Abstract of IRAS Workshop, June 2011, Chautauqua, NH

Does economics impact what we consider ethical and whether we accept evolution?

Why was slavery not an ethical issue until the beginning of the
industrial revolution? St. Paul wrote: "Slaves obey your earthly masters
Ephesians 6:5)." For Karl Marx, economics was the basic determining factor of human history and of what is regarded as ethical.

Is gambling ethical or economical? Is getting something for nothing ethical? Is State-supported gambling a regressive form of taxation?

Is fundamentalist religion the opium of the people? Biblical literalists raised $26 M to build the Creation Science Museum in Petersburg, KY, a region where the median family income is $37,554, down 2.8% from 1980 (1). In contrast, the moneyed suburbs with broader science education have family incomes of $59,404, up 5.6% from 1980.

While listening to an account of the scientific story of the universe as a sacred epic, Rev. Michael Dowd had an epiphany that changed him from an anti-Darwinian to an evolutionary evangelist. (See Prologue, Personal Journey of his book THANK GOD FOR EVOLUTION: How the Marriage of Science & Religion can Transform Your Life & Our World.)

Can our “free” economy survive the increasing gap between the rich and the poor?  The MIT Press Book, "Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology & Unequal Riches," concludes that increasing income inequality is correlated with increased political polarization. Income inequality contributes to the revolutions sweeping the Arab world.

  1. The Atlantic, April 2011, “The 12 States of America: Since 1980 income inequality has fractured the nation.”

For Evening Worship Service at IRAS

From Paul Tillich's My Search for Absolutes.

"Love in its character of agape is the absolute moral principle, the ethical absolute for which we were searching. However, to be correctly understood it must be purged of many wrong connotations. Love as agape has the basic principle of justice within itself. If people deny justice to others but say that they love them, they miss completely the meaning of agape. They combine injustice with sentimentality and call this love. Agape also must not be confused with other qualities of love: libido, friendship, compassion, pity, eros. Certainly agape is related to and can be combined with all of them, but it also judges all of them. Its greatness is that it accepts and tolerates the other person even if he is unacceptable to us and we can barely tolerate him. Its aim is a union that is more than a union on the basis of sympathy or friendship, a union even in spite of enmity. Loving one’s enemies is not sentimentality; the enemy remains an enemy. In spite of this, he is not only acknowledged as a person; he is united with me in something that is above him and me, the ultimate ground of the being (God) in each of us.

Agape is the absolute moral principle, the "star" above the chaos of relativism. However, we need more than one star to guide us. A second is the concrete situation to which love turns in a way I like to call "listening love." "Listening love" is a listening to and looking at the concrete situation in all its concreteness, which includes the deepest motives of the other person. Today we can understand the inner situation of another person better than people could in earlier periods. We have the help of psychological and sociological insights into the internal as well as the external conditions of an individual’s predicament. These can be of aid to agape in its listening to and looking at the concrete situation."

The Clod & the Pebble” by William Blake (1757 – 1827).

"Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a heaven in hell's despair."

So sung a little Clod of Clay,
Trodden with the cattle's feet,
But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:

"Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another's loss of ease,
And builds a hell in heaven's despite."