Toward the Present: How Spirituality Became Modern

Roger S. Gottlieb

in Spirituality

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199738748
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979349 | DOI:
Toward the Present: How Spirituality Became Modern

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This chapter examines key cultural changes which have allowed spiritual insights, values, and practices to detach from traditional religious beliefs about the literal truth of belief in God or particular scriptures. John Locke's theory of toleration and the privatization of religion following the Enlightenment are discussed. There is an extended examination of Kierkegaard's concept of faith as developed in Fear and Trembling, and his more general concept of subjectivity, and it is shown that these concepts provide a model of contemporary spirituality's emphasis on acceptance and gratitude, and do not require belief in any particular theology. The conclusion is that metaphysics are dispensable. If they help to orient you to a Godly life, to prayer “with the entire passion of the infinite,” they have done their job. If you have not reached that level of passion, you will be worshipping an idol no matter what you say you believe.

Keywords: spirituality; the enlightenment; Locke on toleration; Kierkegaard; religious metaphysics; knight of faith; subjectivity; modernity

Chapter.  4709 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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