If “God is dead”, what place do meaning and morality have in our lives? And why do new forms of belief continue to sprout and grow?
In this issue of IAI News, we explore the ongoing proliferation in new forms of belief. Sociologist Eileen Barker charts the return of the pagans across the UK, US and Europe while, much more worryingly, journalist John Lloyd issues a wake-up call to the reality of terrorism and the existential threats facing western culture and values. “Put together money, expertise and an Islamist-nihilist philosophy,” he says, “and you have a weapon of huge destructive power.”
In the light of such religious debates, three contributors tackle our relationship with meaning and reality. Each accepts that there is a world out there that, in principle at least, we can understand and engage with. But the question is: how? One answer is through the imagination: If our imaginations shape our reality, asks behavioural scientist Dylan Evans, do we need to conjure new visions of better worlds? Or will this impede real progress?
A second is through language: we use language every day to communicate with others and understand the world, says philosopher Emma Borg. So why do we now distrust it so much? Anthropologist Daniel Everett seeks to understand these problems from an evolutionary perspective. Could evolution explain why language works? And why it will always be limited?
And finally, former-clergyman, now writer and teacher Mark Vernon takes us back to Ancient Greece in search of goodness. We tend to think that goodness is a moral judgment, he says. Could Plato help us understand the joys of virtue?
Image credit: Cobalt123