Opinion | Modern-Day Unbelievers, and Believers

To the Editor:

Re “Can the Meritocracy Find God?” (column, April 11):

Ross Douthat bemoans the secularism of many educated people, rightly sensing that some crucial, deeper perspective is missing today. He equates that perspective with Christianity or at least a “biblical framework.” But all major religions are inadequate to the spiritual needs of today.

Secularism is a step in escaping from ancient religions, but it had better not be the last one. Like our ancestors, we humans are going to need inspiration and shared motivation to survive. The next step is to expand our spiritual perspective to encompass the astonishing place of intelligent beings like us in an evolving cosmos of dark matter and dark energy.

The cosmic context of our planet provides the first large-scale perspective on the meaning of our moment in global history and the scale of our own reverberations into the future. The real miracle is that cosmologists have actually discovered this, the only story equally true for everyone on Earth.

If ever there were a time to rethink the meaning and power and possibly saving grace of human spirituality, it is now.

Nancy Ellen Abrams
Santa Cruz, Calif.
The writer, a philosopher, is the author of “A God That Could Be Real.”

To the Editor:

Ross Douthat wonders what it will take for the meritocracy to find God. As he muses about different ways for intelligent, educated people, like himself, to find a path to God he doesn’t mention the historical role of religion, to make the world make sense, as well as the political one, to control society.

These days, when faced with a difficult problem, some may turn to prayer, but prayer did not give us the vaccines that are solving our latest existential problem. Instead, most rely on the many years of applying considered knowledge, problem-solving and wisdom for answers.

When one looks at modern religious life, one sees scant evidence of these qualities other than as a place to meditate, take our money, and sometimes abuse our children. Is it a mystery why organized religion is declining?

George Loisos
Alameda, Calif.

To the Editor:

I’m surprised that any column so cogent, engaging, intellectually sound and independent found its way into this or any other newspaper. Judging by the comments I read, it was swiftly rejected and beaten down as apostasy to High Church Progressivism by the very people to whom it is directed.

Tom Hopkins
Claremont, Calif.

To the Editor:

Having faith is always a leap into the unknown. Meritocrats want to excel at it as they do at everything else. They want to achieve faith, be certain of it, know that it is true. They want to own it. When they can’t, they give up on it.

It is hard to accept that faith is not something we can control or possess like a thing; we can only aspire to it with hope. For that, we have before us the vivid example of a pure faith in the ministry of Jesus himself, the man who turned every notion of power and leadership upside down.

We can only wonder at the depth of his humility and love. Few can approach it, but he welcomes, open-armed, anyone who tries and continues to care for those who turn away.

Margaret McGirr
Greenwich, Conn.

To the Editor:

Regarding Ross Douthat’s reflections on finding God, perhaps the issue is not whether secularists can sense the value of religion but that the concept of the spiritual has changed and is no longer dictated by the metaphysical vestiges of religion.

Among certain groups of society the meaning of being spiritual is now determined by the values of the Enlightenment: curiosity coupled with observations and hypotheses that can be argued about and, if necessary, abandoned and renewed.

The spiritual is thus founded on the perseverance of inquiry rather than on the wishfulness of hope, with inquiry being as solid a basis for social organization and charitable action as what’s on offer from theistically based faiths.

Joseph Eckenrode
Lititz, Pa.

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