Friday, October 18, 2013

Natural Law Religions: Twilight of the Gods

The fourth category in Prof Harari's taxonomy of religions is what he calls the "natural law religions," including Buddhism, Jainism, Daoism, Stoicism and others. Gods take a back seat in these religions - they aren't excluded, but their importance recedes. Buddhism is the only one he discusses, but he sees the core principle as being a natural law (dhamma) - in his account, that suffering arises from craving.

The last three hundred years, he says, have seen the development of more such natural law religions. Here he singles out Communism as an example. Here as elsewhere, he applies the dual criteria of a superhuman order and norms and values derived from it. He throws in that it has sacred texts, martyrs, priests (aka commissars), and other standard symbols of religions.

For comparison, he notes that the theory of relativity doesn't count as a religion even though it posits a superhuman order to the world since we don't derive human norms and values from it.