Healthy self-criticism

John Cobb, in his 2010 book Spiritual Bankruptcy, notes that sometimes those who practice a particular religion may tempted think that their way is “the only way.” The great church historian Roland Bainton noted that “the worst wars are religious wars.” Extreme competition can be deadly.

Against this backdrop, Cobb offers a refreshingly different view, speaking for those of varying faiths who are engaging in the process of secularizing:

We are secularizers who believe that the deepest element in our traditional Ways focuses on actual betterment of conditions in this world. We believe that we are most faithful to our own Ways when we are most open to the wisdom of others as well. We believe that we are liberated by our tradition to evaluate critically every aspect of it. We believe that through secularizing our traditions, we can contribute to the urgently needed responses to the threat of disaster that becomes ever more imminent.

How would you describe “the deepest element in our traditional Ways?”

From “The Worlds Major Religiousities,” by The Best Schools, August 30, 2022

2 thoughts on “Healthy self-criticism”

  1. The concept of secularizing is becoming clearer, but it is such a unfamiliar term to me that it is going to take a while to absorb it. As to what do I think is the best part of our traditional way, it is having faith that God can use us to do great things because he has given us his powers and his love to use for good. A paraphrase of Jesus: what you have seen me do, you can do and even greater.


    1. Well ssaid. As I see it, Cobb’s process of secularization is a way of “de-sacralizing” practices, ideas or beliefs that are generally considered holy, but one deems to be unhealthy, destructive, or perhaps “unholy.”

      It’s a de-masking, of sorts. I think it’s another way to expose the harmful aspects of what some people see as religious or holy. Some folks see Christian nationalism as holy, but I see that movement as an example of a “religious” concept that needs to be exposed as unhealthy and destructive—and (in my view) not sacred. I would “de-sacralize” it the way Amos dealt with the powers of the Northern Kingdom.

      Liked by 1 person

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