While I often find the essays of James Carroll stimulating, the essay “Earnest atheists look for God” (Op-ed, Sept. 16) is a disappointment for its failure to conceptualize religion adequately and in its global diversity. While Carroll points out virtues he finds in Ronald Dworkin’s book, “Religion Without God,” he unfortunately imports its ethnocentric assumptions and its inadequate definition of religion.
Neither Dworkin nor Carroll seem to be interested in going further than the “God-talk” of Western monotheisms, and so fail to consider the religious worlds of Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, most indigenous religions, and much of Hinduism. Further, in accepting “worldview” as defining religion, both fail to consider the equally important dimension of practice, the rituals and exercises that express and realize religious worldviews.
Carroll thereby fails to take the full measure of what it means for the state to ask students who are not from monotheistic traditions to repeat “under God” in the ritual practice of the Pledge of Allegiance.
The writer is a professor of world religions at Holy Cross.