Where should God be in thinking about society, or society in thinking about God? This book shows how philosophy can help non-philosophers with these questions. It shows that intelligence is the product, not the source, of society and language, and the rationality of individuals is inevitably conditioned by the distinctive customs and beliefs of their societies.
Addressing the idea that religion can impede the smooth running of society, it argues that the Western concept of religion is taken from Christianity and cannot usefully be extended to non-European cultures. But any society will be threatened by a sub-society with customs conflicting with those of the whole in which it exists, and Jews, Christians and Muslims have sometimes formed such sub-societies.
Charlton proceeds to consider how our dependence upon society fits with traditional beliefs about creation, salvation and life after death, and offers a synthesis that is new without being unorthodox. He indicates where Christian customs concerning birth, death, sex and education conflict with those of secular liberalism and considers which culture, Christian or secular liberal, has the better chance of prevailing in a globalised world.
1. A Philosophical Standpoint
2. Does Society Exist?
3. Social Life, Egoism and Altruism
4. What Is Religion?
5. The Divine Virtue of Faith
6. Natural Science and Creation
7. Atomism and Holism in Soteriology
8. The Christian Soul
9. Life After Death
10. Questions of Life and Death
11. Sex and Natural Law
12. Education and Multiculturalism
Endorsements and Reviews
This wide-ranging book proposes a holistic framework for understanding the human condition. Arguing that we are essentially social beings, Charlton rejects the fashionable liberal individualism, secularism, and multiculturalism of our times, and offers a challenging interpretation and defence of the Christian doctrines of creation, incarnation, and salvation as part of a single continuous creative process.
John Cottingham, Professor of Philosophy of Religion, University of Roehampton
Understanding the concepts of religion and of society, and the relationship between them, is as important today as it has ever been. Willie Charlton brings philosophical clarity and precision, as well as lightly-worn erudition, to bear on these difficult and contentious matters. His trenchant yet considered arguments are certain to encourage vigorous debate.
Alexander Bird, Peter Sowerby Professor of Philosophy and Medicine, King’s College London