Posted by: Jennie Z | March 23, 2009

Readings and Questions for Ward

Pages to Read:

25-44; 53-55; 69-73; 89-91; 95-98; 109-117

all of chapters nine and ten (pp 155-200)

Comprehension Questions:

1. How does Ward define materialism and idealism?

2. Ward lists 3 criteria for what makes acceptance of a worldview reasonable. What are they?

3. Upon what does Ward propose morality should be founded?

4. In what way does Ward use Aquinas to defend religion?

5. How does Ward defend religious texts against the New Atheists?

6. Explain how Ward describes malevolence and pure evil. How does he separate religion from the cause of these?

7. What distinction does Ward make between religion itself, and actions carried out in the name of religion?

8. Based on the material in chapter nine, how does Ward’s understanding of the relationship between consciousness and our physical composition differ from that of the New Atheists?

9. What are some of the things that Ward suggests religions need to do to further facilitate inter-religious discussion and understanding?

10. What is the “commonality rule?”

Discussion Questions:

1. Ward claims that there are “unevidenced beliefs…beliefs that are so basic that there are no other beliefs on which they could be based or from which they could be inferred. We get them by no observation.” In light of this, what is your reaction to following statement: “Love, like other subjective experiences, is an interpersonal feeling. It has no choice to be publicly observable. The ‘subjective’ part is merely our personal experience in the world shaping that public observation.”

2. What is your reaction to the hypothetical conversation? How does your agreement/disagreement with the conclusions made in the conversation affect your view regarding how we come to know things? Is this different than how we may come to know God? If so, how? Why?

3. Ward says that religion and morality do not cause conflict, that only our commitment to belief in them causes conflict. If it weren’t for our belief in or commitment to religion and morality, what would they even be? Would religion and morality even exist if no one was committed to them?

4. What do you think about the morality of religious texts? Can we get our morality from them, or do you agree with Harris that they are too difficult to interpret and must all be dismissed? How would you respond to someone that used the Bible to support a moral idea that was, in your opinion, bad?

5. Ward spends a considerable amount of time highlighting the distinction between religion and actions committed because of erroneous interpretations of religion. In other words, it is the way that religion is used that is dangerous, and not necessarily religion itself. Considering that something negative is still resulting from religion, is it helpful to make this distinction?

6. As one of his possibilities to reduce the dangers of religion, Ward suggests that “a greater effort should be made to identify those elements in religious systems that are liable to misuse, and to provide effective internal defenses against such misuse.” (pg 62) If all human thought is subject to corruption, how do we determine what these elements are? Furthermore, Ward argues that other social institutions, such as politics, are subject to the same corruption that religion faces. If this is true, should we throw them all out? Where does it stop?

7. Do you think that the cause of pure evil is simply the lack of faith in existence? How would you describe pure evil? Can you think of any religion that would condone acts of pure evil?

8. Ward claims that religion can help guard against the corruptibility of humanity.  Can you think of an example of this in your own life?

9. Ward points out the psychological benefits of religion. How do these correlate with the call to die to oneself, to take up our cross, and to give away everything for the sake of the good news? Has living this call to personal sacrifice made you more satisfied with life?


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