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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Caesar" Offers Sane, Secular Look at Religion

The Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, the religious division of the Center for Inquiry, has launched a new scholarly journal called Caesar (a replacement for the committee's first periodical, the CSER Review). The journal—which, like the CSER, will be humanistic in outlook and secular in perspective—hopes to bring the critical study of "religion and human values" to a wider audience. The goal is to help Americans differentiate between opinion and verifiable fact, and understand how religion affects science and other aspects of their lives. Published twice a year, the journal will cover topics like the history of biblical and Quranic texts, same-sex marriage, stem cell research, and the rise of religious extremism. "Religious illiteracy—not knowing the history of religious traditions, their sacred writings, the development of their core beliefs—has often been defended in the United States on the premise that religious belief is a privileged form of knowledge that transcends scrutiny. But because uninformed views about religion affect public life and ethical debate as much as well-informed views, a vehicle is needed to keep the information level at a high standard," says CSER Chair R. Joseph Hoffman.
"CSER might accept as a working premise that there are two sides to every story. But the history of knowledge depends on knowing when to let go of the wrong one and not to bring it up in every generation as though it still has standing," he says. "Fair representation does not mean that belief in the unverifiable has the same weight as knowing something for certain, and societies have only ever advanced in material terms when they acted on the latter." —Michele Calandra