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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

Anglo-American Postmodernity: Philosophical Perspectives on Science, Religion, and Ethics.

Murphy, Nancey. (1997).
Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

ISBN:0-8133-2868-3 hardcover
0-8133-2869-1 paperback
Description: First edition, xii + 228 pages.

Contents: Introduction, 10 chapters in 3 parts: 1. Philosophy of Science, 2.

Note: Although this book does not explicitly address entheogens, Murphy clearly describes part of the philosophical background behind the issue of entheogens.

Excerpt(s): Thus, we see that there are two distinct strategies for satisfying the demand for indubitable foundations for theology. Scripture itself is understood differently by proponents of the two strategies. Conservatives emphasize that these books are the result of acts of God, not of human discovery, and emphasize the factual character of their contents. Scripture provides precise and true accounts of supernatural realities. Liberals see Christian Scripture as belonging to a class of writings that express, with different degrees of aptness, insights regarding God and human life that arise from religious experience. So according to the liberals, Christian Scripture may be especially authoritative for Christians, but it differs from other religious writings in degree, not in kind. (page 97)

In 1799 Friedrich Schleiermacher published his famous Speeches, in which he proposed that the essence of religion (of all religion, not just Christianity) is a certain sort of feeling or awareness. He described this feeling differently over the years of his theological career: as intuition of the infinite, as immediate perception of the universe and of the existence of all finite things in and through the infinite, as immediate consciousness of the deity, and, in his mature work, as "awareness of absolute dependence," or, what he took to be the same, as "God-consciousness." pages 94-95)

Now in what sense is this a foundationalist use of experience for theology? First, Schleiermacher described the relevant experience as universal and unmediated. It is universal in the sense that, although this experience is colored differently in different cultures, and for Christians by the influence of Jesus, it is the common source of all religions. It is a kind of experience that is available in principle to all, not just to Christians. When Schleiermacher claimed that the awareness of absolute dependence is unmediated, he meant that it does not depend on inference or interpretation. Thus, it is the true source or origin of religion, not a product of anything prior. In other words, there is no deeper foundation. Second, doctrine is to be evaluated in light of experience, never the reverse. So God-consciousness is the origin of all religion; first-order religious language (prayer, preaching, etc.) as an expression of that consciousness is foundational for all doctrine and theology. (page 95)

Other liberal theologians provide equally abstruse accounts of foundational religious experience. For example, Karl Rahner, the great twentieth-century Catholic theologian, traces theology to the experience of self-transcendence; the midcentury Protestant Paul Tillich characterizes the primordial religious experience as being grasped by ultimate concern. Ordinary Christians might well wonder if they have ever had such experiences and why plain old Christian experience, say of conversion of prayer or conviction of sin, should not be the focus instead. The foundationalist theory answers this question. Foundations must be universally accessible and indubitable. Therefore, the requisite experiences must not be specifically Christian in character or subject to mistake or misinterpretation there are spurious conversions, imagined voices masquerading as answers in prayer. (page 96)

The expressivist theory of religious language coheres with and reinforces experiential foundationalism. If the essence of religion is feeling, an inner awareness, then expressivist language is really the only sort possible for first-order religious language what is there to say about a feeling other than to express it? But religious perceptions do not come with precise descriptions attached. The human race must grope for adequate ways to communicate an awareness that is of a different order from awareness of the physical universe. The appropriate kind of language is symbolic or metaphorical. It is not, in any straightforward sense, a representation of objective external realities. (page 99)

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