“Judeo-Christian” or Dysfunctionally Humanistic?

A Religious Liberal Blog critiques a Dennis Prager column.


One major conflict between the Judeo-Christian value system and the various secular ones competing with it revolves around the answers to these questions: Is nature created for man or is man merely a part of nature? Or, to put it in other words, does the natural environment have any significance without man to appreciate it and to use it for his good?

The Judeo-Christian responses are clear: Nature has been created for man’s use; and on its own, without man, it has no meaning. Dolphins are adorable because human beings find them adorable. Without people to appreciate them or the role they play in the earth’s ecosystem to enable human life, they are no more adorable or meaningful than a rock on Pluto.

Religious Liberal:

ccording to Prager, “Nature has been created for man’s use; and on its own, without man, it has no meaning.” This sounds like a pernicious form of humanism.

Why? Because it locates value soley within the mind of humans, as if there was no relationship determined by the environment. If I like ice cream it’s not simply me imposing this on the food, it’s because there are particular ingredients such as chocolate that is agreeable. If it was made of sludge it’d be awful and no amount of imposition by my mind could change this. There are elements in the valued and the valuer, which make up value.

Also Prager looks to human beings and our valuations to determine the importance of others, using human utility as the standard. Monotheism looks to God to determine the importance of any one thing not human likes or dislikes. Augustine’s example is that of a spider. Humans find little use for such a creature, many kinds of spiders are poisonous and at best they are a nuisance for us.

But the spider’s ultimate value is not determined by human likes or dislikes. Rather the spider’s value is in relation to God and God’s aims in the world including the whole complex eco-system of which the spider plays it’s part. That is God is concerned with the good of the whole and sometimes that may or may not be agreeable to humans. But monotheism pushes us to think of the whole to move beyond our likings to a greater vision of the good.

But Prager would have us forgo this believing that the cosmos was created for human beings. But that’s an odd reading of Genesis where God declares the creation good well before humans were created. And in Romans 8:21-22, Paul writes of the salvation story as including the whole universe, not just humans. And the evolutionary account precludes such a human centric reading of our standing in the cosmos.

I highlight this piece because it’s important to not confuse right wing politics with orthodoxy.