Bogitsh Lecture: ‘Love: Does God make a difference?’

Lenn Goodman (environmental)
Lenn Goodman (Steve Green/Vanderbilt University)

Vanderbilt University’s Lenn E. Goodman will build upon his extensive writing and speaking on the commandment “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself” when he delivers the 2013 Mafoi Carlisle Bogitsh Memorial Lecture Feb 28.

Goodman, professor of philosophy and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, will discuss “Love: Does God Make a Difference?” at 4:10 p.m. in Room 122 of Vanderbilt Divinity School. He will explore the complementary relationship of theism with humanism. His talk is free and open to the public.

In 2008 Oxford University Press published Goodman’s Gifford Lectures under the title Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself. The esteemed Gifford Lecture Series deals with religion, science and philosophy.

Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself explores the roots and applications of the famous biblical commandment (Leviticus 19:18). Our obligation to love one another in the most practical ways, Goodman argues, is no arbitrary demand but an imperative that sheds light on how we should think about God. Goodman compares the relations between morality and theism to the chimneying that rock climbers do as they work their way upward between two rock faces: We push off from one side and the other, learning about God from what we know about morals and about morals from what we know about God.

Goodman’s many books include On Justice: An Essay in Jewish Philosophy, God of Abraham, Judaism, Human Rights and Human Values, and In Defense of Truth: A Pluralist Approach. He is a scholar of Islamic as well as Jewish philosophy. But in Islamic philosophy, he says, he is an interpreter; in Jewish philosophy he is also a player.

The Mafoi Carlisle Bogitsh Memorial Lecture was established by a gift from Burton Bogitsh, Vanderbilt professor of biological sciences, emeritus, and his family in honor of Mafoi Carlisle Bogitsh. She grew up as a Baptist in a small farming community in west Texas, where her mother, Una Hooper Carlisle, taught her the principle of religious tolerance.

Mafoi Carlisle studied comparative religion at Baylor University and cultivated a profound interest in various world religions and the cultures from which they arose.  This interest grew when she married Burton Bogitsh, who was of Jewish heritage. They became involved in the Unitarian tradition, and it was within the Unitarian community that Mafoi cultivated a deep understanding of the effect that cultural diversity has on religious beliefs. Through travel and exploration, Mafoi and Burton were privileged to learn about Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam in their native surroundings.  The Mafoi Carlisle Bogitsh Memorial Lecture honors Mafoi’s lifelong interest in the interplay between culture and religious expression.

Past Bogitsh Lectures have been delivered by Richard Haglund, Richard King, Anthony Yu, James Lawson Jr., John McClure and John Thatamanil.

A kosher reception will follow the lecture. For more information, call 615-936-8453.