Chapter

Challenges for Secularism

Kitcher Philip

in Preludes to Pragmatism

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199899555
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980154 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199899555.003.0012
Challenges for Secularism

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This chapter begins with a brief review of the reasons for thinking that religious doctrines about deities and other “transcendent” entities are doomed. It then addresses the challenges for any thoroughly secular (naturalistic) perspective. Naturalists have to explain why the death of the gods (and the other inhabitants of the supernatural realm) does not undermine all values, including moral values; why it does not deprive human lives of purpose and meaning; why it does not leave us hopeless in the face of our inevitable deaths; and how we can continue to feel the uplift that oft en moves the deeply religious. The chapter shows that there are secular possibilities other than the blunt version of naturalism that acquiesces in the demise of values and purpose; that commends tough stoicism and scorns what it views as sentimentality about “uplifting experience.” There are human needs that religion has met, and the fundamental challenge for secularism cannot be turned back by blunt denial of those needs: we need positive substitutes that are freed from myth and superstition, the kinds of substitutes that (following Dewey) the chapter attempts to outline.

Keywords: religious doctrines; deities; naturalism; superstition; secularism

Chapter.  16016 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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