For better or for worse, believers and non-believers are unlikely to fully agree about the relationship between faith and humility. Indeed, some non-believers may insist that there is an inherent conflict between the two.
What is it
Some would argue that faith requires that one blindly—rather than rationally— believe. Faith in one ‘true’ religion often entails rejection of all others. Given this, can there ever be humility when it comes to religious faith? How unwavering should the faithful be when it comes to their religious convictions, attitudes, and actions? Should we encourage religious humility, or would it taint the very concept of faith? Can religious faith and intellectual humility ever be reconciled? The Philosophers humbly believe in talking to Joshua Hook from the University of North Texas, co-author of Cultural Humility: Engaging Diverse Identities in Therapy.
Part of a six-part series on Intellectual Humility.
Ken and Debra begin the show by debating whether there is an inherent conflict between faith and humility. Ken brings up Soren Kierkegaard’s understanding of the Biblical story of Abraham and Isaac, and how Kierkegaard saw this story as exemplative of the distinction between genuine faith and fake faith. Debra cautions that the standard that Kierkegaard held faith to can be disastrous for other people and their rights.
Guest Joshua Hook, professor of psychology at the University of North Texas, joins the show. He maintains that although humans have an inherent desire to believe in things that they believe to be true, atheists and theists alike can still maintain humility with respect to their own and others’ beliefs. The philosophers and Joshua discuss this topic among other things — including Abraham Lincoln’s convictions around slavery, whether believers ought to become less dogmatic for theists and atheists to get along better, and whether skepticism of every belief that one has and humility are one and the same. Joshua provides a helpful distinction between two kinds of humility: personal and relational humility.
One caller reminds the philosophers that we can view science and religion alike as witnesses to phenomena, just as Jesus is a “witness to humanity” and science is a witness to natural phenomena. Similarly, Joshua emphasizes the importance of getting in the habit of maintaining self-awareness and practicing engaging in conversations with people who have opposing views for atheists and theists alike. Debra asks Joshua if he believes that people can engage in these conversations yet reject humility all the same, and the philosophers conclude the show by discussing other ways in which mutual humility between people of differing persuasions can be achieved.
Roving Philosophical Report (seek to 7:04) → Liza Veale interviews former Evangelical and now atheist Chris Stedman, who works toward facilitating interfaith dialogue between theists and atheists. A member of the LGBTQ community as well, Stedman reflects on how he found support for his identity unexpectedly through a progressive Christian church.
Sixty-Second Philosopher (seek to 45:35) → Ian Shoales wonders if the 2016 election was a backlash to humility and distinguishes between humility and false modesty through the example of Columbo, a fictional TV homicide detective who gets criminals to confess their crimes with his unassuming demeanor.