Not to be rude -- okay, I'm going to be rude --, but the author of the first (NY Times) piece is an idiot. Take the following from about halfway through: "We are hard-wired for empathy. We are moral animals."
This implies a connection between empathy and morality; I will not disagree with this, though here he nearly equates them, which is an issue. But that's not the problem or the point; the author is equivocating, and clearly for him morality is a religious issue, but the most he demonstrates throughout is a naturalistic answer.
In short he posits religion and science, concludes -- or, rather *assumes* -- that science is only reductionist and mechanistic, and then gives *all the rest* over to religion. Social networking? Sense of community? Groups it in with religion. He wants to have it both ways with religion: as both a sense of community and a belief in the divine. He conflates scientific/philosophical materialism with social materialism. And thus equates individualism and materialism; the social and the religious. Again, stupid f---ing equiovacation, straw-manning, etc.
I would not go so far to say I would *fail* my students for handing in such poorly argued pieces of tripe, but they surely wouldn't get As, and shouldn't get published in the NY Times, opinion piece or not.
My apologies to the group if my response is a tad too strong.
"Habe nun, ach! Philosophie, Juristerei und Medizin, Und leider auch Theologie Durchaus studiert ..." (Goethe, "Faust")
It's hard to say exactly what point he's looking for but I think that he cherry-picked info when he wrote of the political scientist Robert D. Putnam. He referred to the book, “American Grace,” but somehow left off the rest of the title of the book, "American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us."
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