Faith in Focus: Words of Influence

Article excerpt

Byline: Rev Ian Tutton

JOHN Rawls died this week. Don't worry if you've never heard of him. He was an American political philosopher who was largely unknown outside of a particular academic circle.

I become familiar with his work when, as a student, I was ``invited'' to read what has subsequently come to be regarded as his magnum opus - A Theory of Justice.

It is now reckoned to be a seminal work in its field, redefining human existence in terms of rights and responsibilities, means rather than ends, along the lines of the social contract theory developed in the 18th Century.

It remains one of the most influential books I have ever read. Not because I agreed with every word, or was completely taken in by the arguments, but because it provided me with a context, a framework, within which I could work out my own philosophical position.

My outlook on life was shaped very much according to the view provided through the lens of Rawls' book. It had the ability to teach, to encourage, to challenge and to frustrate. Like any literary masterpiece, it engaged my senses, my faculties and my emotions.

Every major religious tradition has its holy book, its sacred scriptures. Just as Rawls' book possessed the capacity to shape one's philosophy, these sacred works claim to possess the key to understanding every aspect of life.

Devotees of the particular traditions will live according to how they apply the teachings contained in the scriptures to their lives.

Recently, we have witnessed a massive upsurge in religious fundamentalism. …