The voice of Reason today:

Natural human morality is socially conservative, tribal, hostile to outsiders, and vindictive. The repressive use of religion is a symptom of this condition, not its cause. Yet this symptomatic use is enough to ensure that a recovery of religious practice does not automatically lead to a restoration of a purer moral order, or deliver religion from the hatreds of human life generally. It is almost always mistaken to think that religious revival will produce moral renewal. It is as likely to lead to different forms of supine conformism, attempts to enforce rationally unjustifiable but allegedly ancient or revealed traditions, and repressive hostility to those who differ.

Nevertheless, it is not true, as some secularists claim, that the practice of religion is bound to lead to obscurantism, reaction, and hatred. If the practice of religion needs to be humanized by consideration of what makes for the welfare of human beings, secular morality needs to be motivated by belief in a more than human power which can make moral principles objectively obligatory and ensure that in some way moral commitment will not be ultimately in vain. Unfortunately, the conscious invention of the idea of such a power will not be motivating at all. The French 'religion of Reason' was a dismal failure because everyone knew that it had been invented by intellectuals, and was no more than their projection of human ideals onto the cosmic order. Immanuel Kant's postulates of God and immortality proved to be similarly ineffective. If they are props to an independently established morality, then morality can survive without them. If they are really necessary to moral commitment, then Kant's universal and rational morality is a defective analysis of the nature and basis of autonomous, secular, morality. Pure Reason proves to be little more, in the end, than the fading echo of the voice of a dying God.

What is needed is some personal experience of a power which seems to carry moral authority with it, and which offers hope for the vindication of a moral order in the universe. Such an experience cannot be manufactured, and it cannot be affirmed simply on the basis that it is needed to bolster some independent system of moral truths. Religion is neither a prop to sound morality, nor a guarantee of moral probity. Religion has its own proper validity as the realm of the relationship between humans and an alleged spiritual order which bounds human existence.

- Keith Ward, Religion and Community, pp. 122-123 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000)

Roger Williams would say YES.

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