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Friday, December 7, 2012

There Are Only Two Kinds Of People

“Never before in history has mankind been so much of two minds, so divided into two camps, as it is today.”

Sounds like America of 2012. Actually it's the opening sentence from A Common Faith, written in 1934 by John Dewey.  

The division Dewey referred to was the rift between people “who think the advance of culture and science has completely discredited the supernatural,” and those who believe in a Supernatural Being, and “an immortality that is beyond the power of nature.” 

Dewey embraced materialism, which claims matter is all that is, was, or ever shall be. So when we die, we’re done. Period. Moral order is not prescribed from above, but created from among us. Purpose is what humans alone determine it to be.  

Yet in A Common Faith, Dewey argues materialists are religious. He says you don’t have to believe in the supernatural to be religious. He signed the first Humanist Manifesto, which declares, "the time has passed for theism," and, "we consider the religious forms and ideas of our fathers no longer adequate," but Dewey was a religious devotee, committed to a different faith: a non-theistic, non-supernatualistic faith.

Dewey admitted that understanding how a non-supernaturalist can be religious is difficult for many. So he distinguished between a religious “outlook,” and particular religions. He argued it isn’t necessary to subscribe to a supernaturalist religion to have a truly religious outlook, to be a  religious person, or to partake in religious "functions" of non-supernaturalist faith. He's right!

Dewey further said, "Faith in the continued disclosing of truth through directed cooperative human endeavor is more religious in quality than is any faith in a completed revelation.” Dewey was committed to the outworking of social pragmatism through public schools, a "directed cooperative human endeavor" that continually "disclosed truth," apart from "a completed revelation." Good-bye Comenius.

Dewey called his religious faith "the common faith of mankind," and ends his book with, "It remains to make it explicit and militant."

Dewey’s “case for faith” brings up sticky questions with respect to the practice of faith in public schools. While it is possible to separate church from public school, is it possible to separate faith from public school?

G.K. Chesterton said, "In truth, there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogma and know it, and those who accept dogma and don't know it."

I'll expand on this next.

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