Rationality and Religious Commitment
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Philip is a freelance science writer and a consultant editor for Nature. He can often be heard on radio and television, and is the author of several scientific books for the lay reader, including H2O: A Biography of Water shortlisted for a National Book Critics Circle Award ; and Critical Mass win…. Read more. For the best commenting experience, please login or register as a user and agree to our Community Guidelines. You will be re-directed back to this page where you will see comments updating in real-time and have the ability to recommend comments to other users.
What matters in science — and why — free in your inbox every weekday. Our award-winning show features highlights from the week's edition of Nature , interviews with the people behind the science, and in-depth commentary and analysis from journalists around the world. GETTY A belief or disbelief in religious figures is underpinned by complex cognitive processes that researchers are only beginning to investigate.
References Gervais, W.
Related stories and links From nature. Author information Author details Philip Ball Philip is a freelance science writer and a consultant editor for Nature. How might their aesthetic and emotional experiences complement their religious life? How can they balance their religious commitments with political activities appropriate to the kind of pluralistic world we live in? On the intellectual side, how can theists view the enormity of the evils in the world if they see it as under divine sovereignty? Questions also arise concerning ethics: Do moral standards depend on divine will, or is ethics in some way autonomous?
Rationality, Religious Belief and Moral Commitment : New Essays in the Philosophy of Religion
Concerning science, an important question is how theists might reconcile their religious understanding of the universe with the cultivation of a scientific habit of mind of the kind appropriate to studying the natural world. The book does not defend any particular religion or any associated theological position, such as a Calvinistic or Thomistic one.
It is impossible to do justice to the notions of rationality and religious commitment in the wide-ranging way I attempt without abstracting from particular theologies and from the tenets peculiar to any single religion. But I have written with an awareness that too great a distance from any existing theology or religion must also be avoided if the ideas I develop are to enhance understanding of actual religions.
Rationality and Religious Commitment: An Inquiry into Faith and Reason
Thus, all but a few parts of the book make two presuppositions commonly though not universally made in philosophy of religion and theology: that the religions in question are centered on a conception of God as, in nature, all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfectly good, and, in relation to us, as sovereign in the universe and as caring about human beings.
In places, I cite the Bible as a paradigm of religious scripture, and I take Christian theology-understood very broadly—as a paradigm of theology. But I have tried to write in a way that renders the main points applicable to other scriptures, other theologies, and indeed theistic religions outside the Western religious tradition epitomized by Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Many points in the book apply to non-theistic religions as well, but they are not directly addressed. Let me sketch a bit more of the content of the book.
Robert Audi: Rationality and religious commitment | SpringerLink
Part I outlines the normative notions—especially those of rationality, justification, and reasonableness—that I regard as central for appraising the rationality of religious commitments. Part I, then, has two aims: to present with refinements drawn from my recent work part of my overall account of rationality and, secondly, to show how the account bears on religious commitment. The results of Part I provide more to work with in approaching the rationality of religious commitment than we would otherwise have.
If, for instance, someone doubts whether such a commitment is intellectually respectable—and I believe there are many who doubt this or simply presuppose a negative answer—we can ask whether the question is one of rationality, of reasonableness, of justification, or of the possibility or existence of knowledge regarding one or another religious tenet or attitude. These notions are quite different from one another and go with different evidential standards.
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Part II explores the dimensions of rational religious commitment. One important topic here is the nature of faith, and I describe many kinds of faith and explain how faith differs from belief on one side and mere hope on another. Faith is not merely cognitive but attitudinal and volitional, and it is crucial for religious life and not just for sustaining a metaphysical view of reality.
Part II also considers interpersonal and institutional aspects of religious commitment. Beyond that, it explores the usually private, experiential dimension that religion has for many people—the dimension of religious experience. Religious commitment may be both supported and enriched by religious experience, and a chapter is devoted to the nature of such experience, its relation to perception of the natural world, and its evidential significance.
In Part III, I consider religious commitments in relation to matters of ethics and everyday activity, including not only our moral obligations but also our values and the aesthetic, communal, and sociopolitical aspects of our lives. This requires considering a divine command view of ethics. I argue that this view is not required even for theists of great piety; but given how natural the view is for many religious people, I propose a moderate some would say liberal version consistent with treating ethics as having the kind of autonomy—involving knowability by natural reason—that the Thomistic tradition has taken to belong to necessary truths, such those of logic.
On this moderate divine command view, basic moral truths, like truths of logic and mathematics, can be seen as not above God, but within God. Part IV aims at meeting two major challenges to the rationality of religious commitment. Beyond that, it explores the usually private, experiential dimension that religion has for many people—the dimension of religious experience.
Religious commitment may be both supported and enriched by religious experience, and a chapter is devoted to the nature of such experience, its relation to perception of the natural world, and its evidential significance. In Part III, I consider religious commitments in relation to matters of ethics and everyday activity, including not only our moral obligations but also our values and the aesthetic, communal, and sociopolitical aspects of our lives.
This requires considering a divine command view of ethics. I argue that this view is not required even for theists of great piety; but given how natural the view is for many religious people, I propose a moderate some would say liberal version consistent with treating ethics as having the kind of autonomy—involving knowability by natural reason—that the Thomistic tradition has taken to belong to necessary truths, such those of logic. On this moderate divine command view, basic moral truths, like truths of logic and mathematics, can be seen as not above God, but within God.
Part IV aims at meeting two major challenges to the rationality of religious commitment. One is the problem of evil, the other the challenge of naturalism as a competing worldview. My treatment of the problem of evil covers commonly discussed aspects of the issue but also reframes the problem. My approach is theocentric, as opposed to cosmocentric. I argue that the central question should be not the usual one asked or presupposed—Is the world good enough to have been created by God?
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The questions are connected, and the latter does not ignore the evils of history, including natural disasters. But the theocentric approach emphasizes divine experience, whose value cannot be ignored, as an element with a major place in dealing with the overall problem. As to the challenge of naturalism—in outline the view that nature is all there is and the only basic truths are truths of nature—I detach that view from a scientific orientation toward the world. A scientific habit of mind—even the most rigorous practice of science in exploring the natural world—does not commit one to naturalism in that sense.
Methodological naturalism, by contrast, as an empirical, experimental approach to scientific questions, is compatible with many kinds of religious commitments and is not at issue.
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The fourth part of the book also has much discussion of the nature of persons, divine and human. It explores how personhood is related to embodiment and how, in a way that is scientifically plausible, we may take mental phenomena to have causal power of the kind that seems required for conceiving human action as explainable by appeal to beliefs, intentions, and other mental elements that account for its rationality. The progress of science, then, is seen as fully compatible with a considerable range of rational religious commitments.
Throughout the book, I seek to address these matters in a way that is sufficiently definite to bear on major religions but leaves open a number of options we should not foreclose. One option concerns the kind of faith—for instance, belief—entailing or not—that is most appropriate for a particular religious tenet or toward God or human beings. Indeed, I leave open whether a religious person might, in at least some instances, have only a kind of hope in matters where faith would be the more common religiously central attitude.
Another option open to religiously committed people concerns the kind of ethics one might want to embrace, say a Kantian or a virtue ethics. And I leave open various conceptions of the divine nature, of the mind-body relation in human beings, and of the causal structure of the universe and its bearing on human freedom. For all of these alternatives and many others, I contend that rational religious commitment is possible. If the book succeeds in its main purposes, then the nature of rational religious commitment should be clearer, and that commitment itself should be less difficult to attain for those who seriously consider it and easier to respect for those who cannot themselves undertake it.
Robert Audi is John A. All rights reserved. ISSN