North Western Winds

Contemplating it all from the great Pacific Northwest

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There’s a couple of interesting posts at Rod Dreher’s blog this morning. The Hubris of Atheism contains a short summary of a journey that sounds familiar:

When I was in college, I noticed something annoying: that the writers and thinkers throughout history that seemed wisest about life and how to live it were men who believed in God. They didn’t believe in God in the same way — Kierkegaard’s God is not the same as Dostoevsky’s, if you follow me — but they all believed in God. At the time, I counted myself an agnostic, and I couldn’t get away from the feeling that I was missing something. If Kierkegaard believed in God — indeed, if most educated men throughout history have believed in God — then maybe I was the one with the unsustainable presumption. Eventually this nagging thought helped drive me toward reconsidering theism, and ultimately to Christianity.

A few posts down, Rod mentions that he is working on an article on happiness and that he’ll link to it after it’s published in the Dallas paper he writes for. He writes:

The most interesting thing about recent social science findings is how they empirically vindicate the teachings of the major religions: that wealth not only doesn’t make you happy, its relentless pursuit can make you miserable. After one’s minimal material needs are met, there’s really not a big payoff in terms of happiness by getting richer. In fact, the richer you get, the more you want. It’s a never-ending cycle. Adam Smith recognized that the common illusion that wealth makes one happier can be harnessed as the engine for capitalist growth. But at some point, people have to get off what’s called the “hedonic treadmill,” or they make themselves miserable and put at risk one of the few things that make people really happy: their social relationships.

This relationship between tradition and social science is interesting in so many ways, but it seems you never hear about any of it. I suppose it lacks an impact headline, and that very religious types do not read or follow this kind of thing. It’s a shame because relating the two – provided one steers clear of the trap of thinking that religion can be made entirely empirical – has great potential as an outreach to busy, agnostic people. This is how you show that science and religion are not opposites, but merely different parts of humanity at work on similar problems.

The other point Rod raises is the relationship between working on getting things and preserving things. I’ve been convinced for many, many years that we live in a society that puts things above people, careers above families and communities. When you choose overtime over family, that is what you are doing. When you move away from family to get ahead, that’s what you’re doing. This is unsurprising fallout from a society that threw out the baby and the bathwater in the period before 1900. After all, the money and the things can be counted, but the social fabric is at best a postulate that some individuals choose to embrace. Note the liberal ideology underlying that sentence!

It’s not that empiricism and individual choice are bad things. I would never argue that. The point is – just because one unit of something is good, it doesn’t follow that three, five, or ten units are better.

Rod’s blog is at the top of my heap right now.

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Written by Curt

January 17, 2007 at 10:01 am

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