Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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Ideas as Entities: Religion, Reason, and Truth -- Historical Essays in the Philosophy of Religion by Sterling M. McMurrin
REVIEWS Ideas as Entities Religion, Reason, and Truth — Historical Essays in the Philosophy of Religion by Sterling M. McMurrin (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1982), 280 pp., $25. Reviewed by Blake T. Ostler, graduate student in law and philosophy at the University of Utah. Probably few people derive their religious beliefs or lack of them from the philosophy of religion. However, when viewed historically, it becomes clear that the philosophy of religion has greatly influenced religion in general and Christianity in particular. Sterling McMurrin's new book, Religion, Reason, and Truth, is an exploration of the historical tension between faith and reason, between what religion claims for itself and what history reveals it to be. McMurrin's thesis is that past triumphs may well be present tragedies for religion. Although McMurrin's book is a collection of independent essays, many of them previously published, it contains unifying themes. In approaching religious philosophy from the historical perspective, McMurrin is at his best, combining expertise in both the philosophy of religion and the history of philosophy. McMurrin treats ideas not merely as landmarks in a particular world view but as entities that have a life of their own. The genius of his particular approach is in searching the implications of an idea in history, its functions in thought and its impact on culture, in contrast to a socio-historical reductionism which sees an idea as a mere symptom of culture. McMurrin emphasizes that "there is no intellectual pursuit more calculated to make a free person of a normal person, to free him from his cultural bondage, and no history is more liberating than the history of religions" (p. 135). In effect, the historian has crawled out of the murky cave where the masses still mistake the shadows cast by religion for the light of truth. McMurrin places such ideas as the immortality of the soul, the moral freedom of humans, and the absoluteness of God in the light of history and the cultures which produced them. In the context of our own "enlightened" culture, McMurrin claims, these ideas cannot be honestly maintained. Although sympathetic to religion, Religion, Reason, and Truth is an extremely critical look at religion as an appendage to philosophy. More than once, McMurrin has personally intimated to me that he is a skeptic and a heretic but a religious person nevertheless. He celebrates a religious humanism that dares to face ultimate nothingness with present courage, that dares to follow reason where the heart fears to tread, that shuns the naivete that characterized early liberal religion but which refuses to resort to existentialistic irrationalism. He is incensed by traditional absolutism which raises God above reason and lowers man below morality. "The God of the fundamentalist is an arbitrary tyrant," McMurrin charges. "He has created a world that groans in pain and suffering, accepts the blood of his own son as payment for his mercy, and creates souls to burn in hell eternally," and this despite his omnipotence (p. 99). McMurrin is equally critical of the liberal theologian who refuses to honestly confront the conflict between the theory of evolution and claims of Christianity. A Christian must believe that "Christ came into the world to save souls who had fallen from godliness, not risen from a distant cousin of the ape or from some primeval slime. The liberals have