The Corner

Re: Why Altruism Suggests God

I appreciate John O’ Sullivan’s reacting to my post about Rabbi Sacks’s New York Times column on religion and altruism. But I think he is reading a little too much into the point I was making. To be sure, I believe that it can be extremely beneficial for a society to be religious — although I do believe the value or detriment of religion depends on the tenets of the faith in question. Moreover, the idea that Sacks was expressing a blasphemous notion about religion’s utility never occurred to me.  

I think the key sentence in Sacks’s piece is not the penultimate one that John quoted about God perhaps having a little joke in the face of Darwinism. That seems something of a hedge. Rather, I think the last sentence contains his actual thought on the matter, to wit: ”It certainly shows that the free societies of the West must never lose their sense of God.”

But how does the West prevent losing their sense of God — note he doesn’t use stronger terms such as “belief” or “faith” — except by supporting the inculcation of genuine devotion? If we are to avoid Elmer Gantryism, it must be actually believed. To put it another way, maintaining a sense of God toward the end of promoting altruism would be a facade easily discerned. It just wouldn’t work.   

I am not saying that Sacks doesn’t want people to genuinely believe. And it isn’t anything to get raised blood pressure over. But I don’t think we will get very far promoting belief for its societal utility. The social utility comes from the belief. 

Recommended

The Latest

Rat Patrol

Rat Patrol

Illegal leaks of classified information should be treated as a serious offense. But they would be easier to prevent if less information were classified.