religion

Robert Peter Burns rburns at chaph.usc.edu
Fri Dec 8 00:09:06 MST 1995


James Miller doesn't convince me, surprise, surprise.
Here's why: 

a) as the article from Against the Current
which I quoted clearly shows, it was committed Catholics,
*not* any "Bolshevik" party, who showed the necessary leadership 
and drive and analytic accuracy in organizing Brazilian landless
workers.  Moreover as the article indicates, it was this 
leadership which was instrumental in *intensifying*, not shying
away from, class struggle.  Thousands of committed Catholic
progressives--laypeople, priests, and nuns--have remained true
to that struggle at the cost of their lives.  The same is true
wherever liberation theology has been active.  Religious faith
doesn't in any of these cases lead to fleeing from the implications
of class struggle.  On the contrary, it leads to that struggle in
its most intense form for the individuals involved.  Ask sister
Dianne Ortiz--she has 113 cigarette burns on her back to show for
it.  Ask the thousands of others like her.  Ask the dead!

b) James' concept of evidence is scientistic.  If all evidence
is the evidence provided by scientists however, then there is
no place not only for religion, but also for philosophy or any
knowledge justified in virtue of rational philosophical reflection
as such.  This rules out of court a very large portion of Marx's
and Engels' own writings.  And personally, I have far more evidence
for the reality of God than I have for most of my beliefs.  Twice
in my life I have had extraordinarily powerful experiences of God, 
and I know personally a surprisingly large number of other people with 
similar experiences to relate.  I have also read of many such 
experiences.  For these and for other, more philosophical reasons
I find that to accept an atheistic view of the universe, or to believe
that all the marvels of experience and nature are the result of blind
chance and/or material determinism requires an act of faith greater than
I am capable of mustering.  I find that for me, personally, such a
view is literally incredible.  Others obviously have less difficulty,
and find my views equally incredible.  But then their evidence is
not my evidence, and my evidence is not theirs.  This problem is
intimately related to the philosophical problem of "qualia" which 
I  mentioned to the list a while back <see "Being in the world" etc>.
It is very hard to deny that qualia--our subjective, qualitative 
experiences of ourselves and and the world--are real (after all, if *they*
aren't real, then we couldn't have any basis for thinking that anything
*else* was real); and yet it is equally hard to see how there could
be a "science" of qualia, because qualia as such are not objects in
the natural world investigatable by the methods of natural science.
I can't "observe" your qualia--e.g. I can't feel your pain.  More
generally I can't "observe" your experiences.  This is putting it
at its simplest--I only want to indicate the nature of the problem.
This problem by the way is probably the hottest one in contemporary
analytic philosophy. 

Peter
rburns at scf.usc.edu


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