Saint Augustine




Thomas Aquinas


What seems to be totally lacking in the awareness contemporary fundamentalists and their stunted latter day versions of our great Western religious traditions — Judaism, Christianity, Islam — is the profound history of great minds who have put our primitive religious texts in humane and comprehensive intellectual settings. I have listed 5 of the greats above who lived between the 5th. century (Augustine) and during what is generally denominated the Middle Ages — the great theologian/scientists of Islam — Avicenna and Averroes — the commanding Jewish scholar, Maimonides, and Thomas Aquinas.

For the record, science did not come into existence with Darwin’s theory of evolution — it developed over many centuries stemming back to the ancient Greek philosophers — Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and others preceding and following them who pondered the ultimate nature of reality — and a whole line of less well known figures who added to and corrected out human understanding of things down through the ages. Comparable explorations were going on very early on in the Middle and Far East. Human understanding evolved in time. Our world’s religions did not start and end with the primitive and often brutal texts scribbled by priestly minds of yore.

We must understand that our fundamentalists of today are rejecting the human intellect as our only true guide to humane morals and a viable understanding of things. One small illustration is the crude attack on stem cell research (a presidential veto no less!) which may offer us — G-d given — scientific breakthroughs for healing some of our major human illnesses?

St. Augustine’s words cited in the subject heading above give reasonable guidelines for religious faith. We believe whatever we do in order to understand the nature of things and what we should be doing. If our beliefs lead us to do hateful things — killings, wars, torture — then something is drastically wrong with our beliefs. We must start again and correct them with common sense and the best understanding of things that we can achieve.

I watched yesterday a group of Christian fundamentalists cheering at hate inducing things. I also saw another of Christiane Amanpour’s insightful series on “God’s Warriors.” As I have watched them, it has been apparent that those who would launch culture wars against others who disagree with their credos are extremely dangerous. Their hate crimes writ large can produce genocidal catastrophes! Beware! The road to hell is paved with pseudo religious intentions. “Ye shall judge them by their acts!”

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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