In conversation with Bill Moyers recently (March 12 Bill Moyers Journal segment “God, Science and Baseball”), NYU president John Sexton said this: “It’s self-evident that there are important things that are not reducible to the cognitive.” He mentioned the fact that he and his late wife hadn’t proven their love to one another with reason. He also mentioned the “ineffable transportation to another plane” that occurs when we’re moved by what’s “approached through music and poetry and mythos.” I take it that he was referring to the divine.
How refreshing it is to hear a man in Sexton’s position, with his pedigree and influence, make such statements.
I bailed on a discussion group a few weeks ago when it became clear to me that the group leader was more interested in parsing religious verses than revealing spiritual truth. I’d asked that the group consider the question, “Are spiritual matters more appropriately deduced than intuited?” and, when I got the group email informing me that this topic had been declined in favor of what was essentially Bible study … well … that’s what filters are for. (Besides, he’d told me I was going to Hell.)
As I’ve said before, though not in so many words, reason-based faith sounds to me as oxymoronic as faith-based reason. I might add, as religious scholar and former nun Karen Armstrong said during the March 13, 2009 edition of Bill Moyers Journal, religious intolerance “is pure ego.” Founder of an organization called “The Charter for Compassion,” she tells this story:
“Rabbi Hillel, the older contemporary of Jesus, said that when asked to sum up the whole of Jewish teaching, while he stood on one leg, said, ‘The Golden Rule. That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the Torah. And everything else is only commentary. Now, go and study it.'”