IRAS (Institute of Religion in an Age of Science) Workshop, Star Island, Portsmouth, NH, July 29 & 31, 2001
"THE SPIRITUAL SITUATION IN OUR TECHNICAL SOCIETY"
Paul H. Carr
We will compare the spiritual situation of the 1950s, as described by Paul Tillich, with that of the present, expressed by Houston Smith (1). We will hear and discuss audiotapes of the spirited dialogue (confrontation?) between Smith, sage of the world religions, who is critical of scientism and evolution, and Ursula Goodenough's and Ian Barbour's defense of evolution. These talks at the American Academy of Religion Meeting on 19 November 2000 were published in the June 2001 issue of "ZYGON." Theologian Paul Tillich was well known enough in 1959 to make the cover of TIME MAGAZINE. In Tillich's 1958 "Saturday Evening Post" article "The Lost Dimension in Religion," he lamented the loss of the transcendent "vertical" dimension of religious meaning and purpose to the "horizontal" dimension, which enables us to control the physical world. We will examine the relevance of his thinking to the spiritual situation in our own time.
WHY RELIGION MATTERS:
THE FATE OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT IN AN AGE OF DISBELIEF
"I am angry at us--modern Westerners who, forsaking clear thinking have allowed ourselves to be so obsessed with life's material underpinnings that we have written science a blank check. I am talking about science's claim concerning what constitutes knowledge and justified belief."
"This is our spiritual crisis along with those of our environment, population explosion, the widening gulf between rich and poor."
"The culprit is not science but the misuse of it i.e. scientism."
"We have not distinguished between COSMOSMOLOGY ,knowledge of the physical universe, (Tillich's HORIZONTAL Dim) and
METAPHYSICS,understanding the whole of things, including the possibility of a world beyond the realm of science
(Tillich's VERTICAL Dimesnsion)
THE LOST DIMENSION IN RELIGION
The Saturday Evening Post (June 14, 1958)
"Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt. ….It is the state of being concerned about one's own being and being universally. "
"If we define religion as the state of being grasped by an infinite concern, we must say: Man in our time has lost such infinite concern."
"The loss of the dimension of depth is caused by the relation of man to his world and to himself in our period, the period in which nature is being subjected scientifically and technically to the control of man. Life in the dimension of depth is replaced by life in the HORIZONTAL dimension. The driving forces of the industrial society of which we are a part, go ahead HORIZONTALLY and not VERTICALLY. … The predominance of the HORIZONTAL dimension over the DIMENSION OF DEPTH has been immensely increased by the opening of space beyond the space of the earth."
"If the dimension of depth is lost, the symbols in which life in this dimension has expressed itself must also disappear."
"If the symbol of CREATION, which points to the divine ground of everything, is transferred to the HORIZONTAL plane, it becomes a story of events in a removed past for which there is no evidence, but which contradicts every piece of scientific evidence."
"If the idea of GOD, which expresses man's ultimate concern is transferred to the HORIZONTAL plane, God becomes a being among others, whose existence or nonexistence is a matter of inquiry."
"Under these pressures, MAN can hardly escape the fate of becoming a THING AMONG THE THING he produces, a bundle of conditioned reflexes without a free, deciding and responsible self. The immense mechanism transforms man himself into an object used by the same mechanism of production and consumption."
IS THERE AN ANSWER?
"The religious answer always has the character "in spite of." In spite
of the loss of dimension of depth, its power is still present, and most
present in those who are aware of the loss and are striving to regain it
with ultimate seriousness."