Friday, April 30, 2010

Rawls on Religion

I love Rawls.  Love.  I love the least from what I've heard about him from folks who knew him.  I love his theories.  I love his writing. 

I just read part of the most recent book published of his writings.  It's a book on his views on religion.  One of the fascinating things about the book was the discussion about whether to publish it.  It's his undergraduate thesis (yes, his undergraduate thesis) and a piece he wrote in 1997, but didn't attempt to publish, about his views on religion at the time.  The question was whether to publish these things given that he, obviously, hadn't published them.  All those who participated in the discussion pretty much decided that he would not have wanted these things published (seeing as they were not polished either in writing or argument) but they also decided that publishing these things would not harm his stature and would serve to bring light to him as a person (and probably generate another couple hundred dissertations on him — in a good way).

Anyway, I read the intro and the piece written in 1997 (skipped the undergraduate thesis and the commentary because, well, who wants to read an undergraduate thesis that will just make you feel like your stuff is horrible when compared to that which a 21 year old wrote? Yes, I do  refuse to read Mill and Hume's works written when they were mere children.  No I don't, but I do feel like a failure when I read the stuff they wrote when they were youngsters).  It was interesting — he rejected orthodox Christianity (but not Christianity as a whole) and embraced an ecumenical, we should be working on understanding religious beliefs position — not surprising at all.

I found myself feeling a bit sad for Rawls because so many people have written so much, in theology, dealing with the issues that led him to reject orthodox religion (the problem of evil and the injustice of predestination) that it seems he could have really benefited, personally, be being parts of those conversations.  Here's a guy who left for WWII intent on becoming a priest and returned turning to secular philosophical writing.  The personal cost of that which changed his mind would have been enormous and being part of the wider conversation of folks who struggled and made meaning may have really benefited him. 

Yes, I'm completely guessing Rawls' emotional state. 

Quite frankly I think most everyone would benefit from reading what's really going on in theology then they could stop being so stupid about religion.


GTChristie said...


GTChristie said...

I really like this post and you've rekindled my interest in Rawls, who was pointed out to me "way back when" yet I never quite paid attention. Please come visit my blogsite again soon. The currently ongoing essay may interest you and even if not, at least you can see where I come from. -GC