Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science

March 1967 Editorial

[Zygon, vol. 2, no. 1 (March 1967).]
© 1967 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon. ISSN: 0591-2385
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.1967.tb01091.x

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The papers in this issue of Zygon divide themselves into three areas: (1) the first two papers continue our effort to analyze the nature of religion; (2) the second four continue our effort to show how scientific knowledge may be revelatory of human values and hence a ground for religious understanding; and (3) the last paper represents an effort to synthesize a relation between Christian theology and Freudian psychology.

1. Erwin Goodenough and Charles Price presented their complementary papers on the topic “What is Religion?” at a recent summer conference of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS). Goodenough’s paper, given a few months before his death, represents a concluding and conclusive statement on the nature of religion by one of America’s great scholars of religion. For a decade he had been a leading light and enthusiastic promoter of IRAS, and his lively spirit, his great learning, wisdom, and integrity, as well as his courage-to-be in the face of the cancer that took him a few months later, shine through this paper as evidence of his spirit still with us. Two concluding sentences state his position on the value of beliefs (even if illusory) for facing the source of terror, the tremendum: “Religion at its highest has given men security as they have sought the best they could find and ascribed that best to the tremendum. If our ancestors did this as dogma, we must do the same as working hypothesis, but with no less devotion.”

But Erwin Goodenough was a scholar who knew well that one man’s analysis from one point of view in the history of religions could not tell the full story, and, as program chairman, he had invited, among others, Charles Price, the Preacher to Harvard University, to defend “revealed religion” in an age of science. Price raises a point about the ultimate givenness of man’s knowing of the reality in which he stands, a givenness independent of man’s conscious or imaginative formulations, on which many scientists and many spokesmen for traditional religion will agree. He argues that our religious as well as our scientific “pictures are not arbitrary creations of our minds which give us deceptive security, which hide us from reality or truth. They are symbols with varying degrees of adequacy. …” He suggests that not all our pictures or models in religion or science are of equal validity, and must be constantly tested in open confrontation for their adequacy to the revealed given. Readers may be interested to compare these two attempts to define religion with some of Zygon’s earlier papers on this, such as those by A. F. C. Wallace on pages 60-80 (March, 1966), by H. N. Wieman on pages 373-400 (December, 1966), and by H. B. Phillips on page 401 (December, 1966), and others in Volume I.

2. It is not necessary to comment here upon the papers of the second category (Riddle, Hoagland, Ward Goodenough, and Burhoe) as the last is my attempted synthesis of the first three papers and papers by other scientists who are also trying to break through the logical curtain that has separated our subculture of science or knowledge from our subculture of religion or value.

3. Psychology, even though it is often considered the science most likely to be relevant for understanding religious phenomena, has not yet had much space in Zygon. Psychology is itself a widely dispersed congeries of disciplines ranging from the mathematical physics of neural circuitry, through various biological and behavioral approaches, psychoanalysis and other psychotherapies, various psychosocial and psycho-anthropological measuring and observational devices, to speculative, “armchair” psychologies. These disciplines are split by a rift between those who speak in the language of “objectivity” and those who speak in the language of “subjectivity,” although there are many who try to speak in both these languages simultaneously.

There are other journals that publish papers in the area of religion and psychology, such as the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, whose use of psychology is more to describe than to reform religion; or such as the Journal of Religion and Mental Health, or Pastoral Psychology, addressed to programs of human salvation that enlist simultaneously the separate and distinctly different disciplines of religion, on the one hand, and psychotherapy, on the other. In Zygon it is our aim to seek papers not so much about the phenomena of religion as understood from a psychological viewpoint nor of the practical co-operation of ideologically different approaches to human salvation, but rather papers that attempt to formulate a single ideology that is at once religious and psychological.

Such papers are difficult to find, but the reason for this is easy to find. Harvard psychologist Henry Alexander Murray, in a paper presented to the IRAS conference of 1955 reminded us that the conflict between science and religion began, in the time of Copernicus, in relation to the physical sciences, and then, after the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, centered on the concept of evolution in the biological sciences,

but now the crucial conflict is … between religion and psychology … because the focus of both these disciplines is the same, namely, the nature and transformation of human feelings, evaluations, needs, beliefs, purposes, and actions. The Church can graciously withdraw from the domains of astronomy, physics, chemistry, and biology, without seriously weakening its foundations or its standing in the minds of men. … But it can never abandon its concern with the vicissitudes of human personality, can never withdraw from the sphere of psychology, because this is its hereditary station. … And so, when Christianity is confronted, as it is today, by the findings and speculations of anthropologists and psychologists, there is trouble—not yet to any marked degree, but in the offing. Not yet, because nowadays the two disciplines are functionally separate, their currents of thought being almost wholly dissociated. … Their social interactions are exceedingly amicable, but these rarely include intellectual communications on basic issues.

But Murray went on to say “that religion and psychology should and will eventually embrace each other.” Although he said that “the sphere of religion is superordinate to that of science … because … religion is the sphere of ultimate concern,” he also said that “whatever may be the nature of this religion of the future, a good many of us believe that it will have to be compatible with science” (published in Science Ponders Religion, edited by Harlow Shapley [New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1960]).

In the June issue of the first volume of Zygon we published two papers that were written from a psychological perspective. The first was by Hudson Hoagland from a neuropsychological or biological perspective, and the second was by Lawrence K. Frank from a psycho-anthropological perspective. Both attempted to formulate human values in the light of their respective sciences, but insofar as they sought to relate to particular theologies they were more apt to be reformatory and critical than successfully synthetic. The paper by Peter Homans in the present issue seeks to formulate a synthesis in a “theology-psychology model,” drawing on Sigmund Freud and Paul Tillich.

Zygon’s Editor feels that we have a long, hard road ahead before we can achieve Murray’s dream of an effective and full synthesis involving the whole range of the psychological sciences and the whole range of the various major religions (not just Christianity). But, for an effective religion for the world community in an age of science, can we stop short of this? That the theological community is aware of the need for this is evident in many places, including the paper by Henry Nelson Wieman on “Science and a New Religious Reformation” (Zygon, June, 1966). Not only do I feel Murray’s proposal for a synthesis of the intellectual structure of religion and science is an urgent necessity but a real possibility in the next few decades.


An Appreciation for Zygon’s Support

Since publication of its first issue, Zygon subscriptions have risen to about one thousand. It is our hope that this number will be two thousand by the end of the third year of publication, for that number of subscriptions should be adequate to meet our present manufacturing and distribution costs. However, until that hope is realized, Zygon requires some financial subsidy. During our first year of publication this subsidy was provided by IRAS and MTS (Institute on Religion in an Age of Science and Meadville Theological School of Lombard College). IRAS members contributed nearly five thousand dollars to the Zygon publication fund, and MTS contributed about double this amount to cover first-year expenses.

For our second year, a friend and believer in the value of Zygon, Mr. Fowler McCormick of Chicago, has offered to match, dollar for dollar up to four thousand dollars, gifts to IRAS for Zygon. Gifts to match Mr. McCormick’s offered contribution would provide the eight thousand minimum subsidy necessary for our scheduled operations this year.

It is hoped that members of IRAS, subscribers, and other friends of Zygon will find occasion during the next few weeks to send gifts for Zygon to: Treasurer, IRAS, 5700 S. Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60637. (Gifts to IRAS as a charitable organization are deductible from the federal income tax under a ruling of the U.S. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, dated March 8. 1957.)

Members, subscribers, and friends of Zygon can also help our financial position and capacity to publish significant papers by encouraging new subscribers, whose increase reduces the need for subsidy. New subscribers may, if they wish, still begin their subscription with the first issue of the first volume (March, 1966).

If gifts or funds from subscribers exceed our present budget, it could permit publication of more pages. The Editor has received more good manuscripts than our present budget will allow us to publish, and we have had to delay some and decline others. We appreciate also this support of Zygon in terms of manuscripts, and trust that our growth will permit an earlier and fuller publication of them.

Editorial policy for Zygon was formulated in the first ten pages of the first issue, and has been further unfolded in that and subsequent issues. For viability and growth we welcome confirmations, criticisms, and other suggestions, not only about papers published, but also about editorial policy from any reader, as well as from members of the Advisory Board. We also appreciate this kind of support for Zygon.

R. W. B.



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