A central claim of the book is that supernaturalism is idolatry. If this is right, everything changes; we cannot place our salvation in jeopardy by tying it essentially to the supernatural cosmologies of the ancient Near East. Remarkably, Johnston rehabilitates the ideas of the Fall and of salvation within a naturalistic framework; he then presents a conception of God that both resists idolatry and is wholly consistent with the deliverances of the natural sciences. Princeton University Press is publishing Saving God in conjunction with Johnston's forthcoming book Surviving Death, which takes up the crux of supernaturalist belief, namely, the belief in life after death. (shrink)
Although Franz Rosenzweig is arguably the most important Jewish philosopher of the twentieth century, his thought remains little understood. Here, Leora Batnitzky argues that Rosenzweig's redirection of German-Jewish ethical monotheism anticipates and challenges contemporary trends in religious studies, ethics, philosophy, anthropology, theology, and biblical studies.This text, which captures the hermeneutical movement of Rosenzweig's corpus, is the first to consider the full import of the cultural criticism articulated in his writings on the modern meanings of art, language, ethics, and national identity. (...) In the process, the book solves significant conundrums about Rosenzweig's relation to German idealism, to other major Jewish thinkers, to Jewish political life, and to Christianity, and brings Rosenzweig into conversation with key contemporary thinkers.Drawing on Rosenzweig's view that Judaism's ban on idolatry is the crucial intellectual and spiritual resource available to respond to the social implications of human finitude, Batnitzky interrogates idolatry as a modern possibility. Her analysis speaks not only to the question of Judaism's relationship to modernity, but also to the generic question of the present's relationship to the past--a subject of great importance to anyone contemplating the modern statuses of religious tradition, reason, science, and historical inquiry. By way of Rosenzweig, Batnitzky argues that contemporary philosophers and ethicists must relearn their approaches to religious traditions and texts to address today's central ethical problems. (shrink)
Due to the development of information technology, music piracy has become an escalating problem. This study attempts to employ the theory of planned behavior (TPB) and the social identity theory to investigate the antecedents of downloading pop music illegally from the Internet, the relationship between the intention to illegally download music and the intention to buy music, and the moderating effects of idolatry. Data were collected from 350 teenagers in Northern Taiwan through questionnaire interviews conducted in city centers where (...) teenagers gather. The results of partial least squares (PLS) analyses reconfirm the explanatory power of the TPB model with regard to the pop music illegal downloading behavior. However, it is interesting to note that the intention to illegally download music does not have a significant influence on the intention to buy music. This finding contradicts our common intuitions. Further analyses also reveal that idolatry moderates the relationship between the intention to illegally download music and the intention to buy music. For teenagers with high idolatry, a higher music downloading intention results in a lower buying intention. One possible explanation is the price of music CDs. Several interviews were also held to verify our results. Implications and a discussion are then provided. (shrink)
Idolatry is vehemently rejected by the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and closely connected with idolatry are certain varieties of anthropomorphism, which involve the attribution of a human form or personality to God. The question investigated in this paper is whether a highly anthropomorphic conception of God, one that commits the sin of idolatry, is entailed by a particular theory of religious language. This theory is the 'univocity thesis', the view that, for some substitutions for 'F', (...) the sense of '___ is F' as applied to God and its sense as applied to human creatures is exactly or substantially the same. My claim is that the univocity thesis entails a strong form of anthropomorphism that in effect reduces God to creaturely status and thus succumbs to idolatry (albeit a conceptual form of idolatry). In the course of my argument, a comparison is made between, on the one hand, the methods of Duns Scotus and modern proponents of perfect-being theology in arriving at a concept of God as maximally perfect, and on the other hand the work of Thomistic philosophers (especially Barry Miller) in showing how a more adequate conception of divinity can be reached by dispensing with some of the methods and assumptions of perfect-being theology, particularly the assumption of univocity. (shrink)
Levinas establishes an intriguing connection between idolatry and ontology. This connection is aptly illustrated by the biblical character of Balaam, the ambiguous Mesopotamian prophet or sorcerer of Numbers 22-24, who is almost never mentioned in Levinas's work but who is present, albeit hidden, in the talmudic reading “Contempt for the Torah as Idolatry.“ A deconstruction of this talmudic reading uncovers Balaam's footprints. It also clarifies different meanings of idolatry—exposing its ontological violence, but also, perhaps, its necessity for (...) ethics and law. (shrink)
Michael Ignatieff draws on his extensive experience as a writer and commentator on world affairs to present a penetrating account of the successes, failures, and prospects of the human rights revolution. Since the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, this revolution has brought the world moral progress and broken the nation-state's monopoly on the conduct of international affairs. But it has also faced challenges. Ignatieff argues that human rights activists have rightly drawn criticism from Asia, (...) the Islamic world, and within the West itself for being overambitious and unwilling to accept limits. It is now time, he writes, for activists to embrace a more modest agenda and to reestablish the balance between the rights of states and the rights of citizens.Ignatieff begins by examining the politics of human rights, assessing when it is appropriate to use the fact of human rights abuse to justify intervention in other countries. He then explores the ideas that underpin human rights, warning that human rights must not become an idolatry. In the spirit of Isaiah Berlin, he argues that human rights can command universal assent only if they are designed to protect and enhance the capacity of individuals to lead the lives they wish. By embracing this approach and recognizing that state sovereignty is the best guarantee against chaos, Ignatieff concludes, Western nations will have a better chance of extending the real progress of the past fifty years. Throughout, Ignatieff balances idealism with a sure sense of practical reality earned from his years of travel in zones of war and political turmoil around the globe.Based on the Tanner Lectures that Ignatieff delivered at Princeton University's Center for Human Values in 2000, the book includes two chapters by Ignatieff, an introduction by Amy Gutmann, comments by four leading scholars--K. Anthony Appiah, David A. Hollinger, Thomas W. Laqueur, and Diane F. Orentlicher--and a response by Ignatieff. (shrink)
Upholding a univocity theory of religious language does not entail idolatry, because nothing about univocity entails misidentifying God altogether—which is what idolatry amounts to. Upholders and opponents of univocity can agree on the object to which they are ascribing various attributes, even if they do not agree on the attributes themselves. Neither does the defender of univocity have to maintain that there is anything real really shared by God and creatures. Furthermore, even if much of language is analogous, (...) syllogistic argument—and hence theology’s scientific status, as accepted by the scholastics—requires univocity. (shrink)
The current paper aims at merely charting a brief outline of Jewish philosophical attitudes toward idolatry. In its first part, I discuss some chief trends in Rabbinic approach toward idolatry. In the second part, I examine the role of idolatry in the philosophy of religion of Moses Maimonides and Benedict de Spinoza, two towering figures of medieval and early modern Jewish philosophy. In the third and last part, I address the relevance of the notion of idolatry (...) to contemporary Jewish life, and argue that the early rabbinic announcement on the perishing of the inclination toward idolatry might have been premature. (shrink)
Moses Mendelssohn is considered the foremost representative of Jewish Enlightenment. In _No Religion without Idolatry_, Gideon Freudenthal offers a novel interpretation of Mendelssohn’s general philosophy and discusses for the first time Mendelssohn’s semiotic interpretation of idolatry in his _Jerusalem _and in his Hebrew biblical commentary. Mendelssohn emerges from this study as an original philosopher, not a shallow popularizer of rationalist metaphysics, as he is sometimes portrayed. Of special and lasting value is his semiotic theory of idolatry. From a (...) semiotic perspective, both idolatry and enlightenment are necessary constituents of religion. Idolatry ascribes to religious symbols an intrinsic value: enlightenment maintains that symbols are conventional and merely signify religious content but do not share its properties and value. Without enlightenment, religion degenerates to fetishism; without idolatry it turns into philosophy and frustrates religious experience. Freudenthal demonstrates that in Mendelssohn’s view, Judaism is the optimal religious synthesis. It consists of transient ceremonies of a “living script.” Its ceremonies are symbols, but they are not permanent objects that could be venerated. Jewish ceremonies thus provide a religious experience but frustrate fetishism. Throughout the book, Freudenthal fruitfully contrasts Mendelssohn's views on religion and philosophy with those of his contemporary critic and opponent, Salomon Maimon. _No Religion without Idolatry _breaks new ground in Mendelssohn studies. It will interest students and scholars in philosophy of religion, Judaism, and semiotics. "In this lucid and provocative study, Gideon Freudenthal offers an original and compelling reading of Mendelssohn as well as a defense of the possibility of religious rationalism more generally. This book is not only an excellent contribution to a growing body of scholarship on Mendelssohn and early modern philosophy, but it also significantly sharpens and advances contemporary conversations about the relations between religion and reason." —_Leora Batnitzky, Princeton University_ "In this masterful study, Gideon Freudenthal demonstrates how Mendelssohn’s philosophy, including his philosophy of religion, is grounded in semiotics. The result is a landmark work that not only successfully challenges standard interpretations of Mendelssohn’s 'enlightened Judaism' and its alleged inconsistency but also effectively invites reconsideration of the very possibility of 'religion without idolatry.'" —_Daniel O. Dahlstrom, Boston University_ "In focusing on Mendelssohn's 'semiotics of idolatry,' Gideon Freudenthal writes as a philosopher fully at home in multiple traditions: contemporary philosophy, eighteenth-century philosophy, Jewish biblical exegesis, and comparative religion. The result is a systematic and penetrating study, based on the Hebrew as well as the German texts, that engages Mendelssohn on perhaps the most critical issue of his understanding of religion with unprecedented philosophical rigor and imagination." —_David Sorkin, City University of New York Graduate Center_. (shrink)
In some of the most important recent work in religious epistemology, Paul Moser (2002, 2004, 2008) develops a multifaceted reply to a prominent attack on belief in God—what we’ll call the Hiddenness Argument. This paper raises a number of worries about Moser’s novel treatment of the Hiddenness Argument. After laying out the version of that argument Moser most explicitly engages, we explain the four main elements of Moser’s reply and argue that it stands or falls with two pieces in particular—what (...) we call the Purposively Available Evidence Argument and the Cognitive Idolatry Argument. We then show that the Cognitive Idolatry Argument fails, leaving the Purposively Available Evidence Argument as Moser’s only potentially viable objection to the Hiddenness Argument. We conclude that Moser’s treatment of the Hiddenness Argument depends crucially on some controversial epistemological claims about certain of our moral beliefs, and is thus considerably more vulnerable than many have recognized. (shrink)
The New Testament inherits its attitude toward idolatry from the Old Testament and early Judaism. In all three, idolatry is the primal sin and is connected with sexual immorality and avarice. Both Jesus, in his response to the question about tribute, and Paul,* in his treatment of food sacrificed to idols, reflect the conflict between revulsion against idolatry and the need to survive in an idolatrous world. Moreover, Paul and the Johannine literature respond to the Jewish charge (...) that Christianity itself is idolatrous. Appropriation of New Testament attitudes toward idolatry for our own pluralistic society is complicated by their variety and their apparent caricature of pagan religion. (shrink)
Saving God is a rich and provocative book. It aims to "save God" from idolatrous believers, who take God to be largely concerned with the welfare and destiny of human creatures. Banning idolatry, Johnston is led to a panentheistic conception of "the Highest One," who (or which) is not separable from Nature. With echoes of Spinoza and, to a lesser extent, Whitehead, Johnston argues that the natural world is all that there is, but, properly understood, can be seen as (...) "the site of the sacred.". (shrink)
What does it mean to love God ‘more’ than people? This article engages the difficulty of defining worship, veneration, and idolatry, by looking at C. S. Lewis's observations on the subject. Lewis offers helpful nudges towards more than a merely conceptual distinction, but he does not consistently apply his love principles to cover human love for the saints. The article concludes with eight follow-up questions that benefit philosophers and theologians alike as they seek to formulate more focused definitions of (...) worship, veneration, and idolatry. (shrink)
In three encyclicals, Pius XI denounces the abuses of totalitarian regimes: fascism, national socialism, and communism. The Pope argues that the motor of the human rights abuses operative in each regime is idolatry. Totalitarian movements have placed respectively the state, race, and class in the place of God. The prophetic defense of the rights of the persecuted entails a theological critique of the idolatrous substitutes for God and of the counterfeit Christianity fabricated by totalitarian movements.
Which is the primal sin, pride or idolatry? The Augustinian tradition highlights pride, an emphasis reinforced by theological critiques of modernity. However, the Old Testament and Romans 1 point to idolatry as the fundamental form of sin. Analysis of Augustine's account of human acts, the nature of evil, and the structure of sinful love frames a close reading of one of the most famous episodes in his Confessions, the youthful theft of pears. In this autobiographical reflection, Augustine illuminates (...) the paradox of pride. Self-love is unstable, and it resolves into the pursuit of finite goods that we wrap in the false tinsel of imagined divinity. In this way, Augustine's phenomenology of pride is consistent with the biblical consensus that idolatry is the primal expression of sin. (shrink)
Durante el segundo viaje de Colón, Ramón Pané llegó a la isla de La Española donde convivió entre los nativos y escribió un tratado sobre sus creencias y rituales. Su Relación acerca de las antigüedades de los indios terminada en 1498 es de gran valor histórico y por su labor el autor ha sido celebrado como el primer etnógrafo y etnólogo de América. Sin embargo, Pané ha sido insuficientemente explicado por la mayor parte de los académicos y no ha sido (...) reconocido por lo que más fue, un extirpador de idolatrías. El presente trabajo analiza los rasgos de extirpador que el autor ostenta en esta Relación y que, a su vez, hace de su obra una muestra inaugural de las campañas antiidolátricas en el Nuevo Mundo. During the second voyage of Columbus, Ramón Pané arrived to the island of Hispaniola where he lived among the natives and wrote a treatise on their beliefs and rituals. His Relación acerca de las antigüedades de los indios, completed in 1498, is of great historical value and the author has been celebrated as the first American anthropologist and ethnologist. However, Pané has been insufficiently explained by the majority of scholars. The friar has not been recognized for what he most was, an extirpator of idolatry. This paper analyzes the characteristics of extirpator which the author shows in his Relación which, in turn, makes his work an innaugural sample of the anti-idolatry campaigns in the New World. (shrink)
"These essays make a splendid book. Ignatieff's lectures are engaging and vigorous; they also combine some rather striking ideas with savvy perceptions about actual domestic and international politics.
Since the 1960s, metaphysics has flourished in Anglo-American philosophy. Far from wanting to avoid metaphysics, philosophers have embraced it in droves. There have been critics, to be sure; but the criticisms have received answers and the enterprise has carried on.
In his learned and insightful reading of the eighteenth-century German–Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, Gideon Freudenthal clearly wants to rescue him from total irrelevance. For Freudenthal claims that “Mendelssohn’s philosophy of Judaism—and of religion in general—can be defended and, in fact, still deserves contemporary interest” (12). But does Mendelssohn’s philosophy deserve the interest of philosophers who are interested in what is still significant in the present first for themselves and then for everybody else; or perhaps it deserves the interest only of (...) historians of ideas who are interested only in what was significant in the past for those who lived then? (Let it be assumed that a philosopher .. (shrink)
The attempt to vindicate the objectivity of morality tops the list of philosophical obsessions. In this paper I consider the rationality of searching for such a vindication. I argue that the only justification of our efforts lies in our belief in moral objectivity; that this belief can be as well, if not better, explained by wishful thinking and other cognitive biases; that as a research community we have failed to take precautions against such biases; and that as a result we (...) have been making disproportionate, and therefore irrational, efforts to establish moral objectivity. (shrink)