They Said It Wasn’t Religious

David Stertz
November 9, 2017

Last month I listened to an episode of EconTalk, a podcast I regularly tune into that deals with the subject of Economics. I highly recommend the podcast if you want to learn about Economics. This particular installment was an interview with Robert Wright who has recently written a book titled “Why Buddhism is true: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment.” The conversation was largely about meditation and mindfulness. In the opening moments, the interviewer, Russ Roberts, stated “despite the title…this is not really a religious book.” Wright responded “You are right: the book isn’t about the kind of most plainly religious parts of Buddhism…the parts that are often considered supernatural like reincarnation. I do focus on claims you can evaluate from the standpoint of modern psychology and philosophy.”

In one sense, I understand what they were saying. True to his word, Mr. Wright did not, nor did the conversation deal with reincarnation. However, both Roberts and Wright embraced a modern deception that many simply assume to be true: we can view the world without the lens of religion.  Their conversation proved this belief to be false.

One of the most glaring examples came fairly early in the conversation. Wright, in speaking about the essence of things and mediating on them spoke of his experience of considering a particular weed. He stated “I would say it is just objectively not true that the weed is ugly. Because beauty–that’s an entirely subjective thing. So, if you don’t think it’s ugly, it’s not ugly.” There is not a more religiously loaded statement than this one.

You see, Wright openly declared that there is no such thing as objective or absolute beauty. Beauty, in the common parlance, “is in the eye of the beholder” for Wright. The converse must also be true for Wright – ugliness is in the eye of the beholder.

This belief is explicitly religious and rejects the Christian worldview and its core values. Christians believe that there are such things as objective truth, objective goodness, and objective beauty. Truth, goodness, and beauty absolutely exist not because of the eye of the beholder but because of the glory of their Maker. The Bible itself declares in Psalm 29:2 “Give unto the LORD the glory due to HIs name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” When David penned that psalm he was not saying “if you think or feel God is in his glory and holiness is beautiful, then go ahead and worship him as such. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Rather, David declares – in fact demands – that we worship God because of the beauty of his holiness. God is beautiful in holiness and we must come to grip with its reality.

Religion cannot be stripped away from our view and understanding of the world. It is present everywhere and in nearly every conversation. Just about every week I listen to EconTalk. I find the discussions insightful, interesting, and sometimes provocative. I do not listen to them as I would a sermon from a preacher. But I listen with ears that know that certain values – religious at their core – will come screaming through. This is true even when the host, or anyone else tells me, “this isn’t religious.”