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Culture & Religion

Absolute Trust in Our Senses: How to Build a System of Principles Without Religion

What would it take to create a system of principles that guide our behavior without a religious grounding?

What would it take to create a system of principles that guide our behavior without a religious grounding? Lex Bayer, a non-profit organizer, and John Figdor, a chaplain, who both serve the Stanford University community, boldly attempt to find out in their book Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart. The two begin by establishing the assumptions such a system would require since, as they adroitly argue, overcoming philosohpical skepticism is not a realistic goal. 

Bayer and Figdor take a cue from fourteenth-century philosopher and theologian William of Ockham, whose Ockham’s razor holds that the explanation requiring the fewest assumptions while explaining all of the facts is most likely to be correct.

From this position they arrive at three core assumptions:

1. An external reality exists.

2. Our senses perceive this external reality.

3. Language and thought are tools for describing and understanding what our senses perceive.

After some argumentation, the authors arrive at these more developed assumptions which they hold absolutely true:

1. An external reality exists, and “truth” signifies an accurate description of that reality.

2. Our five senses are our only means for perceiving this reality.

3. Language and thought offer ways to analyze, communicate about, and contemplate the nature of reality.

    Here, author and journalist Robert Wright addresses the question of whether or not humans must abandon religion to achieve true moral progress:

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    Read more at Salon

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