Perspectives on Natural Religion

Panel Chair: T. Brian Mooney
Featured Panellists: Wayne Cristaudo, John N. Williams, Dixon Wong Heung Wah & T. Brian Mooney

The “Natural” in Natural Religion and What is Mythic about Modern Faith

Wayne Cristaudo

This paper draws upon the insights of Giambattista Vico, J. G. Hamann and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy amongst others. It explores the relationship that gods and spirits play in orientation in humanity’s earliest social formations. It emphasises a number of “natural” insights into “world-participation” that are driven out by metaphysics (especially in its modern incarnation) with its reconstitution and “disenchantment” of the “natural”. It also makes the argument that Judaism and Christianity as world-making powers incorporate, and are thus continuous in important ways with, some fundamental features of “natural” religion. It concludes by contrasting archaic and modern faith in light of the secularised horizon of humans as natural beings.

Proving the Non-existence of God

John N. Williams

I consider three arguments for the non-existence of God that appeal to the nature of God rather than to contingent features of the world. I call the first of these the Humean argument from non-necessity, roughly that since no thing exists necessarily, and if God exists then he exists necessarily, God necessarily does not exist. The second is the argument from omnipotence, roughly that any omnipotent being has the power to do anything logically possible, including the power to relinquish her omnipotence, but since God is necessarily eternal, she lacks that logically possible power and so cannot exist as an omnipotent being. The third is the argument from the “ungodly proposition”, (UG) inspired by G. E. Moore’s example of believing both that it is raining and that I do not believe that it is raining. (UG) is (UG) I do not believe this proposition UG enables a proof that there can be no being that is both omniscient and rational in all her beliefs. I show that the soundness of the Humean argument is objectionable and that the argument from omnipotence can be derailed via a principled restriction on God’s omnipotence plus a distinction between the divine office of God and the individual that occupies it. But I also show that there is no escape from the argument from the ungodly proposition. In particular, that argument is undamaged by appeals to self-reference.

Reflections on Commonalities in Natural Religions

T. Brian Mooney

This paper examines some key commonalities in the theory and practice of Natural Religion.

Ancestor Worship, Gift and Kinship are Magic in Chinese Culture

Dixon Wong Heung Wah

This paper attempts to challenge the assumed idea of the separation among the categories of religion, kinship and gift-giving through a symbolic analysis of the native concepts of Chinese kinship: fang/Jia-zu, ch’i, and tsung. fang emphasises a son’s conjugal status, designating the son or the son and his wife as a unit or all his male descendants and their wives as a kin set (Chen 1986: 55-6). Metaphorically, fang thus takes on the meaning of the genealogical status of a son as a conjugal unit in relation to his father. Jia-zu is a blend of jia and zu. Jia refers to a co-resident, commensal group, whereas zu is a genealogical notion referring to the sets of agnates and their wives regardless of their functional aspects (Chen, 1986: 64). Taken together jia-zu refers to the genealogical status of father in relation to son. Ch’i refers to the vital essence of human life which flows from father to son and to all of his male descents (Shiga, 1978, p. 123). Tsung means a genius of people referring to the membership of jia-zu (Chun, 1985). By delineating the meaningful relationship among these three native concepts about kinship, this paper is going to argue that the cultural logic that underlines these concepts is parallel to that of ancestor worship. In the second part of this paper, I shall analyse the idea of the gift and gift-giving behaviour in the Chinese societies of mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan for a more ambitious argument: kinship, ancestor worship and gift-giving can be seen as different modes of magic in Chinese societies, which is also to say that kinship, ancestor worship and gift-giving are on the same ontological plane, all of which can be understood as magic in Chinese culture. The final part will spell out the implications of this argument for the study of natural religions.

Read presenter biographies.

Posted by IAFOR